Alone, disillusioned and sat in the corner asking, ‘where’s the plan?’
Not the UK after Brexit but England following a “humiliating” defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016. Iceland still stuck in the 80s, Hoddle observed. Defeat unthinkable, shouted Shearer. A walk in the park, Ferdinand declared. The most abject failure that I can recall… overshadows everything going on back home right now, Tyldesley later barked. Astonishing.
Pundits’ expectation and desperation for a hero rose and fell. The post-match analyses searched for answers. I was cringing, part of me at least. How could this happen to the best league in the world, the pundits cried. The pundits cried.
They knew the stats, they knew that not even one third of players in the best league in the world are English, and knew only too well some of the squad including Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. As the second was slotted home Steve McLaren’s face dropped, cutting off his words mid-sentence on Sky Sports News as he explained England’s route to dominance. Dominance as England and others this tournament have found doesn’t always mean prizes. Goals mean prizes.
What is less well known is the infrastructure of support behind that victory, underpinned by a little less than 1 in 1,000 of the Icelandic population holding a Uefa B Licence (it’s 1 in 11,000 in England)¹. Accompanied by a national network of indoor pitches that allows youngsters of all ages to get involved in football, and knitted together by that famous warm Iceland community spirit, it’s clear to see why the shoots of Icelandic football are green as grass across that inhospitable white landscape.
The Icelandic model isn’t one of simply financial investment though. Community spirit – that everyone is a friend until proven otherwise – is the norm and not the exception. How apt, yet how ironic.
Following Brexit and the threat to remove English as the first language of the EU, and the UK sat motionless with fear, everyone seems caught like a hunted Icelandic bunny in the headlights.
With a growing Political divide between the UK and Europe coming to the fore in the ‘80s, there’s a sense of déjà vu. The football-related violence, the Politicking, the in-fighting, the commentary…
Whoever’s stuck in the 80s, it’s certainly not Iceland.
See you in the near future