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Birkir Bjarnason

50 Years Since National Sporting Tragedy

Today is the anniversary of a sad day in Iceland’s sporting history, as half a century ago, our national team managed to lose a football match 14-2 in Denmark’s favour. Yes, you read that correctly. 14-2. The performance was so outrageously bad that some say that our defense played the match from the stadium seats rather than on the pitch itself. On this milestone occasion, it’s worth discussing why we, as a nation, still haven’t gotten over losing a friendly game of football some fifty years ago.


Historic rivalry

Now, you should bear in mind that this was no ordinary match. The relationship between the countries is a bit of a love-hate relationship. Iceland was under Danish rule from 1380 to 1944, when we gained independence after a long fight for freedom. On one hand, Denmark is still the number one destination for Icelandic emigration. However, Icelandic schoolchildren still study the Danish language which might be contributing to the hate part as well. So, whenever these nations meet on a sporting field, it’s truly a grudge match, and it was especially so 50 years ago, when Iceland had only been an independent nation for just over 20 years. The Icelandic team was looking to prove themselves superior, or at least equal to our former oppressors, but instead, they were completely destroyed by the Danish team. It is still the worst defeat the men’s national team, ‘Strákarnir okkar‘ (Our Boys), has ever had to endure.

Birkir Bjarnason
Photo by: Wikipedia / Tobias Klenze

We turned it around! No really

It’s not all doom and gloom for our football team as they have been giving some fantastic performances on the field in recent years. After a low point of being ranked 131 on the FIFA rankings in April 2012 the team rose to the heady heights of 19th in the world! Yes, cute little Iceland with its 340’000 countrymen. It is no exaggeration to say that the numbers don’t exactly work in our favour when it comes to sports. When Strákarnir okkar made it to EURO 2016, the European Championship tournament, the country became the smallest nation in the history of the tournament to qualify. If you were an Icelandic male between the age of 20 to 40, there was a 1 in 2000 chance that you were on the team! The boys managed to reach the quarter-finals, finally bowing out to hosts France, but gained plenty of admirers during the tournament. Spectators were fascinated by the teamwork, dedication, beards, good looks, (have you seen Birkir Bjarnason?!) and of course the fantastic support we showed. Long gone were the days of losing 14-2 to Denmark. Fourteen – two! Jesus!

Viking clap

During the tournament, the fans became famous for the special chant which is affably known as the Viking clap. No, not that kind. You are thinking of the wrong clap. You look like a complete utter idiot doing it by yourself but when tens of thousands gather together it can be quite menacing. Boom-boom húh!

Next time?

We will never forget that August night in Copenhagen, 23rd of August 1967. Yet we can rejoice in the fact that next time we show up in Copenhagen it will be in different circumstances. Who knows, maybe Strákarnir Okkar will repay the favour. 14-2 to Iceland? Gylfi Sigurðsson with 9 goals? Improbable, yet not impossible!


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