Captain Sara Björk Retires from Iceland’s National Team

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir fyrirliði landsliðs Íslands í fótbolta

Footballer Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir has decided to retire from the women’s national football team. Sara Björk, who’s served as captain for nearly a decade, made the announcement on social media this morning.

The only Icelander to have scored in a Champion’s League Final

In a post on her Instagram page this morning, footballer Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir announced that she was retiring from the women’s national football team.

As noted by Vísir, Sara Björk has played for the national team for sixteen years and holds the record for most games (145); she played her first match with the national team against Slovenia in August of 2007 – when she had yet to celebrate her seventeenth birthday.

Read More: Iceland Review Profiles Sara Björk in 2021

Sara Björk took over the captain’s armband from Katrín Jónsdóttir almost a decade ago and is the only Icelander to have scored in a Champion’s League final – and the only Icelandic woman to have lifted the trophy.

Sara Björk is a four-time Swedish league and cup champion with FC Rosengård (formerly FC Malmö), a four-time German league and cup champion with FC Wolfsburg, and Iceland’s Athlete of the Year in 2018 and 2020 (the only woman to have won twice).

“A hell of a journey”

Sara does not cite a specific reason why she has decided to leave the national team but states that it has been “an absolute pleasure and an honour.” “But I know, at this point in my career, that it’s time to say goodbye. It’s been a hell of a journey!”

Sara, who has participated in all four European competitions with the Icelandic national team, concluded her announcement by thanking the Icelandic Football Association (ÍSÍ) for their cooperation and by wishing the association and the women’s national team “a bright future.”

The announcement in full:

“After 16 years playing for my country I have decided to stop. For me it’s been an absolute pleasure and honor but I know at this point in my career it’s time to say goodbye. It’s been a hell of a journey! I have always been very proud putting on the blue jersey from day one. Being part of the team that qualified first time in in history for the women’s euros in 2009 and taking part in four women’s euros tournaments is something I’m very proud of! I want to thanks KSÍ , all the coaches, staff members , players and volunteers that shared this journey with me, along with all those great memories during my time!”

Men’s National Football Team Announced, Captain Reinstated

Aron Einar Gunnarsson - Iceland Football National Team

At a press conference today, Arnar Þór Viðarsson, head coach of the men’s national football team, introduced his squad for the upcoming fixtures. Former team captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson has been handed the armband again, having not been selected to the team since 2021, RÚV reports, following accusations of sexual misconduct.

Squad announced

At a press conference at KSÍ (Football Association of Iceland) headquarters today, Arnar Þór Viðarsson, head coach of the men’s national football team, announced the squad for the team’s upcoming fixtures. The team will play a friendly against Venezuela on September 22 before facing off against Albania five days later, in what will be an important match in the Nation’s League.

Police investigation against Aron Einar dropped

Notable inclusions in the squad include former captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson, who returns to the team after accusations of sexual assault surfaced in the summer of 2021. The police opened an investigation into the matter September of that year, and when he was left out of the squad a month later, Aron Einar released a public statement accusing KSÍ’s board of directors of yielding to “cancel culture.”

As reported by RÚV, coach Arnar Þór subsequently called for KSÍ and ÍSÍ (the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland) to set clear rules for which players could be selected to the team. New rules were later established, RÚV notes, which stipulate that players cannot be selected for the national team if they are under police investigation. Aron Einar Gunnarsson is currently eligible for selection as his case was dropped in May.

Notable inclusions, exclusions

Forward Alfreð Finnbogason, who plays with Lyngby in Denmark, also returns to the team after a near two-year hiatus, following prolonged injury, as do defender Guðlaugur Victor Pálsson and goalkeeper Elías Rafn Ólafsson.

Perhaps the most notable exclusion from the team is Albert Guðmundsson; during the press conference, coach Arnar Þór expressed disappointment with Albert’s attitude during the last international break. “To me, it’s a great honour to play for the national team, and that calls for 100% focus, every day, always. You’re either 100% with us or you’re not,” Arnar explained.

Brynjar Ingi Bjarnason was also left out of the team; Sverrir Ingi Ingason and Arnór Ingvi Traustason announced that they were unavailable, owing to personal reasons; and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson is recovering from a minor injury.

The squad:

Goalkeepers:
Patrik Sigurður Gunnarsson – Viking FK – 1 cap
Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson – Alanyaspor – 17 caps
Elías Rafn Ólafsson – FC Midtjylland – 4 caps

Defenders:
Daníel Leó Grétarsson – Slask Wroclaw – 10 caps
Hjörtur Hermannsson – Pisa – 25 caps, 1 goal
Hörður Björgvin Magnússon – Panathinaikos – 41 games, 2 goals
Davíð Kristján Ólafsson – Kalmar FF – 7 caps
Guðlaugur Victor Pálsson – D.C. United – 29 caps, 1 goal
Alfons Sampsted – Bodo/Glimt – 13 caps

Midfielders:
Aron Einar Gunnarsson – Al Arabi – 97 caps, 2 goals
Hákon Arnar Haraldsson – FC Köbenhavn – 3 caps
Ísak Bergmann Jóhannesson – FC Köbenhavn – 13 caps, 1 goal
Þórir Jóhann Helgason – Lecce – 12 caps, 2 goals
Stefán Teitur Þórðarson – Silkeborg IF – 12 caps, 1 goal
Birkir Bjarnason – Adana Demirspor – 110 caps, 15 goals
Aron Elís Þrándarson – OB – 14 caps, 1 goal
Mikael Neville Anderson – AGF – 14 caps, 1 goal
Jón Dagur Þorsteinsson – OH Leuven – 21 games, 4 goals
Mikael Egill Ellertsson – Spezia Calcio – 6 caps
Arnór Sigurðsson – IFK Norrköping – 21 games, 2 goals

Forwards:
Alfreð Finnbogason – Lyngby BK – 61 games, 15 goals
Andri Lucas Guðjohnsen – IFK Norrköping – 9 caps, 2 goals
Sveinn Aron Guðjohnsen – IF Elfsborg – 16 caps, 1 goal

Aron Einar Not Selected to the National Team Despite Availability

Aron Einar Gunnarsson - Iceland Football National Team

Aron Einar Gunnarsson, captain of the men’s national football team, has not been selected to the squad for upcoming games against Armenia and Liechtenstein for the World Cup qualifiers. While the team’s head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson stated that he was not asked to exclude any players, and board members have denied any interference, Aron Einar maintains that the exclusion stems from the incoming board of directors yielding to “cancel culture.” The footballer contends that he was not selected to the squad because of rumours of sexual misconduct that he allegedly perpetrated in 2010. According to RÚV’s sources, police are reinvestigating the 2010 incident at the victim’s request.

Presumed to be fit

Yesterday, Arnar Þór Viðarsson, head coach of the men’s national football team, announced a squad of 25 footballers for the upcoming matches against Armenia and Liechtenstein for the World Cup Qualifiers. Among the names missing from the squad was Aron Einar Gunnarsson, captain of the team for the past decade and who was presumed to be fit.

Before the team’s press conference yesterday, rumours spread that the Football Association’s board of directors had prohibited Arnar Þór Viðarsson from selecting Aron Einar to the squad on account of the latter being implicated, without being named, in an incident of sexual violence occurring eleven years ago. According to mbl.is, who reached out for a statement, outgoing and incoming board members denied these allegations. Arnar Þór Viðarsson has also stated that he was not asked to exclude any players.

Aron Einar releases a statement

After the squad was officially announced, Aron Einar Gunnarsson released a statement to the Icelandic media accusing the Football Association’s incoming board of directors of excluding him from the team.

In the statement, Aron Einar explains that he had informed the Association that he was available, in shape, and had fully recovered from an illness. Furthermore, he had notified the Association that he was innocent of all accusations, referring to an incident of alleged sexual violence that occurred in Copenhagen in 2010. Given that the team has performed poorly over the past weeks, Aron Einar says that he was forced to surmise that his exclusion was not tactical but that the Association had decided to submit to the demands of cancel culture.

Aron Einar concluded his statement asking the police to allow him to give a formal statement regarding the incident in 2010. Mbl.is reported yesterday evening that the police authorities had decided to reopen the case; according to RÚV, charges had been brought against Aron Einar in 2010, but those charges were subsequently dropped.

 

Here is Aron Einar’s statement in full:

“As reported today, I was not among those players selected by coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson for the national team’s upcoming games. This exclusion follows my announcement to the Football Association that I was available, in shape, and fully convalesced following an illness. Furthermore, I had informed them that I had done nothing wrong, in reference to the alleged culture of violence within the Football Association, which has been widely discussed recently.

During the press conference, however, the reasons behind said squad selection were hardly discussed. I can only draw the conclusion that the incoming board of directors, whose election was not contested, had, without a mandate, exerted itself to cancel me, as reported on DV.is; the team’s recent results hardly suggest that sidelining the team’s most experiences players would be wise, which cannot be the reason for my exclusion. I have also not asked Arnar Þór to remain quiet about the reasons for his not selecting me.

For me, my family, and those friends who know me, it is deeply hurtful that the National Football Association, for whom I have given my all, for the past 97 national games, has decided to yield to demands founded on vague rumours about members of the national team. It puts one into an indefensible position.

On social media, an event that occurred in Copenhagen in 2010 has been widely discussed. I have not had the opportunity to discuss that event formally with the Football Association, have not been allowed to defend myself against these misdeameanours (sic), which is why I am hurt by this unceremonious dismissal. Furthermore, the police has never contacted me in relation to any investigation. I have never been notified that I was suspected of a crime and neither have I at any point been called into interrogation.

As a captain, I have long since learned to shoulder responsibility; cancel culture has recently been tolerated, but it should not be. And so while I reject all violence I declare that I have not been violated any person or woman. I refuse to play a codependent role toward the street justice, regarding an incident that supposedly occurred eleven years ago. If anyone has any criticism to level in my direction, I ask that same person not to show me any mercy, to accuse me by name, and give me the opportunity to defend myself. That’s honest. 

In light of all of this, I have decided to ask the police to allow me to give a formal statement about that night eleven years ago.”

Aron Einar Gunnarsson

Men’s National Handball Team Prepares for Euro 2020

Captain of the National Handball Team Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson

The Men’s National Handball team will play its opening match at the 2020 EHF European Men’s Handball Championship against Denmark next Saturday, January 11. Team captain Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson, who turned 40 last summer, will be competing at the EURO for the eleventh time. In an interview yesterday, Guðjón Valur expressed his gratitude for still being able to compete at the highest level.

The 2020 EHF European Men’s Handball Championship will take place between January 9 to January 26. It will be the first time that competition is co-hosted in three countries, Austria, Norway and Sweden. Iceland was drawn into Group E alongside Denmark, Hungary, and Russia.

At a press conference held at Alvogen headquarters in Reykjavík yesterday afternoon, Iceland Review spoke to captain Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson. He will be competing at the EURO for the eleventh time. No other Icelandic handball player has participated in the competition as often. Guðjón Valur admitted that a lot had changed in his roughly twenty-year career with the national team.

“You learn from the mistakes you’ve made; from the coaches and the teams you’ve played with; from the poor performances; from that meal you ate too close to game time. As you grow older, you begin focusing more on sleep, diet, mental health. Everything. Whether that’s experience speaking or just me getting older and more emotional – I can’t say. Hopefully, you grow wiser, smarter, and more crafty as you grow older. It would be a shame if I were making the same mistakes today as when I was twenty.”

Guðjón Valur played his first match with the national team in December 1999. No other outfield player has played as many matches for the national team. Guðjón Valur is also the highest-scoring handball player in the history of the national team.

“I have learned a lot from having spent my entire life as a handball player.”

When asked about the biggest change, in terms of stepping onto the court today as compared to 20 years ago, Guðjón Valur spoke of gratitude.

“Today, I’m just grateful for being able to do this. I don’t take it for granted anymore. When one is 20, 25 years old, everything is a piece of cake. One stays up later, sleeps less, and can eat hamburgers and hot-dogs every meal. When one reaches one’s forties, however, sleep becomes more important. So does spending time with family.”