Lars Lagerbäck is no doubt the most beloved man in Iceland today. The Swedish coach, who has guided the national men’s football team to securing participation in the UEFA EURO 2016 championship in France, is a deity in the eyes of Icelandic football fans, according to Vísir.
Foreign news media have widely covered the suggestion that Lars would probably have the backing of the nation, should he decide to run for president.
“I’m not a hero,” he said at a news conference last night. He is well aware of the goodwill toward him. “Everyone has done so well. Not only we the coaches but also the football clubs, the junior national teams, and so many others. Heroes have been written about, but this is first and foremost the result of a lot of work.”
He pointed out that when you don’t have a team composed of exceptionally strong individuals, what matters is to create a strong whole, where each player can feel that every player has his role and can do his best for the team. “That’s what Heimir and I have done.” Heimir Hallgrímsson coaches the team jointly with Lars.
He continued, “Many think this is magic, but this is the result of lots of work and the fact that Iceland has superb football players. I’m not a hero, but we did well, I think.”
Lars has coached the team for four years. At his first meeting with the team, his ambition was clear: He said his goal was to bring the team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
To everyone’s surprise, he came very close to that goal. By securing Iceland participation in the UEFA EURO 2016, Lars has made history: Iceland will be the least populated nation ever to participate in a UEFA EURO event, or in a major football championship, for that matter. (Let’s not forget that the Icelandic women’s football team has already participated in major international tournaments.)
The Guardian calls Lars “possibly the most understated manager in the history of the game.” “I wouldn’t say that I am a hero,” Lars said on Sunday night. “Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and people like that are real heroes.”
The Norwegian paper VG writes, “he is not a man of many words or pompous declarations,” but he is at the peak of his coaching career and “a liberator of the volcanic island,” Vísir reports.