Handball | A Player's Journey

Words by Helgi Hoydal | Line player on the Faroe Islands National Handball Team

A couple of weeks have passed since one of the biggest sporting events in Faroese history took place - the European Championships 2024 in Berlin, Germany #EHFEUR2024. The impact is still showing on social media. It seems people from near and afar can not get enough of the Faroese national team in handball, and we really can't blame them.

It is a special feeling when you sing the national anthem every time we play a game for the national team. I have tried it multiple times, but this time in Berlin was magical”

Helgi Hoydal, Handball player

A Faroese wave in Berlin

I have been a part of the men’s national team since 2017, and I am grateful for that. Our progress in the last years has made headlines all around the world, and people are curious.

How do you manage to compete against the best, when you are so few?”

This is perhaps the question that I get asked most. The usual answer is that we are seven against seven on the court, and our best players are some of the world's biggest talents in the sport. When we entered the European Championship, we had nothing to lose. We were in it to make our nation proud and win games. Although we did not win, we made our people proud. Five thousand spectators in Berlin, and all of them prouder than the next one. This was the feeling we got as players.


We were on court 1,600 kilometres from home. We felt the support from every man, woman, and child in the Mercedes arena as well as from home. When I am asked what it means to have a whole nation cheering for us, I can only think about how it brings people together. Handball is a relatively small sport when you compare it to large sports around the world, but for the Faroe Islands, it has been something that has gathered people. No matter your opinions or background, people can stand together to support the national team. 

People from all social classes, all political ideologies, all religions, and all ages were cheering, laughing, and singing. It was a state of euphoria"


What makes this small nation a big player?

In recent years Faroese handball has probably evolved more than any other sport in the Faroe Islands. In 2017, I had the privilege to be a part of the “Under 21’s men's national team” which was the first team to qualify for a world championship ever. Since then we have had many teams qualify for the European Championship, and the World Championship, in the younger age groups both for men and women. 
There is no simple answer to why we succeed in producing good players and good national teams. But I will try to explain some of the factors below.

Main factors of success in Faroese Handball: 

  1. Elite & Hobby: The Faroese Handball Federation has worked hard to give every handball player a chance to play handball at a high level. 
  2. Open the Halls: Accessibility also plays a big role. 
  3. The Dream: The future is exciting. More and more kids at choosing the handball sport, and some of the biggest talents in Faroese handball are still young.

Elite and hobby

The Faroese Handball Federation has worked hard to give every handball player a chance to play handball at a high level. Additionally in a small country like the Faroe Islands, you can not only have elite players, because we have to have someone to play and compete against. There is currently a good environment where the elite players who want to go all in, can grow and develop, while also keeping many players in the sport, also the ones who do not have the possibility or do not want to dedicate their life to handball.

Another factor is the handball community. There are countless handball “zealots” who use all their free time to help and improve where they can. This is all charity work. Thousands of hours of work, that they do only to make a community where kids and adults thrive. In my opinion, this is a thing money can’t buy.

Open the halls!

Accessibility also plays a big role. Being in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, the weather can be a bit challenging at times. So open sports halls where kids can play handball are a gift. It can play a huge role in developing handball players.

Handball Stars | Elias á Skipagøtu & Hákun West av Teigum

Last summer two of our biggest stars, Elias Ellefsen á Skipagøtu and Hákun West av Teigum, made the biggest transfers we have ever seen in the Faroe Islands. They now play for two of the strongest teams in the world, THW Kiel and Füchse Berlin in the Bundesliga (the strongest league in the world). Both players have said how influential it was to have access to the hall in their hometown. Both are 21 years old now, but when they were kids, they used almost all their free time in the hall.

I come from the same place, and I often wondered if they (Elias and Hákun) had a bedroom at the sports hall somewhere, because they were constantly there. 

They were privileged in some ways. One of them had a father who was a trainer, and therefore a key to get inside. Every free hour on the court was used by them. Without a coach, only for fun. This is a key element in developing superstars. Free play, where they make the rules themselves, trying every possible angle, shot or feint. Refereeing themselves and planning together. This in addition to the structured training they had, has obviously improved them a lot. And today they are role models. Not only these two mentioned above, but many alike. If you go into a hall today, you can almost be certain to see kids playing among kids, trying and figuring things out themselves. And it is lovely to see.

The dream

The coming years are almost as exciting as what has just passed. More and more kids at choosing the handball sport, and some of the biggest talents in Faroese handball are still young. The national team consists almost exclusively of players playing abroad, and this has gotten us closer to competing against the best. Many players are making moves to bigger clubs, and handball still thrives at home. 
I talked to one of the spectators in Berlin who said that people have to get used to taking their vacation in January now (The men’s World and European Championships are always held in January). It is not easy. It was difficult to qualify the first time, and it is going to be difficult to qualify again. But that is THE dream, and if I can be sure of one thing, it is that dreams do come true. Especially handball dreams.