6 March 2023



The Faroe Islands is a self-governing archipelago, and it is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. The area encompasses 18 mountainous islands between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean, connected by road tunnels, ferries, walkways and bridges. The islands obtain a population little under 53000 with approximately 40% living in the capital, Tórshavn.

In 1971, part of the Danish military team went to the Faroe Islands and one of the members had a greater knowledge of jiu jitsu accompanied with some judo experience. It is within the same year that this very same man established the first judo club. Two years later, the second judo club was founded. According to the rules at the time, a sport needed to have a minimum of three clubs to enable them to form a federation. Ten years on, on the 28 February 1981, the Faroe Islands Judo Federation was formed with the total of 4 clubs at the time. Two decades later, judo activities are regularly taking place across 6 clubs with approximately 270 members. 

On right, the President of the Fareo Islands Judo Federation, Mr Sofus Debes JOHANESSEN © Carlos Ferreira

Current President, Mr Sofus Debes JOHANESSEN, has been in office since 1985 and apart from a short break from leadership in the early 90s, he continues to passionately build the sport of judo in the Faroe Islands. It takes a lot of courage and passion to focus on continuous building of the sport, especially with limitations. Why is that? President, Mr Johanessen reveals;

According to the rules and regulations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which were brought in place in 1996, for any country to participate at the Olympics, it must be recognized by the United Nations. Unfortunately, we are not. Our military defence and foreign office are still led by Denmark. 

Because of this status it’s not so easy to become members of the international sports federations. In Faroe Islands, 10 sports roughly who has international memberships and some of the sports cannot get it, ultimately none of us are part of the Olympic family directly. Athletes from Faroe Islands are most likely to be seen under the Danish flag at the multi-sport events. 

Apart from the Olympics, at all other games, we are able to represent Faroe Island. Well, this year, the Small States Games is run by European Olympic Committee (EOC) and the rules are the same as the IOC, so we will not be able to participate. In situations as such, it makes us to be even more thankful for having the recently established Small States European Judo Championships. There is always something to work towards to. 

Petur Sigurd JOHANESSEN won silver in the -100kg category at the Small States European Judo Championships 2022 © Carlos Ferreira

Although football and handball are the most popular sports in the islands, judo remains the leader across the martial arts related sports. School curriculum judo is pending for the moment, but local tournaments are taking place including national championships. Mr Johanessen explains further; 

Our clubs are not far from each other, so they often train together. We held national championships for kids, junior and senior categories. In fact, the junior and adult nationals are held together with table tennis and badminton on the same day, and it is all streamed on national tv. The hall is divided into sections and the atmosphere is great. 

It is very nice to see the happiness of children and people who compete, they take so much joy from judo. It is without a shadow of a doubt, my fundamental motivating factor. 

Yet, there is an obstacle we need to tackle realistically which is when our judoka grown up they often move to Denmark. We always encourage them to join a Danish judo club and continue the sport there. 

Nevertheless, our next step is to get more juniors and adults. We are also looking to get a foreigner trainer. Our adult competitors are our coaches too and some of them wish to compete more seriously, so the timetable of coaching and training can be conflicting. We are getting a lot of help from Denmark, yet the time is at limitations for them too, hence, I think the best for us is to have a foreigner coach, to create more coaches, which will also enable us to start judo in schools too. 

Krakow World Championships Veterans 2022, Bugvi POULSEN (in white) scores during his semi final contest @Sabau Gabriela IJF © Szandra Szogedi

One of the pilot tournaments where Faroese judoka able to represent their birth country is at the Island Games, also known as the Natwest International Island Games. At the latest edition, in 2019, Faroe Islands finished on top of the medal table at the judo event. Moreover, last year, Bugvi POULSEN delivered the country’s first ever world silver medal from the Veteran World Championships, held in Krakow. The successful 2022 was topped by medals from the Small States European Judo Championships. How does such events support the federation? Mr President continues; 

The success last year from both, the Small States Europeans and the Veteran World Championships allowed us to take a short slot in the local media. Truth to be told we also need to improve the usage of our social media channels to raise our profiles. 

Getting a bigger media coverage is very difficult for small sport. Media coverage at the Island Games is the biggest of all because it is the whole nation together from different sports and we have a big team with several journalists. 

Despite the shortfall on the Olympic dreams, there are plenty to look after at the Føroyar. Short term goals also include further refereeing courses and having Faroese referees at EJU events. The primary long-term goal is to raise membership with the aim to have 600 members by 2025, a goal which was set for 2019 and postponed due to pandemic. Ultimately, the federation wish to see 1000 members by 2030. Meanwhile, they seek to educate volunteers to allow the small states Europeans, sooner than later, be organised at the Faroe Islands. 

Whether you pursue joining the Føroyar judo team or seek to support the development of judo at a beautiful scenery of island chains, do get in touch via [email protected]

Author: Szandra Szogedi