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.

National Football Team Parts Ways with Head Coach Arnar Þór

Football, head coach

The board of the Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) has fired the head coach of the men’s national football team, Arnar Þór Viðarsson. KSÍ Chairperson Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir has stated that the association was not convinced Arnar Þór was “the right person” to take the team forward.

A “difficult decision”

As noted in a press release on KSÍ’s website yesterday, the association’s board has decided to terminate the head coach of the men’s national football team, Arnar Þór Viðarsson. According to the statement, KSÍ considers the termination a “necessary step, taken with the team’s interest in mind, so as to return the team to the forefront of the sport.”

The press release quotes Chair of KSÍ, Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir: “This is, of course, a difficult decision, but we consider it necessary and correct with the interests of the team in mind. Arnar has done many good things here at KSÍ ​​and deserves praise for his work, which was often carried out in challenging situations. We will now immediately turn our attention to finding his successor, in order to start preparations for the team’s next matches, which will take place this summer.”

As noted by Vísir.is, Arnar was appointed head coach of the Icelandic national team at the end of 2020. He managed the team for 31 games. Under his direction, the team won six games, drew thirteen, and lost twelve (a win percentage of 19.4%). Before Arnar was hired as the national team coach, he led the U-21 national team and, among other things, reached the European Championship finals.

Arnar led the Icelandic national team for the last time in two matches in the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying tournament earlier this month. Iceland lost its first match to Bosnia, 3-0, prior to dispatching Liechtenstein in quite comfortable fashion, 7-0.

“Not the right person”

After the news broke, Chair Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir spoke to a reporter for the TV channel Stöð 2: “The board convened yesterday, and we started discussing these issues, and it just became clear that there was no faith in the project and there was no faith that Arnar Þór was the right person. We had another meeting earlier today and the decision was made.”

Vanda added that the decision to sack Arnar was not discussed with the players, but the board stood by its decision: “We stand behind our decision. But no, we didn’t discuss this with the players.”

New Report: Football Association Urged to “Shoulder Responsibility”

Football fans in Iceland

A workgroup established by the Icelandic Football Association (KSÍ) has submitted proposals on how the association could better handle allegations of violence and sexual assault. The report, which tackles issues of “procedure, attitude, and culture,” encourages the association to shoulder increased responsibility.

To “take a clear stand” against all manner of violence

Following resignations by Director Guðni Bergsson and the board of directors earlier this year, the Icelandic Football Association established a workgroup to examine procedures relating to allegations of violence and sexual assault. The group’s mandate was to review responses to sexual and violent assaults within Icelandic football “in collaboration with outside professionals.”

A few days ago, the workgroup submitted its report, which was subsequently published on the association’s website. On the first page of the report, the authors urge the leadership to assert their opposition to all kinds of violence publicly:

“This summary report contains the workgroup’s proposals alongside an encouragement to the leadership to make good use of the present opportunity to take a clear stance against violence of any kind – especially sexual violence – and, thereby, improve the culture and attitude of individuals connected to the association.”

Betterment founded upon four pillars

The report is predicated on four proposals.

First, the workgroup advises that the association update its code of ethics, adding provisions relating to allegations of violence and creating channels for individuals to report misconduct and bring charges. The Icelandic Football Association is encouraged to sign contracts with members of national teams in which the code of conduct is explicitly referenced. Furthermore, the report advises that these contracts include provisions regarding violent misconduct, wherein – among other conditions – athletes commit to declaring any charges of violent or sexual misconduct. Finally, the authors counsel that employees who occupy positions of confidentiality within the association be made to confirm the code of ethics with their signatures.

Second, the workgroup stresses the need to create clear channels and response protocols for instances of violence within the Football Association and its member societies. The Director of the Football Association is to be designated as a “special liaison” to communication consultants within sports and youth clubs. Furthermore, instructions on how to report violence are to be made accessible on the association’s website and on all member societies’ websites.

Third, the association is encouraged to take a “clear stance” against violence and to coordinate the messaging of its member societies. The workgroup also advises that leadership attend seminars on equality and violence each year following the annual meeting.

Fourth, the workgroup advises that the association assume a leading role in equality within sports in Iceland, that it adopt an “equality plan,” and that it work to ensure gender balance within all of its internal committees and councils.

The association  should “welcome its responsibility”

The report concludes with further encouragement in which the association is urged to welcome its responsibility while at the same time taking it seriously:

“The association cannot, by itself, change society; however, it does occupy a unique position in terms of effecting significant and positive change. The association’s messaging and policies matter. By acting on these four proposals, and by leaning on the insights of professionals in the field of equality and violence, the association can become a role model and demonstrate that it is intent on shouldering responsibility.”

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

Uncontested Election for Football Association’s New Chair

Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir, a former member of the women’s national football team, is the only candidate in the running for the position of Chair of the Icelandic Football Association’s interim Board of Directors. As the deadline for candidacies expired last Saturday, Vanda is set to be appointed without election.

The board resigns

On August 30 – following criticism for its handling of revelations of sexual violence by members of the Icelandic football league – the Icelandic Football Association’s Board of Directors resigned. The resignation came just a few days after the Association’s Director, Guðni Bergsson, stepped aside. (Guðni stated in an interview with RÚV in August that the Association “had no knowledge” of accusations of sexual violence that were circulating online.)

In a press release announcing its resignation, the Board of Directors also stated that it would be holding an extraordinary meeting in four weeks’ time to elect an interim board. Given that aspirants were required to announce their candidacy no later than a week before the extraordinary meeting (to be held next Saturday, October 2), it is apparent that Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir will be chosen without election.

Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir (full name Halldóra Vanda Sigurgeirsdóttir) is a former multi-sport athlete who played both for the women’s national football team and the national basketball team. In 2001, Vanda became the first woman in Iceland to coach a men’s football team (Neisti from Hofsós).

Next annual meeting to be held in February

Besides Vanda, eight individuals have announced their candidacy for the eight available positions on the Association’s interim Board of Directors. Likewise, three individuals have announced their candidacy to the three available positions on the Football Association’s auxiliary board. As reported by Fréttablaðið, given the few candidacies, there will be little ado as far as elections are concerned.

The interim Board of Directors will be in office until the Association’s next annual meeting, which will be held in February of next year.

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.”

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.”