Football in Iceland and a little something called the World Cup
In case you didn’t know, today marks the beginning of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. What does that mean, you ask?
It’s the ultimate competition of all the national football teams in the world (that’s soccer for you Americans out there). While football is by far the most popular sport in the world, only 32 nations make it to the group stage in Russia so each place is coveted, to say the least. And why are we, a random airline based in Iceland, telling you this, you ask? Because for the first time in history, Iceland made it to the World Cup.
You may think this is big news because Iceland is a small nation and you’d be right. We’re not just small, we’re tiny. The entire Icelandic population is a mere 350,000 people (Cleveland, Ohio has 380,000) and while only 11 players will be representing us on the field in the next few weeks, an overwhelming majority of the nation will be watching. An estimated 99.8% of the entire nation watched Iceland in the European Championship games in 2016 and that was just the Euro. Frankly, we’d very much like to know what those 0.2% were doing that was so important.
You might also be interested in knowing that while our footballers are certainly talented, they’re no superstars like Neymar, Ronaldo or Messi and as it stands, our national team as a whole is the star of the show. The same goes for our team of supporters, who became world-famous during the Euro 2016 when word spread that the nearly 30,000 Icelanders attending the games in France, were in fact a staggering 8% of the island’s entire population.
But the most viral phenomenon of this whole thing has to be the magical Viking chant, performed immediately after the game by the team and its supporters in the stadium (and us common nerds sitting by our television sets). Seeing is believing. Even if you don’t follow football, this one will surely give you goosebumps.
Iceland competes in group D, facing such massive opponents as Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia. So if you have a thing for lovable (and very talented) underdogs, watch the games and join the littlest team that could.