Iceland and Austria will play two friendlies in April to emphasize the good cooperation and friendship between the two countries following widespread coverage and condemnation of Icelandic sports broadcaster Björn Bragi Arnarson’s comments likening Iceland to the Nazis, “slaughtering Austrians” during live coverage of the match on Saturday. The comments were made during the half-time break.Photo: EHF.
Commenting on the situation, Jean Brihault, president of the European Handball Federation, said: “It is clear that racism and politics have no place in international sport and no place at these championships. The comments made in Icelandic television were regrettable, but I am pleased that the EHF, Iceland Handball Federation and Austrian Handball Federations have sat together to discuss the issue and decided to make this joint statement.”
President of the Austrian Handball Federation, Gerhard Hofbauer, said: “This is obviously an unpleasant incident for handball and the championship, but we understand that this was an isolated comment and does not reflect the views either of the Icelandic people or the Icelandic Handball Federation in any way. As a sign of our continued good cooperation with the Icelandic Handball Federation we have agreed to play two friendly matches in Iceland in April 2014.”
Vice President of the Icelandic Handball Federation, Davíð B. Gíslason, said: “We regret this incident but hope that this will not overshadow the excellent cooperation and long-standing friendship that exists between our two countries as well as the Icelandic and Austrian Handball Federations.”
The Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV, on which the comments were made, released a formal apology immediately after the incident. Kristín H. Hálfdánardóttir, head of the sports division, said in a statement: “Mr Arnarson has apologized for his remarks and based on his reactions and after having meeting with him it is clear that his apology is sincere and that he is fully aware of the severity of his actions.” Further apologies have been made on-air in Iceland by Kristín and Björn.
At the end of this afternoon’s match between FYR Macedonia and Iceland captain of the Icelandic team, Gúðjón Valur Sigurðsson, was interviewed by ORF, Austrian national television. Gúðjón said: “This was just one man trying to be funny and who went way over the line. I have also discussed this with the Austrian players and made it clear that this [the comment] is not our view.”