Indoor soccer kicks off with Greenland victory

March 05, 2012

Whitehorse Star

Sunday afternoon’s first indoor soccer match of the 2012 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) delivered a major victory for the Greenland juvenile male squad, who overcame team Alaska 10-4.

The indoor soccer arena at the Canada Games Centre was packed, with supporters of the Alaskan team dressed in blue and gold at the near side of the field and a swath of red and white — the colours of the Greenland flag — across the the far end of the stands.

“Kalaallit Nunaat! (Greenland!)” a group of young girls, faces painted red and white, shouted down at field, as the boys opened the match with a string of six straight goals.

Alaska opened the match with a goal by Liam Putman in the 49th second of play.

After the initial shock, Greenland took the offensive, with Nikki Isaksen streaking up the right side of the field and cutting hard in front of the net for a goal from the left in the second minute.

Subsequent goals by Aqqaluuti Jensen, Karsten Andersen, Kuluk Hemmansen and two from Kaaleeraq Mathiassen sealed a lead, which the Greenland team would hold for the rest of the game.

The high energy of the first half slowed in the later, as both teams struggled to put numbers on the board.

Scoring was mixed. After the initial break, Alaska picked up, clamoring to save eight shots on net, and earning three more goals before game’s end.

It wasn’t enough to overcome the powerful Greenlanders.

After an unexpected own goal early in the half, they returned with a massive header from Marco Leibhardt, to cap a substantial victory over the Americans.

The match ended with a goal by Alaska’s Garrett Allen Mayer, who powered through an initial save to score on the Greenland keeper.

“We expect Greenland to be one of the tougher teams,” Alaska head coach Jon Bray said.

“They came out and played like it. In the second half, I thought the players started to show the indoor game is a bit different than the outdoor game. They have to adjust to it.”

Both teams, who were cobbled together from the top competitors in their respective regions, plan to work on their team games as the AWG continue into the week.

Their match was a perfect opener to the soccer tournament.

Indoor soccer is a true representation of the games’ international character, with 26 teams from each of the AWG member nations.

Athletes on the Alaska team came from Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage, while the Greenlanders came from communities across the country, thousands of miles away from their North American competitors.

“Soccer is a global sport,” said Kent Kielsen, head coach for Greenland. “It’s big here, it’s big in Greenland, because all you need is a ball. Anyone can play.”

Traditionally, the European teams have set the pace for competition.

But past Yukon and Alberta squads have gone home with medals as well, said Kim King, executive director of Yukon Soccer and sports chair for the AWG, indoor soccer.

“It’s hard to say who’s going to bring the most competition at this point,” King told the Star Sunday. “As Yukoners, we hope to see our teams do well, but it really depends on the year.”

Interest in soccer is rising in the territory, said King. With valuable training time for our local squads at the newly established Games Centre, the Yukon teams should have a strong showing at the games, she said.

A popular sport at the AWG, indoor soccer is expected to be a major draw for spectators as well.

“I think soccer brings a lot to the games. It’s one of the most watched sports,” King said.

“There are always people on all floors, in the stands, it’s a well-received sport and it’s an exciting sport,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see many of the games ending in ties, and I know we’ll have a packed house most of the time. We’re really excited.”
Yukon Government Lotteries Yukon City of Whitehorse Government of Canada
Arctic Winter Games International Committee