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Insight and Ramblings

Football in Iceland: Part 2

By Evan Ream, Communications Manager

Note: With leagues and events slowing down for the summer, NorCal Premier Soccer Communications Manager Evan Ream will be spending the summer blogging about the beautiful game both locally and abroad. To read part 1, click here.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — There’s a passage that I often think about in the excellent 2009 book Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski regarding the historical success in European football of provincial teams compared to capital city teams.

The book argues that clubs from outside of the capital cities (in democratic European nations) have been more successful than those inside capital cities for a variety of reasons.

“Capitals simply have less to prove than provincial cities,” it begins. “They have bigger sources of pride than their soccer teams. Londoners don’t go around singing songs about their city, and they don’t believe that a prize for Arsenal or Chelsea would enhance London’s status. Roman Abramovich and David Dein brought trophies to Chelsea and Arsenal, but neither could ever have been voted mayor of London.”

The section goes on to argue that the support and identity of provincial teams — think Borussia Dortmund or Liverpool — is simply stronger because there’s less going on.

I don’t know if Iceland’s Fimleikafelag Hafnarfjaroar, which is technically in the capital region, counts in the strict definition of “provincial,” but in a country the size of Iceland, where over one-third of the population lives in Reykjavik, the five mile journey east of the busy streets of Reykjavik seems like a world away.

And the supporters of FH, Iceland’s current most successful team, certainly seemed like provincial fans.

Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of how full our side of the stadium was — I didn’t want to end up like this guy, who ran onto the field, was escorted out of the game politely, and then casually re-entered the venue at halftime.

But what was on my side was incredible — a stadium packed with roughly 4,000 fans. In a city with a population of under 30,000. In a country with a population of just over 300,000. To watch semi-professional football.

That football didn’t disappoint, with FH pressing early and often to defeat Stjarnan, then the first-place team in the league, via a 3-0 scoreline.

The atmosphere was fantastic as well, with the FH mafia supporters group perpetually singing a variety of songs, including Scatman John’s “Scatman” — something I’d never heard in a stadium before.

After the game, the players celebrated with the fans, not a single one of whom left the stadium early despite the game kicking off at 8:00 p.m. local time.

Neither of the atmospheres, while still very good, at the other two games I attended compared to that of FH: Iceland’s premier provincial team.

Check back Monday for part 3 of my journey. Until then, here is Iceland’s continental divide, with Europe on the left and North America on the right.