Åge Hareide New Head Coach of the Men’s National Football Team

Åge Hareide

Norwegian coach Åge Hareide has taken over as the head coach of the men’s national football team. Two weeks have passed since head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson was let go.

An experienced coach

In a press release today, the Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) announced that it had hired Norwegian Åge Hareide as coach of the men’ national football team. Iceland’s first games under Hareide will be home matches against Slovakia and Portugal on June 17 and June 20 respectively at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium. The games are part of the qualifiers for the UEFA Euro 2024 tournament.

As noted in the press release, Hareide is well known to football fans and has a long career as a coach of some of the biggest clubs in the Nordic countries, as well as having coached the national teams of Norway and Denmark for years with considerable success. Hareide was in charge of the Norwegian national team between 2003 and 2008 and led the Danish national team between 2016 and 2020.

Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir, Chair of KSÍ, is quoted as saying that Hareide is an extremely experienced coach: “[He knows what it takes to be successful. The whole search and recruitment process went relatively quickly, as we had certain ideas about the profile we wanted for the job. I am very satisfied with the appointment and have high hopes for the good results of the men’s national team under the leadership of Åge.”

Has followed the Icelandic team for quite some time

The press release also features a few quotes from Haredie: “I have followed the Icelandic team for quite some time, especially around the years that the team went to the European Championship in 2016 and the World Cup in 2018. I am looking forward to the challenge of helping the team succeed again.”

Hareide went on to say that Iceland boasts many strong players.

“I have seen many of them play for their club teams in Scandinavia and have also coached several Icelandic players over the years. In general, they are reliable and hardworking, but also disciplined players with tactical intelligence, and you need these qualities to be successful in national team football.”

“Our goal is to get to the European Championship in 2024. I remember well the Icelandic fans in France 2016. They had a very unique atmosphere and passion. It would be great to be able to give them the opportunity to repeat the game and we hope that the stands will be full of people at our home ground in Reykjavík.”

Two weeks since Arnar Þór Viðarsson was let go

As previously reported by IR, head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson was let go towards the end of March following a 7-0 victory against Liechtenstein. Yesterday, KSÍ published several minutes from board meetings in the lead up to Arnar’s termination. These include joint minutes from two meetings held on March 29 and 30 – when the fate of head coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson’s was ultimately sealed.

The minutes state that the board discussed the state of the national team in detail and that there was a consensus that the last international break had been a disappointment. “It is clear that faith in the road ahead has waned,” the minutes state. The board decided to discuss the issue in more detail at a follow-up meeting the next day.

The meeting was adjourned before 9 PM. Sixteen hours later, at 1 PM, the board met for a meeting via the Teams electronic communication programme. After a forty-minute meeting, the result was to relieve Arnar Þór of his duties immediately and entrust the Chair of KSÍ to start the search for a new national team coach.

Six National Team Players Accused of Violence and Sexual Assault

Former national team member Kolbeinn Sigþórsson

Six members of Iceland’s men’s national football team have been accused of sexual assault. The board of the Football Association of Iceland received a confidential email from activist group Öfgar naming six members of the team and dates of their alleged violent and sexual offences, according to mbl.is sources. The national team coach was also accused of belittling the alleged victims in the wording of his statements to media.

Aron Einar Gunnarsson, Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, and Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson have all been named in Icelandic media in relation to violent or sexual offences. The other three players remain unnamed. The players will not play on the national team while the cases are being investigated.

Read More: Football Association Accused of Silencing Sexual Assault

Sigurbjörg Sigurpálsdóttir, Sports and Youth Activities Communication Counselor is overseeing the investigation. Her position was created last spring under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Culture to address bullying and violence in sports and youth activities and to “contribute to a safe environment within sports and youth activities” as per the position’s official website.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a more accurate photo.

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

In Focus: Icelandic Football Association Accused of Silencing Violence and Sexual Assault

Recently, national coverage of high-pro.file sexual assault cases gave second wind to the #metoo movement in Iceland, renewing discussion of the power imbalance between celebrities accused of sexual violence and their accusers. A few of the cases mentioned on social media allegedly involved famous footballers and voices calling for justice grew louder, putting pressure on […]

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President Hopes that “Things Have Changed for the Better.”

President of Iceland

Following allegations that have plunged the Icelandic Football Association (KSÍ) into crisis, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson weighed in on the recent controversy in an interview with RÚV yesterday. Speaking before the Men’s National Team faced off against Romania, Guðni remarked that competing on behalf of Iceland is an honour, but that that honour comes with responsibility – that of “not being an idiot.”

Distressed by the revelations

Following revelations that the Icelandic Football Association (KSÍ) was privy to allegations of sexual offences, contrary to public statements made by its Director – who has since resigned, along with the board – President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson addressed the ongoing controversy in an interview with RÚV yesterday. Speaking before a match against the Romanian National Team, Guðni admitted that the recent allegations had caused him distress.

“Of course I’ve been distressed. We must be able to support Iceland’s representatives on a stage like this, while at the same time supporting victims of violence and harassment; otherwise, we’re in deep trouble. The leadership within the Icelandic Football Association has shouldered responsibility, and now we hope things have changed for the better. I think that we will also see that society is evolving; what once was covered up, will be forced into the light of day,” Guðni stated.

“At the same time, however,” Guðni continued, “we must beware not to jump out of the fire into the frying pan. The Icelandic National team is about to compete. I try to attend all of Iceland’s matches, no matter the sport, whether men or women, and there’s no original sin that comes with being a man and enjoying football. We can attend the games and enjoy ourselves, but we must be certain that if something untoward occurs, that there will be consequences.”

“There’s a great honour that comes with representing Iceland, whether in sports or other arenas. That honour comes with responsibility; to behave decently – not being an idiot. From here on out, we will learn from our experience and look ahead with optimism. That’ll make living in this country good.”

Disappointed by recent developments

As noted by RÚV, President Guðni was contacted by the father of a woman who alleged that she was physically and sexually assaulted by a member of the men’s national team in 2017. The President replied  to the man’s email stating that he had discussed the matter with the Director of the Icelandic Football Association; however, given the nature of his office, he could not involve himself in the matter directly.

Asked if how the Icelandic Football Associated handled the matter was a disappointment, President Guðni replied in the affirmative, but qualified his affirmation with reference to a past settlement: “Yes, as far as recent developments are concerned. At the time, however, it was my understanding that the victim had been content with how these matters were resolved, and I believe that all of the evidence, which has since come to light, confirms this.”

Icelandic Football Shaken By Accounts of Sexual Assault

Director of the Football Association of Iceland Guðni Bergsson is resigning following criticism on the Association’s behaviour concerning revelations on sexual violence by members of the Icelandic football league, including national team players. The Association’s board has issued an apology but does not intend to resign. Two members of the national football team have been taken out of the line-up in three upcoming qualifying matches for the World Cup.

Association accused of silencing victims

On August 13, Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir penned an article calling for an end to the silence surrounding sexual assaults and domestic violence committed by Icelandic football players, citing stories revealed on social media in response to a different high-profile sexual assault case. The Icelandic football association was pressed to respond, finally stating that they dealt with all incidents of violence through appropriate channels and denying accusation of silencing. Guðni Bergsson stated in an interview with RÚV that but they couldn’t react unless they were officially notified and that they had received no such notifications.

Director knew of violent incident

In an interview with RÚV last Friday, Þórhildur Gyða Arnarsdóttir revealed that in 2017, she was sexually and physically assaulted by a member of the national football team. She and another woman who was assaulted that same night reported the incidents to the police. Months later, her father was going to attend a national team match when he realised that the man who had assaulted his daughter was in the line-up. He contacted the Director of the Icelandic Football Association, Guðni Bergsson, and notified him of the incident. Guðni contacted both of Þórhildur’s parents and stated that this was a serious matter and there would be consequences. He then removed the player from the national team for a time.

When contacting the Football association director, Þórhildur’s father also contacted the President of Iceland, who replied to his letter, stating that he had discussed the matter with Guðni himself, but on account of his office, he could not become directly involved in the matter. Þórhildur noted that Guðni should have thus been well aware that a member of the national football team had been accused of violence.

Offered damages in exchange for signing non-disclosure agreement

Following this communication, Þórhildur states she was contacted by the Football Association’s lawyers, who offered her financial compensation in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. Þórhildur turned down the offer and was then contacted by another lawyer on behalf of the football player who had assaulted her. The player confessed to his actions and paid her damages. Þórhildur states that she has no grievances with the football player but she wasn’t expecting him to be chosen for the national team when the Football Association knew of his violent actions.

Guðni Bergsson later admitted that it was a mistake to state that no reports of violence had reached the ears of the football association, claiming that he misremembered the incident, believing it to have been only a physical assault, not a sexual assault.

The Football Association issued a statement that the lawyers offering the non-disclosure agreement had not been working for them directly but Þórhildur disputed that statement. The first lawyer who contacted her had introduced himself as the football player’s lawyer but following that conversation, she contacted a legal representative who did some research and then told her that the lawyer was working for KSÍ. Later, when another lawyer working for the football player contacted her, the matter was resolved.

Public outrage follows revelations

The interview caused an uproar on social media, especially as the case comes on the heels of another high-profile sexual assault case which shook the nation. In that case, popular media personality and podcaster Sölvi Tryggvason was accused of sexual assault. Another recent high-profile case of a football player accused of sexual assault is the case of Everton-player Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson, accused of sexual abuse offended in the UK. Stakeholders within the football industry as well as ministers in Iceland’s government have expressed concern and requested clarification from the football association.

Director resigns, board stays

The board of the Icelandic Football Association met on Saturday for a meeting that lasted long into the night, but was ultimately inconclusive. Another meeting began at 10:00 AM on Sunday, and the two women in the boardmet with a representative from Stígamót women’s shelter, as well as Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir, who recently penned an article condemning the football association for silencing discussion on reports of sexual violence on behalf of national team members. At 4:00 PM, Football Association staff were called into a meeting.

Just before 5:00 PM, the Football Association of Iceland issued a short notice on Twitter, stating that Guðni Bergsson was resigning as Director of the Football Association and more information would be released shortly. Later that day, the Football Association issued a formal apology, translated in full below.

Two players removed from the men’s national team

Two players who were slated to play with the national team for the three World Cup qualifying matches have been pulled from the line-up: Kolbeinn Sigþórsson and Rúnar Már Sigurjónsson. They will be replaced by Viðar Örn Kjartansson and Gísli Eyjólfsson. The Icelandic Football Association’s website stated that Kolbeinn will not be participating on grounds of the decision made by the Association board whereas Rúnar Már withdrew due to injuries and personal reasons. According to visir.is, Kolbeinn is the football player who assaulted Þórhildur in 2017.

A good start

Þórhildur Gyða called this development a good start but said more action was needed, stating: “We can’t blame the protection of perpetrators within the Icelandic Football Association on one guy. A new board is needed, not just a new director.”

The Board of the Icelandic Football Association’s Statement in full:

Dear victims. We, the board of the Icelandic Football Association believe you and apologise wholeheartedly. We know that we as the parties responsible have let you down and we intend to do better. The board has met over the past few days concerning the serious allegations that have been brought against the association recently on silencing sexual assault cases. We take the matter very seriously. Right now, we will start to work with outside professionals on reviewing all responses to sexual assault and violence within the association and how we have and will support victims. A group of professionals will be established and the Board of the Icelandic Football Association resolves to deal with these matters fully and completely and follow the advice of the group. Additionally, we would like to ask victims or others who have information on serious violence within the association to come forward. We will welcome you with open arms. We want the cases to be handled appropriately and we want to ensure that the responsibility of the violence will be placed on the shoulders of perpetrators, not victims.

We intend to fix things that have been broken and inspect the culture that exists within the football movement from the ground up in order to make sure everyone working within the industry experiences welfare and safety, while listening to victims and taking their interests into consideration.

On account of the statement the board issued on August 17 in response to accusations of violence on behalf of the men’s national team, it should be noted that the statement was based on the limited information the board had at the time, lacking data and further information that have later come to light. We apologise to Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir and others who stood at the front lines pointing out the violence within the Icelandic Football Association for the statement which belittled their accusations and assumed no responsibility nor sincerity.

It has already been revealed that the Director of the Football Association has resigned and accepted responsibility for how matters were handled. Until further decisions have been made, the Deputy Director will take over his work. All board members have considered their position. In order to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the association, the board’s conclusion is that it is reasonable that they keep their positions until the association’s next annual meeting in February of next year when board members are voted on.

We want to reiterate that the general staff of the Football Association has performed their duties with care and loyalty and holds no responsibility for the events that are unfolding.

This great wave that has been crashing for the past weeks has touched us all. A part of the largest volunteer movement in Iceland, what KSÍ does and says, matters. We have never been as aware of that as we are now and will seek the help of the community to make radical changes, support victims and be a part of the solution. This project will take time but we will begin right away.

The football movement is part of the community and we as a community all need to do better to support victims and fight sexual violence.

The Board of the Football Association: Ásgeir Ásgeirsson, Bjarni Ólafur Birkisson, Björn Friðþjófsson, Borghildur Sigurðardóttir, Gísli Gíslason, Guðjón Bjarni Hálfdánarson, Ingi Sigurðsson, Jakob Skúlason, Jóhann Torfason, Magnús Gylfason, Orri Vignir Hlöðversson, Ragnhildur Skúladóttir, Tómas Þóroddsson, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Þorsteinn Gunnarsson and Þóroddur Hjaltalín.

Iceland Reveals New National Football Crest in Dramatic Video

KSÍ

The Football Association of Iceland has revealed the new national team crest in a video directed by National Men’s Team goalkeeper Hannes Halldórsson. Designed by advertising agency Brandenburg, the crest is a composite of four vættir, or supernatural beings – a bull, eagle, dragon, and giant – described in the video as “protectors” that “from the dawn of time […] have watched over the land […] and repel every invasion.”

Featuring drone footage of Icelandic glaciers and volcanic eruptions and narration by Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar, the video revealing the crest is not short on drama. That seemed to appeal to many fans of Icelandic football around the world. “Love the mythology, love the voice-over. Bravo all around!” commented one Twitter user. “Everything, and I mean everything, is perfect in this video,” stated another.

https://twitter.com/footballiceland/status/1278347367268470790

The praise for the video was not unanimous, however, with some criticising its imagery as divisive and even fascist. “Yuck to this type of image of Iceland that emphasises isolation, exclusion, and uses aesthetics that refer to the fascist tradition,” one critic tweeted in Icelandic.

Icelandic artist and art professor Guðmundur Oddur Magnússon, known as Goddur, did not have high praise for the video, stating it was “not a testimony of virtues, it’s just chauvinism, jingoism […] This is the peak of stupidity, to release something like this.” Regarding the crest itself, he commented: “I have nothing against the crest and it can stand as an ornamental crest, but I find it a little peculiar that it makes no reference to football.”