Often Partisan

Off to Partizan

With Blues in the Europa League next season, I thought it might be fun to look at some potential opponents from the teams that like us, have already qualified. I hereby bring you part one in a series I’m calling “Off to Partizan…”

Strømsgodset IF

The first team I thought I could look at was Strømsgodset IF (with a nod to Polo from smallheathalliance). Like us, they have already qualified for the third qualifying round of the Europa League by virtue of winning their fifth Cupen, with a 2-0 victory over Follo FK in last November’s final.

Godset, as they are known to their friends hail from the Norwegian city of Drammen, which is just outside the capital Oslo. They play their games at the 7,500 capacity Marienlyst Stadion, a small three sided ground near the centre of town.

Marienlyst Stadion

Godset have not had much luck against English teams in the past; their last adventure in Europe was in the 98/99 UEFA Cup where they went out 6-2 on aggregate in the first round to some little known team from one of the dingier suburbs of Birmingham. Indeed, four of the seven ventures into continental football have met heavy defeat to an English opponent – maybe a good omen should we draw them.

Fans of no-frill airlines will be pleased to know that Ryanair fly from Liverpool to Sandefjord; as you’d come to expect from Ryanair Sandefjord is as close to Drammen as Liverpool is to Birmingham; Oslo airport is closer, and has direct flights to Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow. Unfortunately, beer is supposed to be around £6 a pint in Drammen, so it might not be the best city for a bit of a drink.


Looking at the qualifiers for the second qualifying round, my eyes alit on EB/Streymur. The little team from the Faeroes qualified for Europe by beating ÍF Fuglafjørður 1-0 in the final of the 2010 Løgmanssteypið (Faeroe Islands Cup), and should they win their first European tie might face the glory of a trip to Small Heath.

EB/Streymur play at a tiny ground that holds just 1000 fans, and as such they would be more likely to host a European tie at one of the bigger grounds in Toftir or Torshavn, much as they did in the 2008 qualifying rounds. It’s a bit disappointing for those of us who like to visit tiny grounds, but the upside would be a tie which could accomodate more than a dozen away supporters – although even the bigger grounds on the islands will only hold 5,000 max.

The Faeroes are a bit of a bugger to get to unfortunately, with only one airport in the whole territory. That airport offers seasonal flights to Stansted; barring a charter it’s going to be either a lengthy journey via Denmark or Norway. Again, like many Scandinavian countries it’s expensive to go drinking in Torshavn, with a pint costing around the fiver mark – so whilst EB might be the choice of afficionadoes of tiny teams, it’s not the best for a boy’s trip away.

FC Irtysh

One of the teams who are already qualified for the first qualifying round is Kazakh team FC Irtysh, of Pavlodar. They would face two ties before pulling out the big guns in royal blue, but anything is possible in European competition.

FC Irtysh are in the competition by virtue of having finished 3rd in the 2010 Kazakhstan Premier League, and are one of the few (maybe only) teams to have participated in the Asian and European Champions Leagues.

Irtysh play at a 15,000 capacity stadium in Pavlodar called Centralny, and as you can see from the picture it’s uncovered and very stereotypical of how I would expect a stadium to look like from that part of the world.

Centralny, Pavlodar

Pavlodar is served by a small international airport, and it would be a fair old schlep to get there, with stopovers required at a minimum in either Minsk, St Petersburg or Moscow. Pavlodar is in North Eastern Kazakhstan, and is pretty close to the Chinese border – how it qualifies as Europe is as tenuous as Tony Cascarino’s Irishness. I wouldn’t order a Guiness here either; I’ve seen reports of it being $12 a pint. Maybe the local stuff is cheaper?

Obviously, this is all a long way off, but it’s something I’ve wanted all my life, and I’m going to make the most of looking forwards to it. As more teams qualify, I’ll bring you more samples of what our European adventure could bring.

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