Football in Iceland
|Football in Iceland|
|Governing body||Football Association of Iceland|
|National team||men's national team|
There are 20,000 players (men and women) registered at clubs. Football is the most popular sport in Iceland. Iceland hosted the U-18 European Championship in 1997, but an Icelandic national team has qualified for the final competition of a major tournament only three times—twice by the women's national team at UEFA Women's Euro in 2009 and 2013, and once by the men's team at UEFA Euro 2016. The only Iceland teams to advance past the group stage at a major tournament are the women in 2013 and the men in 2016.
Iceland's most famous footballer is Eiður Guðjohnsen. He has won two Premier League titles for Chelsea F.C. as well as the La Liga, Copa del rey and the Champions League title for FC Barcelona.
For each championship, an official sponsor name or a name is given. The number of clubs participating in each level is defined in advance. Each championship allows end of the season to promote the higher level clubs and relegating others to the lower level. The first of the highest league is the national champion. The national league is Úrvalsdeild.
History of national competitions
- 1912 : Creation of the national championship (Úrvalsdeild). Three clubs, all of Reykjavik take part in this inaugural edition. The KR Reykjavik became the first team to register his name in the history.
- 1955: Establishment of the Second Division and promotion and relegation system (2. deild karla champion takes the last place of 1. deild karla at the end of the season).
- 1966: Creation of the third national division (3. deild karla).
- 1982: Creation of the fourth national division (4. deild karla). This is the lowest level with a single national pool.
- 2013: Reform of the pyramid scheme championships with the creation of a fifth division, with the regional groups, a first in domestic competitions.
League(s) / Division(s)
Icelandic Premier League
Icelandic First Division
Icelandic Second Division
Icelandic Third Division
Icelandic Fourth Division Group A
Icelandic Fourth Division Group B
Icelandic Fourth Division Group C
Icelandic Fourth Division Group D
- Icelandic Cup is organized since 1960. It brings together the clubs of the five national divisions in the country and is played from May to October, with the final traditionally at the national stadium Laugardalsvöllur. The winner qualifies for the Europa League.
- The Deildabikar is a competition for clubs first two national divisions. Unlike the Icelandic Cup, it has a first group stage before ending with knockout matches from the quarterfinals.
- The Icelandic Super Cup, played since 1969, clash sees the Icelandic champion and cup winner in Iceland. This is traditionally the game that inaugurates the season before the championship began.
Genesis of football in Iceland
Football arrived in Iceland at the end of the nineteenth century. The oldest club in the country, the KR Reykjavik, was founded in 1899, and the first championship of Iceland, the Urvalsdeild, was held in 1912. It pitted three teams, since, KR join the Fram Reykjavik and 'íþróttabandalag vestmannaeyja. Until 1929, three clubs competed in these championships: Fram Reykjavik (10 titles), KR Reykjavik (6 titles) and Víkingur Reykjavík (2 titles).
The clubs are beginning to organize at the end of the First World War and during the 1920s, including the KR. Among the top scorers of the championship, Friðþjófur Thorsteinsson already playing abroad. In 1930, a fourth club of the capital, Reykjavik Valur, won his first championship.
During the 1930s, several foreign clubs come play games on Icelandic soil. These tours opposed to the best clubs of the time (those who compete for the Premier League, after all): Fram Reykjavik KR Reykjavik Valur, Vikingur Reykjavik. These same clubs have the opposite direction and begin to test against teams from the European continent. There, sometimes these clubs mix to oppose a stronger resistance. These "super teams" experienced varied, course tours in Denmark, Norway and Germany and the Faroe Islands. It was during the first tour to the Faroe Islands in 1930 that takes place which can be likened to the first game of the Icelandic national team. Indeed, a selection of fifteen Icelandic players (two of them will follow one another at the head of the Federation twenty years later) made the trips to the neighboring island, first confronting a local club. The second match pits a selection of the best Faroese players. Albert Guðmundsson became the first professional footballer from Iceland.
As recently as 2010, the Iceland men's national team was outside the top 100 in the FIFA World Rankings. Since then, the team has risen nearly 80 spots in the rankings, entering UEFA Euro 2016 at #34 in the rankings. The team barely missed out on qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, falling in a playoff against Croatia, and qualified for Euro 2016, advancing to the quarterfinals. During their qualification campaign for the latter event, Strákarnir Okkar ("Our Boys") defeated the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Turkey at home, and also defeated the Netherlands away. The women's national team has also risen steadily in the FIFA Women's World Rankings, having become a fixture in the world top 20 in the 2010s, with a peak of 15th in 2011.
The country has risen to these previously unheard-of heights despite major challenges. As of 2016, the country's population of about 330,000 was comparable to that of Corpus Christi, Texas or St. Louis, and it had fewer registered football players (of both sexes) than the U.S. state of Rhode Island. Iceland, being a far northern country, also has to deal with average daily temperatures that stay around freezing for nearly half the year, making it difficult or impossible for players to train year-round outdoors.
The seeds for this rise were planted by the KSí in the mid-1990s, when it began discussions on how to overcome its challenges of population and climate. The initiative bore its first fruit in 2000, when KSí built the first of a series of domed football facilities known as "football houses" in Keflavík near the country's main international airport. Eventually, a total of 15 football houses were commissioned, some with full-sized pitches and others with half-size pitches, with these facilities supplemented by more than 20 full-sized outdoor artificial pitches and over 100 smaller artificial pitches throughout the country. All children's schools in the country now have at least a five-a-side football pitch on their premises. Additionally, all of the football houses are publicly owned, making access easier and much less expensive than comparable facilities in many other countries.
At the same time, KSí invested heavily in training of coaches, starting a regular program designed to equip coaches with UEFA "A" and "B" licenses. The association chose to conduct all courses at its headquarters in Reykjavík, and deliberately chose not to make a profit off the courses, reducing costs for participants. By January 2016, more than 180 Icelandic coaches held an A license and nearly 600 held a B license; an additional 13 held UEFA's highest Pro license. This translates to about one in every 500 Icelanders being a UEFA-qualified coach. By contrast, the corresponding ratio in England is about 1 in 10,000. Many top clubs in the country have B-licensed and even A-licensed coaches overseeing children as young as age 6. Every UEFA-licensed coach in the country has a paid coaching position, although only a small number receive a full-time salary.
Women's football in Iceland
Women's football in Iceland is organized by KSÍ, the Football Association of Iceland. The federation manages the national championship and the women's national team. Breiðablik UBK is the dominating women's football in Iceland, unlike its male counterpart (16 titles for the women versus one for the men). The Icelandic national team played its first official game in 1981. Even though they have never participated in a World Cup, they have three appearances in the European Championship, where they have reached the quarterfinals in 1995 and 2013.
Men's national football team
The national team plays the first meeting in its history in 1930 against the Faroe Islands game won with a score of one goal to nil. Following the affiliation of the Federation to FIFA in 1947 and UEFA in 1954, the selection is committed for the first time in the qualifiers for the World Cup in 1957.
Iceland qualified for their first finals of an international competition on the occasion of Euro 2016, reaching the quarter-finals of that competition. The team plays its home games at Laugardalsvöllur stadium of 15,000 seats, built in 1958 and located in the capital, Reykjavik. The current manager is Heimir Hallgrímsson, who served as co-manager alongside Swede Lars Lagerbäck before the latter departed following Euro 2016 and took the Norway position. Iceland ended 2015 36th in the FIFA World Rankings, and rose to their highest-ever position of 20th in February 2017.
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