ILULISSAT (Denmark), July 3 — Sitting on benches in a sports hall in Greenland, 33-year-old Jennsinnguaq Lundblad and his nursery school pupils could not keep their eyes off the handball court.

“It’s unusual to see so many elderly people doing sports — it’s funny to watch,” he said of the match in Ilulissat, a town that lies north of the Arctic circle.

The Greenlandic games for the elderly each year draw teams of pensioners from across the vast Danish autonomous territory.

The seasoned game-goers are as fiery on the stands as they are on the pitch, where 239 players vie for victory in handball, hockey and football.

Laila Moller, 68, said she did not want to spend retirement holed up at home alone.

“When you’re retired, you’re often at home, so it’s good for me to move and to be with the others,” said the competitor from Ilulissat.

“It’s cool, we are lots of people” here.

It’s not easy getting everyone together though. Greenland is the world’s largest island, mostly covered in ice, and transport costs are high when much of the terrain can only be crossed by air or sea.

But the competition’s 10 travelling teams have been given grants to make sure they can all take part.

Magrethe Jakobsen, 74, had come all the way from Paamiut, a town that lies some 800 kilometres (500 miles) away on the island’s southern tip.

At home, “we play twice a week, and we go to do some fitness once a week. It means that Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are together,” said the lady in a bright purple t-shirt.

“I do it to move, meet people, to socialise.”

Each game lasts around 20 minutes, participants taking turns to act as referee.

Most players taking part in the games created in 2011 are past retirement age. Their moves are sometimes a little slow or even clumsy, but no one seems to mind.

Grete Street, 66, from Ilulissat, said the games were not about winning.

“Everyone is allowed to move. Maybe some are more flexible than others,” but that is not important, she said.

“It’s nice to play.” — AFP