The trade sanctions imposed by Russia on Iceland three years ago have had a grave impact on Iceland’s preparations for the 2018 World Cup, RÚV reports.
The decision to boycott Icelandic products was meant to be a countermeasure to the heavy sanctions imposed on Russia by a number of Western countries, including Iceland, following their annexation of Crimea in 2015.
According to Klara Bjartmarz, director of The Football Association of Iceland KSÍ, sanctions have made the association’s job much more difficult in the past year, as they greatly restrict what Icelanders may and may not import when they travel to Russia.
“We’ve been spending quite a lot of time dealing with custom taxes, for instance,” Klara explains. “Iceland and Russia are boycotting each other, so we have to be extremely precise when dealing with customs. We have put a lot of time and effort into this so we’re hoping we’re good now, in terms of clothes, medical and sport equipment, medicines and so forth.”
Russia’s sanctions, however, are not restricted to items of clothing and equipment. What they affect the most, instead, is the import of food, which is strictly banned. This means that while during the European Cup in France the Icelandic football team travelled with their own produce, this time the Smiters will have to rely on Russian products for all their dietary needs.
Two cooks will be following the players, alongside a team of 50 to assist the Smiters during their stay. They will be in charge of figuring out how to feed the boys, and how to meet their culinary needs so far from home.
“I’m not worried about Russian ingredients, but Russian food is very different from ours, from what we’re used to, and footballers are usually not keen on trying new things right before playing,” Klara explains. “Our head cook has also figured out what each player likes, and of course we need to adjust to that. You can’t just feed Gylfi (Sigurðsson) something he doesn’t like just three hours before a game. We just can’t do that.”
So far the Association has spent about 700,000 of the 900,000 ISK it received to cover the cost of the tournament, but it’s still unclear what the extra costs of services such as laundry will amount to once the team is in Russia. We can only hope our mighty Smiters will manage to get all the fresh food and clothing they need for their glorious hours on the battlefield.