So, the Football World Cup in Brazil is in full force and heading towards its grand finale on Sunday.
Even though Iceland is not competing in this tournament—more on that later—Icelanders are a football loving nation.
Icelanders as well as foreigners are following the World Cup matches in pubs, bars and other public screenings throughout the country. In Reykjavík, for instance, almost every bar or café is broadcasting the event; one can enjoy the games at Ingólfstorg square, for example, where a huge screen and lots of benches have been set up.
Even though they are not rooting for their native country, having been edged out by Croatia in the qualifying round, Icelanders become deeply engrossed in the matches of their favorite teams and they passionately celebrate wins and are equally saddened by losses.
So watching the World Cup in Iceland is a brilliant experience as you will always be surrounded by screaming, cheering and passionate football enthusiasts.
I have watched almost all of the matches of the World Cup at the bar I work at and most people there are rooting for my home country Germany—not just because they are afraid of me.
Iceland of course has its own football league and the Icelandic Football League is run by The Football Association of Iceland (Knattspyrnusamband Íslands or KSÍ) and has five levels with 70 participating teams as of 2013.
The First League, Úrvalsdeild karla (‘Men’s Select Division’), is the top tier of the Icelandic football pyramid and currently comprises 12 clubs. Since 2009, the Úrvalsdeild has been referred to as Pepsideildin (‘the Pepsi League’) thanks to its main sponsor. The most successful Icelandic teams are the current champion KR (short for Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur, ‘Reykjavík Football Club’) with 26 title wins followed by Valur (Knattspyrnufélagið Valur), ÍA (Íþróttabandalag Akraness) and Fram Reykjavík.
Those ball game enthusiastic Icelanders who don’t find their hunger for great football satisfied in the Icelandic division, follow European football leagues. Most popular is the English Premier League, and root for some team there.
The most successful Icelandic football player is certainly Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen, who has previously played for big teams such as Chelsea and FC Barcelona and is often considered to be one of the greatest Icelandic footballers, having won several titles in the Netherlands, Spain, and England as well as the Champions League.
Funny enough that every football enthusiast in my home town of Stuttgart knows about Ásgeir Sigurvinsson, who also happens to be one of Iceland’s most celebrated football players and played for Stuttgart’s VFB from 1982-1990. Rumor has it that the he was offered German citizenship in order to be able to play for the German national team back then but Ásgeir declined out of patriotism.
Patriotism is all good and well, but the Icelandic national team (Íslenska karlalandsliðið í knattspyrnu), is only ranked No. 52 by FIFA and is internationally not quite as successful—no surprises there —as they have never qualified for the World Cup or the European Championship or any other international competition.
Don’t take it badly, Icelanders, you can always root for Germany.
Katharina Hauptmann – [email protected]