Iceland Struggles To Keep Up

glenn-dowd-littleIceland currently has 53 football players playing abroad. Not bad for a little country marooned in the North Atlantic Ocean, or is it?

An opinion column written by Glenn Dowd

Consider the national teams of England, Spain and Italy. Most of the top stars who represent their countries on the international stage ply their trade at home. Contrast that with countries such as Ireland and Iceland which don’t have great domestic leagues and their players are forced to go abroad in search of bigger opportunities.

What effect does this have?
Ireland have played at a handful of prestigious events and that is a benefit they have over Iceland, who since joining FIFA in 1947, have not qualified for a major event. At present, such qualification seems miles away for a team that boasts some top stars we are all familiar with.

Now look at European club competitions. Ireland have come within touching distance of qualifying for the Champions’ League and Europa League in recent years, providing some memorable shocks along the way, but where has Iceland gone? Iceland`s progress at European club level is extremely slow and devoid of hope. It will be light-years before any significant developments are made on this front unless something is done.

The Icelandic Football Association, otherwise known as KSÌ, will tell you that 153 clubs are resident on the island. How these clubs must crave the money that some of their compatriots put into foreign clubs. This is another familiar trend that Iceland has with Ireland: an Icelandic consortium opts to pump vast sums of money into West Ham United at the expense of a domestic club, while an Irish consortium does the exact same at fellow Premiership club Sunderland.
It just goes to show, you may love your country and the game of football, but you’re in the business to add to your hefty bank balance.

The then-second-richest-man-in-Iceland, Bjorgulfur Gudmundsson took over the Hammers in what seemed to be a good deal for all involved. The club cost him GBP 85 million. What that could have done for the domestic league you can figure out for yourself. Little did West Ham fans know what lay ahead. Gudmundsson became football’s main victim of the global economic downturn and joy turned to anger. With Iceland itself falling perilously deeper into the financial mire, so too did Gudmundsson and his business empire.

As Gudmundsson edged towards the brink of bankruptcy, West Ham was taken over by Icelandic bank Straumur, which it emerged had lent Gudmundsson the money to fund the takeover in the first place. West Ham was looked after by the bank and managed solely to keep its head above water. The biggest smile on the faces of West Ham fans came when all links with Iceland were severed. They have since been taken over by well known football characters David Gold and David Sullivan, former owners of Birmingham City.

So, Gudmundsson borrowed a crazy sum of money to invent what he labelled the Champions’ League dream in East London. That dream took off, on paper, but unfortunately for some the true value of aspirations is not met on paper.
If Gudmundsson had of pumped a mere five percent of his fortune into the Icelandic national team or into the league, who knows what would have happened. Hell, maybe he still would have had a penny in his pocket today. The man on the street in Iceland doesn’t care about Gudmundsson and his past actions of flashing the cash today. Why would they? He could have lifted the spirits of the people by investing the money at home. But such is the fat cat hierarchy that is still strangling the life out of world football; he took his money abroad and wasted it. At least if some of the money was spent on football at home he would have something to show for himself when all else fell apart. But what has he now?

Premiership, England (4):
Herman Hreidarsson, Portsmouth FC
Gretar Steinsson, Bolton Wanderers
Eidur Gudjohnsen, Tottenham Hotspur
Joey Gudjonsson, FC Burnley

Championship, England (8):
Ivar Ingimarsson, FC Reading
Emil Hallfredsson, FC Barnsley
Brynjar Björn Gunnarsson, FC Reading
Aron Einar Gunnarsson, Coventry City
Heidar Helguson, FC Watford
Kári Árnason, Plymouth Argyle
Gunnar Heidar Thorvaldsson, FC Reading
Gylfi Sigurdsson, FC Reading

League 1, England (1):
Ármann Smári Björnsson, Hartlepool United

Æresdivisjonen, Netherlands (1):
Arnór Smárason, SC Heerenveen

Premier League, Scotland (2):
Eggert Gunnthor Jónsson, Hearts
Kjartan Henry Finnbogason, Falkirk FC

Jupiler Liga, Belgium (3):
Arnar Vidarsson, Cercle Brügge
Bjarni Vidarsson, Roeselare
Hólmar Örn Eyjólfsson, Roeselare

Superligaen, Denmark (4):
Sölvi Geir Ottesen, SönderjyskE
Rúrik Gíslason, Odense
Stefán Gíslason, Brøndby
Ólafur Ingi Skúlason, SönderjyskE

1. divisjon, Denmark (1):
Sigmundur Kristjansson, Brabrand IF

Eliteserien Norway (11):
Arni Gautur Arason, Odd Grenland
Kristján Örn Sigurdsson, Hønefoss BK
Indridi Sigurdsson, Viking
Birkir Már Sævarsson, Brann
Birkir Bjarnason, Viking
Veigar Páll Gunnarsson, Stabæk
Ólafur Örn Bjarnason, Brann
Palmi Rafn Palmason, Stabæk
Gylfi Einarsson, Brann
Stefán Logi Magnússon, LSK
Björn Bergmann Sigurdarson, LSK

1. divisjon Norway (4):
Viktor Bjarki Arnarsson, Nybergsund
Gudmann Thorisson, Nybergsund
Arnar Darri Petursson, Lyn Oslo
Haukur Pall Sigurdsson, Alta IF

Allsvenskan Sweden (9):
Ragnar Sigurdsson, IFK Göteborg
Hjalmar Jonsson, IFK Göteborg
Theodor Elmar Bjarnason, IFK Göteborg.
Helgi Danielsson, Elfsborg.
Jonas Gudni Sævarson, Halmstad
Hallgrimur Jonasson, GAIS
Gudmundur Gunnarsson, GAIS
Gudjon Baldvinsson, GAIS
Eyjolfur Hedinsson, GAIS

Superettan, Sweden (5):
Ari Frey Skulason, GIF Sundsvall
David Vidarsson, Öster
Hannes Sigurdsson, GIF Sundsvall
Gunnar Thor Gunnarsson, IFK Norrköping
Sverrir Gardarsson, GIF Sundsvall

Glenn Dowd is a freelance journalist based in Dublin, Ireland. He currently writes for Nordic Football News and decided to share this article with the readers of IceNews.

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