For this installment in this series of International Football Bigfooty talks to Sölvi Fannar, the General Manager of Andspyrnusamband Íslands- soon to be known as AFL Iceland
Australian football arrived on the shores of Iceland in May 2009, when an advertisement appeared in the local newspaper advertising for a bit of a kick followed by a bbq. A few people turned up and the seeds were sown for the worlds most northern football league.
Solvir is a recent convert to the game becoming involved just last year in Iceland. His town in Iceland’s north didn’t have a team. He got in touch with a guy in Rejkavik who had played in Denmark, and they began to organise some basic kick to kick, and eventually training sessions.
Iceland did have three teams, but now has two, including Solvirs team, Akureyri and another based in the nations capital, Rejkavik. The clubs play nine a side games on soccer fields, with an oval type shape marked out on the rectangle using fire hoses. Its not quite the same as an oval, but it does the job.
There are about 40 Australian Rules players in Iceland, including a number of women from a local university, one of whom was part of the European Crusaders womens team that won the EU Cup in 2013. Solvir says he’s working to get the women involved in a mixed mens/womens competition, but so far that hasnt eventuated.
Teams will play a couple of games a year, whenever they can be organised, but Solvi says that the most games they play is during the EU Cup.
Amongst the challenges are preventing the loss of players to rugby union, and getting the sport recognised by the Iceland Government. Solvir tells me he is about to embark on a recruiting mission to universities and colleges in Rejkavik to try and get some more people interested in the game.
Training and matches can be done in all sorts of weather, Solvir tells me that the coldest he’s played in September last year and it was colder than it was when the interview was conducted (at -12). He says they’ve trained in -15 with ice and snow, and it can hurt like hell if you catch the ball the wrong way.
The National side is the Ravens, who have competed at every EU Cup since 2009, finishing 8th in 2013. They have formerly played friendly games against other countries, but now these games are generally restricted to tournaments like the EU Cup and European Championships.
Like most countries, Iceland has considered coming to the International Cup, but lack the finance and the time to come down. For the most part however AFL Iceland is focused on growing the game even more in Iceland.
If you’d like to know more about the game – and speak Icelandic – please visit the website at http://www.andspyrna.is/