One of the top stories of this year’s domestic Icelandic football division—named The Pepsi League, because everyone knows that sugary soft drinks enhance fitness and sporting performance—is the situation of Valur, the reigning champions.
Having romped to a notable triple last year by winning the league title, the League Cup, and the Super Cup all in one season, hopes for 2019 were high. The club signed Iceland’s goalkeeping hero, Hannes “Wild Claws” Halldórson—a half-man-half-giant, with huge hands said to be able to reach up and grasp the moon itself. With this Messi-smiting World Cup behemoth in goal, surely the champions would be unassailable.
But that’s not how the first half of the season has played out. Valur suffered a surprising slump in form, languishing in the table’s lower reaches for the opening weeks. Meanwhile, their deadly rivals—Vesturbær posh boys KR—pulled a Man City by beating everyone in sight, quickly doubling Valur’s points tally.
One contributing factor may be the strange case of Gary Martin, the journeyman English striker who’s played in Iceland for much of his career. He signed a three-year deal with Valur—thought to be the final move of his playing life—only to mysteriously leave the club just five months later. He immediately signed for Westman Islands league stragglers ÍBV, making them his fifth club in three years. Weird.
Nevertheless, Valur have started to turn their season around with three wins in their last five games. It would take KR having a train wreck from here on in for them to be in with a chance of protecting the Pepsi League title. But, in the world of Icelandic football, much stranger things have happened.
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