People love underdogs like the Iceland soccer team. Hours ago, they wrapped up a scoreless draw against Croatia at its Laugardalsvöllur national football stadium. Even before the result, Iceland soccer has been getting all sorts of great press.
If you’ve looked through this blog at all, you’ll know already that I love Iceland. And part of that love started with Iceland soccer fans. On our first day in Iceland, Sarah and did what we always do in a new destination: We walked. Our ambling took us to the Laugardalslaug public pools – a complex of geothermally heated pools where we wound up relaxing for hours.
After we had our fill of relaxation, we resumed our wandering. Just a few minutes from the pools, we found the Laugardalsvöllur. We noticed a crowd of people, including a long-haired, bearded guy with his face painted blue and white. He carried a staff. He seemed just like the person who could tell us what’s going on.
It turned out that kick-off of a Premier League match between Stjarnan and Fram was about to kick off – this is the high point of Iceland soccer in domestic leagues. The Face-Painted One (named Ragnar) gave us a free ticket. I bought one more, and Sarah and I enjoyed 90 minutes of fun soccer action. OK, it wasn’t exactly the UEFA Champions League. But it was still a ton of fun, made better by the fans. The Stjarnan fans banged drums, blew trumpets and sang throughout the match. And the Fram stadiums were perfectly gracious to the noisy interlopers in their home stadium (which the team shares with the national team).
It was a pretty incredible start to our first day in Iceland. And it makes me root for a victory in the return leg in Croatia. Nothing against Croatia, but my personal connection to Iceland makes me favor them. If they win, they will be the first Icelandic soccer team to play in the World Cup. That will be an incredible achievement for a nation of just more than 300,000 residents.
I even have an Iceland soccer shirt in my closet, and I wear it often. But here’s the truth: I really wanted to find a Stjarnan shirt, but came up empty. I’d still like a Stjarnan shirt, but I’m glad to have the national team shirt now … you can bet I’ll wear it whether they win or lose to Croatia.