Icelanders, Stop Fucking With Football! - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelanders, Stop Fucking With Football!

Icelanders, Stop Fucking With Football!

Published August 8, 2012

I was in Iceland for five months last year. While I greatly enjoyed my time working for the Reykjavík International Film Festival and travelling around the island, I sorely missed football. I discovered that football as a tool for meeting and sharing with complete strangers does not exist.
If you go to a public space and start playing guitar, you won’t be alone for too long before some other musicians come and an audience gathers around you and you share this experience together. Football is the same way. If you go to an open field and start kicking around a ball, you won’t be alone for long before other players join you. It’s the possibility to meet others. I like that in French we often use the word “rencontre” (meeting) to call a football game.
When I lived in London, hundred of players would go to a central park to play football with people they didn’t know on a daily basis. I used to walk in the park and people would ask me to join a game, left and right. And it was especially exhilarating because the guys came from all over the world, so that an Argentinian, Italian, Turkish, Cameroonian, and Japanese were all sharing this improvised moment. I had experienced this same phenomenon everywhere I had been in Europe as well.
Then I arrived in Iceland. Reykjavík has so many nice football pitches (even ocean front, some of them), but I’ve never seen anybody playing on them. I wandered around the way I would everywhere else, with my shoes, ready to play, but the fields were always desperately empty. Where the hell were all the Icelandic football players hiding?
One night, at around 11 PM, I saw three guys playing on the big pitch by the Seltjarnarnes swimming pool. I quickly made my way over to ask them if they were about to play a game and if I could join them. They answered me, coldly, that they didn’t know if it would be possible. Why not? Is it such a big deal to add an extra player? Well, they didn’t know and I got the hint that they wanted to get rid of me so I just left.
That’s when I understood that Icelanders not only have a lot of private parties, but it seems they also have what one might call private football games that are very formally organised. I learned that one of my workmates at RIFF used to play games at lunchtime, but it was necessary to know at least one of the guys playing and to be invited. You don’t casually join a football game in Reykjavík. Even more surprising to me, I learned that they even have a website called “teamfinder” to organize their games by time and place and number of players who have confirmed that they are going to attend by ticking a box on the website.
Icelanders evidently take their football seriously. I gave it a try, playing with the guys at lunchtime, but these games were not only formal, but also pretty boring. Nobody smiled and I wondered if they were even enjoying themselves. It seemed like they were there because they had to, in a very formal organisation, they come, they practice (I can’t even say, play) and they leave. After the third game like this, I gave up altogether.
    The spirit of football that I love, and have experienced the world over, is lost in Iceland.

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