With the World Cup only days away, we’d like to profile one of our most well known readers and diehard Celeste Supporters, Ivan Eginsson Eysturland, better known on the blog as “Farerets” – Ivan has traveled all over the world to support the Uruguay national team. Today he celebrates his birthday and what better way to celebrate one’s birthday than by being interviewed by LCB 😉 Ivan was kind enough to consent to an interview and talk about his interesting hobby and La Celeste.
Q. Where do you live?
Q. How does someone from the Faroe Islands end up supporting Uruguay?
A. I’ve been supporting Uruguay since the late 80’s, but I only moved to the Faroes in January 1998, at the age of 23. I was actually born in Moscow, Russia.
Q. So your family is originally from Russia?
A. Yes, my parents and my brother still live there… my wife is from Poland but I’m not a Russian citizen anymore.
Q. Did you move there for employment reasons?
A. Quite the opposite – I had a great job in Russia as a football journalist, first for a big TV channel, then for the leading sports newspaper… btw this is my report of Euro 96 qualifier Faroes-Russia, and I was only 21 then.
Q. So why move to the Faroe Islands?
A. I fell in love with the Faroes, and then they started to play international football and beat Austria in their very first game. The population of the Faroes is only 48.000 and football is everything here, just like in Uruguay. Mainly, it was because of Faroese football (!) but I also hated living in the Russian society. I had to start my life and career from scratch here.
Q. What was it about Russia that you hated?
A. Such a question must have a long answer, but just to make it very short – a lack of respect from the state and authorities for people and between people and “country always put far before person”.
Q. Let me go back to my original question, how do you end up supporting Uruguay though? It’s an odd choice, considering your background, why didn’t you follow the Russian NT or Denmark? How did Uruguay beat out those countries for your affection?
A. Why should I follow Denmark? (Even though I liked them very much in the 80’s). I don’t like big countries and teams from big countries, so Russia was immediately out of the list. I started to like Uruguay, when I realized, how incredible it is for such a small nation to do so great in international football. Moreover, I loved the shirts and the national anthem!
Q. So the history drew you in?
A. Yes, but also and simultaneously the present team by then (the first spell of Maestro)… the 1989 WC qualification, the atmosphere at El Centenario…. vs Bolívia and Perú. Francescoli, Sosa, Alzamendi… the latter recently added me on Facebook!
Q. Most people who follow Uruguay are either born there or have parents who came from Uruguay – so when those two conditions don’t exist, the “why” becomes important…. Is it possible to “adopt” a country’s football team even if you have no real intrinsic ties to that nation?
A. Most people are probably mainstream but I consider myself as “anti-mainstream”. Possible? Yes, I had even proved that before – no ties to the Faroes either and ended as press officer of the FA!
Q. But you follow my point, some people might take the viewpoint… “My NT is no good, guess I’ll follow Brazil”
A. These “some people” are just mainstream.
Q. Speaking of which, would you ever follow Brazil to the same length you have followed the Uruguay NT?
A. I can tell you that I didn’t watch the 1994 World cup final properly; the TV was on… I just didn’t care about Brazil or Italy. I would never follow Brazil and have supported nearly everyone against them. They are not a country but a continent in itself.
Q. I’ve found that anyone who follows Brazil but is not Brazilian to be extremely annoying, I group them along with people who follow the Lakers but don’t live in LA.
A. There are many annoying people here on the Faroes, they almost all follow either Manchester United or Liverpool and support England!
Q. The other extreme might be to follow a country only football purists can name: Uruguay
A. Yes (following Uruguay), was the most natural choice for a non-mainstream guy such as me
Q. Do you consider yourself to be a football purist? On the Blog you’re always quick to point out statistics, is that due to your journalistic background or your love of football?
A. Yes, I am a football purist and idealist; for example, I more or less stopped following club football altogether, when it became business and nothing else and a club could put 11 foreign players on the field! Nowadays, I only follow international football (played at the national team level). Regarding statistics, I have always had a good memory and I love facts and figures.
Q. Interesting. OK but how do you adopt a national team and then start following it around wherever they play? Surely it’s an expensive proposition 😉
A. Yes, its not cheap, but I have had quite a profitable occupation in later years and can often afford it. Sometimes I even invite friends with me, just like in my first trip to Uruguay (photos), I invited my very close friend who has 39 caps for the Faroes NT and won that legendary first game against Austria. Last November, I invited my journalist friend and he made series of programs about Uruguay and Uruguayan football for Faroese radio.
Q. You have a very interesting story where as I recall you went to El Centenario and the cab driver that drove you there actually played for Uruguay in the 70’s…
A. It was right after the Perú qualifier (6-0), we just jumped into the first random cab waiting outside El Centenario… and the driver was Alberto Cardaccio who had 18 caps for Uruguay (1972/1974), including the 1974 World Cup…
I have now visited Uruguay 6 times (once it was because of business!) I have now visited all 19 departments of the country.
Q. Did you watch the 2002 World Cup?
A. Yes, on TV… I remember also watching the return playoff match against Australia in the middle of the night (November 2001), I often have to watch Uruguay games at night, because of time difference.
Q. What did you think of Denmark’s performance?
A. In 2002? Quite average. OK they beat France, but so did Senegal. They also beat Uruguay, but Uruguay was not especially strong by then. In the round of 16, Denmark was thrashed by England.
Q. In 2002 Uruguay was less organized than Denmark who in your words was “quite average”… what has changed in Uruguay? How does a side that was a mess in 2002 end up in the 2010 semifinals?
A. First, a very good coach, probably the best in Uruguayan history but who also is lucky with having a golden generation of world class players to choose from, all born around 1987: Suárez, Cavani, Godín, Cáceres, Muslera.
Q. Do you think Tabarez would’ve had as much success with the NT this time around if he didn’t have access to those players you mentioned?
A. Frankly, no way. On the other hand, it’s not at all certain that any other coach would’ve managed to organize these very good players into a winning team.
Q. Very true. OWT also had the most successful re-generation of players, unlike Fossati who failed to get more out of players like Estoyanoff (once touted by World Soccer Report as an up and coming player).
A. Tabárez could probably not work with Recoba, this is probably why Recoba retired from NT at the age of 30… he was missing in South Africa, as a super sub at least.
Q. Do you think Tabarez has cooled towards bringing in new players due to all the criticism he took during the 2010 qualifiers or is it that the default squad might prove successful provided the key players deliver?
A. The latter for sure. He has yet to fail with this “Memory team” and has done most things right, even if some observers and fans (mostly in our blog) got irritated.
Q. Speaking of Recoba, if you could steal one player to play for the Faroe Islands NT – who would you pick? Andrey Arshavin or Recoba?
A. I would prefer one Recoba (in form) to anyone. At his best, he was unstoppable and Number One in the world. Just as Suárez is today, overall, I think that Recoba and Suárez are players of the same genius but Suárez is much more determined and consistent, that’s why he’s a better player.
Q. Suarez is rare for Uruguay, Uruguay never had a player like that – or did they? – Do you think the media’s fascination with Suarez makes us forget that Uruguay used to churn out world-class players like Suarez at a more prolific rate?
A. Well, Andrade, Scarone and Schiaffino played very long ago – it’s difficult to judge, how good they really were. But Suárez is much better than any Uruguayan player since Luis Cubilla, whom I rate as high as Suárez, even though Cubilla didn’t always get the credit he deserved. He missed the 1966 World Cup because he played in a foreign club… he could have been the biggest hero of the1970 world cup, had Pedro Rocha been able to play and assist Cubilla.
Q. True – but certainly Enzo Francescoli was a tidy player in his own right? Some Argentineans will even argue that Ruben Paz was 10 times better than Enzo – which I think validates the point that there were other players to consider.
A. (Francescoli) wasn’t as good as Cubilla or Suárez – and he failed to show anything in two world cups he participated in; His club career in Europe was not that impressive either. But he won 3 Copa Americas of course. Rubén Paz had no less talent but underachieved, just like another player from Artigas at that time, Venancio Ramos. It was a shame that Uruguay failed to qualify for 1982 cup in Spain as Mundialito winners.
Q. Going back to Suarez though, how important is he to Uruguay’s chances of progressing in the group stage? Does Uruguay need him for the first two games?
A. Uruguay (or in fact, any team) would need Suárez in any game. But he has to be 100% fresh and fit; otherwise it doesn’t give any meaning. Suárez is maybe the best player in the world today, but even the best players cannot perform, if injured. Yes, he is very important – so much important that I wouldn’t have any doubts about Uruguay progressing from the group – Now, with Suárez’ injury situation, I am not sure at all.
Q. Which team do you think will give Uruguay a run for their money?
A. It’s totally unpredictable. Uruguay could lose points against Costa Rica and then beat both England and Italy. This is just classic Uruguay. But once progressed from the group (and with Suárez returned), they could be unstoppable and go all the way.
Q. You really think so? You don’t think Brazil will put a stop to all this?
A. In case of a Brazil-Uruguay quarterfinal, I still think it would be a certain psychological barrier for Brazil to play Uruguay. Remember, they were very lucky to beat Uruguay in Confederations last year and then cruised passed Spain in the final. To put in into perspective – I don’t think Brazil would be as heavy favorites against Uruguay in 2014, as they were in 1950.
Q. Where do you rate this Brazil? 94 – 98 -2002 or the recent disasters from 2006 & 2010?
A. Brazil? Maybe somewhere in-between. Not as good as the players (my opinion) from 1994 or 2002 but then the coach returned. He is very important for them.
Q. Ahhh but you being a connoisseur of football history must know, no Brazilian coach has repeated as World Cup champion….
A. well, Zagalo sat on the bench in 1994, even though he wasn’t the main coach then…
Q. Brazil has a couple of hurdles to overcome: they have to prove the Confederations jinx is merely hogwash… that a Brazilian World Champion coach can win it again and that they can beat Uruguay in a World Cup held on Brazilian soil….
A. Exactly. And frankly, I even think that they could stumble in the knockout stage, so we may never come to see a Uruguay v. Brazil this time.
Q. You don’t think a quarterfinal encounter is in the works – provided Brazil wins their group and Uruguay finishes second in theirs?
A. Why should Uruguay finish second? They could also finish first (but there are, of course, no doubts that Brazil will win their group).
Q. Speaking of Brazil, would defeating Brazil in a World Cup again be enough for Uruguay?
A. Not for me. Honestly, I don’t care if Uruguay ever meets Brazil in this tournament. I believe that Uruguay can win it all and this is the only thing that matters. Remember, they are acting South American Champions, playing on their own continent for the first time in 52 years. It gives grounds for some expectations.
Q. That’s a fresh perspective – As one of the most recognizable supporters who is routinely written about and interviewed, what is one of your fondest memories as the “Traveling International Celeste Supporter”?
A. No doubts there! (jump to 7:02)
Q. Ahhhh… memory burn for life.
A. Yes, for the rest of the life… unforgetable, epic.
Q. And you’ve also met Ghiggia an important character in the Maracana folklore.
A. Yes, at El Centenario (Museo del Fútbol) on November 19th last year. In fact, it was a random meeting as I showed my Faroese journalist friend around El Centenario and Ghiggia happened to be there, Brazilian television interviewed him in the museum. I presented him a Faroese wall calendar for 2014 and showed him on the map where Faroese were located!
Q. Well my friend we don’t want to take up more of your time, thank you for visiting us all the time, on behalf of the LCB think-tank we thank you for spreading the word about La Celeste; we know it’s a job you love and we have no doubt that as long as you’re around the Sky Blue will always have a friend and supporter in the stands wherever they play.
A. Thank you for the kind words and your time, Yorugua… It has been a tremendous pleasure for me to be a reader of this wonderful blog, made by sincere and deep La Celeste lovers; I start my day and finish almost every day with this Blog. May this Blog continue for a very long time and expands more around the world. VIVA LA CELESTE BLOG! LA CELESTE BLOGGUR LEINGI LIVI (on Faroese)