Gylfi Sigurðsson Disappointed Over National Team Snub

Footballer

Footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson, recently signed by Valur, has reportedly not been selected for Iceland’s national team for the upcoming playoff against Israel. In an interview with DV yesterday, Gylfi described the decision as “a huge disappointment,” insisting that he is in better physical condition now than in previous selections.

“A huge disappointment”

Yesterday, it was revealed that footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson – recently signed with the Icelandic football team Valur – would not be among those players selected for the national football squad ahead of a crucial playoff match against Israel on March 21. Iceland needs to win two matches in the playoffs to secure a spot in the UEFA Euro 2024 finals in Germany this summer. The squad is expected to be announced today.

Gylfi expressed his feelings about Hareide’s decision in an interview with DV yesterday:

“It’s a huge disappointment. It’s one of the main reasons why I have continued playing. I have always enjoyed myself most with the national team and playing for Iceland … I tried to be ready for these games over the past few months – to no avail; unfortunately, I’m not in the squad,” Gylfi observed, adding that he is in better condition now than last autumn when Hareide selected him.

Gylfi has been struggling with an injury over the past few months.

“I would have trusted myself to do so. Despite minor injuries, I feel I’m in better condition now than against Liechtenstein last autumn. I feel better physically. My legs are stronger, and unlike the last time when I was selected, I have not gone a long time without playing football. I would have more than trusted myself to play with the national team,” Gylfi remarked.

Gylfi Sigurðsson Returns to National Football Team

Footballer

Åge Hareide has announced the squad for Iceland’s upcoming UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying matches, with Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson returning after a nearly three-year absence, Vísir reports. Iceland will face Luxembourg on October 13 and Liechtenstein on October 16.

Gylfi Þór returns, Jóhann Berg absent

Åge Hareide, the head coach of the Icelandic men’s national football team, has unveiled the squad for the upcoming matches in the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying tournament, which includes two home fixtures against Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, Vísir reports.

The former captain, Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson, now playing with Lyngby in the Danish Superliga, makes his return to the national team after a near three-year absence; Gylfi’s last appearance for Iceland was on November 15, 2020, in a match against Denmark at Parken.

In an interview with Vísir today, Hareide stated: “I have spoken with him a few times. Gylfi is one of Iceland’s best players from the beginning. He got injured recently but is already feeling much better. I want to have him around us; he is very important to us. I want to integrate him into our plans with the national team. He will have a very good and strong impact on us.”

The roster also sees the inclusion of Aron Einar Gunnarsson, despite a hiatus from football in recent months, and Andri Lucas Guðjohnsen, who earned a recall to the national team following commendable performances with Lyngby. Conversely, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, a player for the English Premier League club Burnley, missed out on selection, likely due to injury concerns.

Iceland is set to kick off their campaign against Luxembourg at Laugardalsvöllur on October 13, followed by a clash with Liechtenstein three days later. Iceland currently sits in fourth place in the J group with six points after six rounds have been played. Their most recent outings concluded with a 3-1 defeat to Luxembourg on foreign soil and a 1-0 triumph over Bosnia & Herzegovina at home.

Former National Team Captain Sara Björk Wins Maternity Rights Case

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir fyrirliði landsliðs Íslands í fótbolta

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, recently retired captain of the Women’s National Football Team, has won her maternity case against former club and employer Olympique Lyonnais.

Read more: Captain Sara Björk Retires from National Team

During her time at the prestigious French football club, she became the first Icelander to score in the finals of a Champions League match, among other achievements.

After becoming pregnant in 2021, however, she ran up against cultural expectations within professional sports that discourage athletes from having children during the height of their careers. 

Sara Björk arranged with her club to return to Iceland for the duration of her pregnancy, with the understanding that she would return to the team after giving birth. However, Lyon soon began withholding her pay. When it became clear the withheld pay was part of a pattern, Sara Björk pressed claims against Lyon. Now, she has been awarded the back pay, plus interest, in a landmark case of maternity rights in professional sports.

Sara Björk now plays for the Italian club Juventus.  A full account of her pregnancy and subsequent battle with Lyon can be read here.

In a statement on social media, Sara Björk said: “This is not ‘just business.’ This is about my rights as a worker, as a woman and as a human being.” 

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

Icelandic Football Requests Space To Enact Improvements

As preparation continues for the Icelandic national men’s football team’s three upcoming qualifying matches for the World cup, the Icelandic Football Association’s CEO Klara Bjartmarz is on temporary leave in addition to resignations from the association’s director and the entire board. The association has been accused of sweeping allegations of violence and sexual assault perpetrated by members of the national team under the rug but now requests space to follow through on an action plan against sexual assault and violence.

Read More: Icelandic Football Shaken By Allegations of Sexual Assault

Read More: Icelandic Football Association Board Resigns As More Allegations Of Sexual Assault Come To Light

Ask for space to follow through on action plan

Following continued pressure to resign along with the former director and board of the Icelandic Football Association, CEO Klara Bjartmarz is now on leave for an indefinite period, Vísir reports. One of the Association’s deputy directors told Vísir that if the entire board resigned, FIFA might consider the Association incapacitated and take over under emergency protocols. That has occurred twice before, in Bosnia during times of war, and in Greece during the economic crisis.

A joint statement from The National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland, Íslenskur Toppfótbolti, and the Icelandic Football Association asked that Icelandic football be given room to follow through on the work they’re preparing to combat the issues raised in the past few weeks. The plan includes electing a new temporary board and organising a workgroup that will work on creating and reviewing the necessary work procedures to ensure the right reactions to reports of sensitive matters. The workgroup will cooperate with the communications advisor of sports and youth issues. According to the statement, the reviewed work procedures will be implemented into all associated institutions of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland, making the association as a whole more prepared to handle such issues professionally. They note that while Icelandic football’s reputation has been damaged, it also has the strength, ability, opportunity and powerful members to improve and meet the challenges together.

The workgroup on sexual assault and violence within Icelandic football led by Kolbrún Hrund Sigurgeirsdóttir intends to work hard and professionally. Kolbrún stated to Fréttablaðið that the group will inspect the culture down to the youngest players. Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir who wrote an article challenging the Association to deal with allegations of violence has been offered a position in the group, as well as Steinunn Gyðu- og Guðjónsdóttir, Stígamót representative. Other members are yet to be announced but Kolbrún has said that the group will likely include a lawyer as well as someone from the Association. Kolbrún added that she had received several phone calls from staff and managers of football clubs over rumours of players within their ranks who might have committed violence. The staff don’t have confirmation that the rumours are true and they don’t know how to react in such a situation. “It’s a tough job and this won’t be accomplished in one day. It’s clear that we need to cover everything down to the youngest kids in football to change certain attitudes and to create a better atmosphere of safety and equality,” Kolbrún stated. She told Vísir that their role is to “figure out how we can make sure that there’s followthrough on such reports, and ensure that such cases won’t be let slide or solved in secrecy. We need to make sure that all reports receive a reaction.

Prime minister, feminists, and fan club weigh in

Icelandic football has a prime opportunity to change the toxic masculinity that has been allowed to fester, stated football fan and Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdótti, according to Vísir. “I think Icelandic football has the opportunity to handle this in a new way and make some radical changes. It’s important and I say this as the mother of a junior football player, not just as prime minister,” she stated.

Þorsteinn V. Einarsson hosts a podcast on masculinity and played football in the past. He has pointed out that the issue is so deep-rooted that footballers might not know how to react. “I really think that footballers don’t know what to say, how to react or what they can do. The fear of losing social standing, respect and power in the locker room breeds a certain kind of powerlessness,” he told Vísir “being a feminist isn’t the most popular thing to do in football, or to interfere with equality issues or taking a stand on uncomfortable subjects.” Þorsteinn added that players might fear repercussions from “old-school” coaches or teammates when returning to practice after speaking out on sensitive topics. “to state the obvious, not all football players are jackasses. But they can all take responsibility for the change that’s necessary.”

Tólfan, the national teams’ fan support group has issued a statement condemning all violence. They declare their support for victims of violence and will be showing it symbolically during the upcoming matches, staying silent until minute 12 of every match. The group also encourages its members to wear hats and insignia supporting women against violence such as the UN Women fuck violence campaign.

Their statement notes that their key phrase has always been “don’t be a jackass,” and that violence is jackassery in its every form.

Kolbeinn denies accusations of violence

Kolbeinn Sigþórsson is one of the players removed from the national team following the past weeks’ events. He plays for Sweden’s IFK Göteborg. While he wasn’t named by the victim who came forward following KSÍ’s original denial of reports of violence, Kolbeinn has stated the matter. While admitting that he “behaved less than perfectly,” and apologising for his behaviour, he denied harassing or assaulting them.  “I repented and took responsibility and was ready to make amends. They had requests for an apology and payments which I agreed to. Additionally, I donated 3 million ISK to Stígamót [a centre for survivors of sexual violence] and in that way supported their important fight against sexual violence,” Kolbeinn stated. “The Icelandic Football Association was informed of the settlement process but their public denial of violence led to Þórhildur Gyða feeling robbed of that settlement. I have an understanding of that. I regret my behaviour at that time and am fiercely against the violence of any kind. I am still systematically working on my issues.”

Þórhildur was surprised by his statement, stating that she had not named him as she didn’t want to pull focus from what she believes is the main issue, the culture within the football association. She told Vísir that following her interview, she has been contacted by others telling her stories of sexual assault or violence by six or seven former or current members of the men’s national team.

Kolbeinn’s Swedish team has issued a statement condemning his behaviour but recently stated that they will not be terminating his contract, Vísir reports. Kolbeinn joined Göteborg’s team from AIK, whose manager now states that the Icelandic Football Association kept information from them when signing Kolbeinn. Henrik Juerlius told Aftonbladet that they contacted the Icelandic national team and Kolbeinn’s former clubs to find out if there was anything in his past that they needed to know about but received no such information. Kolbeinn signed with AIK in March 2019, two years after the Icelandic Football Association was notified of the incident.

Upcoming matches “a challenge”

At a press briefing for the upcoming national team match against Romania, veteran team member Kári Árnason states that it’s tough to enter a project by the national team under the current circumstances. “it’s a sensitive issue and what can I say? I can’t really touch the subject without throwing someone in front of a train, whoever it is, and I think it’s best that I don’t.” Iceland is playing Romania tonight in Laugardalsvöllur, followed by matches against North Macedonia, and Germany. The team’s coach Arnar Þór Viðarsson has stated that it’s hard to prepare for a match under the circumstances but they’re doing their very best to stay focused on the game.

Kári added that the upcoming project is tough and feels for young players entering the group under these circumstances. “It’s different this time and the focus outwards hasn’t really been on the football but that’s everything we’re focusing on. I don’t envy them entering into these discussions. It’s so sensitive that it’s hard to focus on something else but we’ll try to keep their minds on the project at hand. It’s not the most fun position to be in to enter the national team when people aren’t talking about young and exciting players but something totally different. They’ll just have to show what they got on the field and hopefully, they’ll start talking about them,” Kári stated.

The Iceland-Romania match tonight is sold out but tickets for the Iceland-North Macedonia match on Sunday are still available.

‘Working Quarantine’ for Icelandic Football Teams

Iceland football team

Icelandic club football teams that travel to Europe to play in international matches may undergo a ‘working quarantine,’ Vísir reports. This means they are allowed to practice together during the mandatory five-day quarantine between COVID-19 tests.

This was confirmed on Thursday by Víðir Reynisson, Chief Superintendent of Civil Protection in Iceland.

Football teams must apply in advance to do a working quarantine after their return from matches abroad, so it is unclear if the KR football team will be allowed to practice together over the coming days. KR returned to Iceland on Tuesday night after playing a match against Celtic in Glasgow, Scotland.

The team Breiðablik has applied for permission to do a working quarantine after returning from a match in Noway next week, and Víkingur R. intends to do the same in advance of their trip to Slovenia.

The fact that teams are allowed to train together while in working quarantine doesn’t change anything where match play against other local teams is concerned. There will still be no league matches during the five-day quarantine period.

The working quarantine regulations may also allow for FC Valur to host a qualifying match for to European Championships, scheduled to take place in October. Valur has applied for permission to do so.

FH will be playing a match against a Slovakian team in Hafnafjörður next week; according to Víðir, the Slovakian team will be allowed to arrive in Iceland the day before their match.

Similarly, national teams—such as Iceland’s men’s national team and that of England, who will play against one another at Laugardalsvöllur on September 5, will be allowed to enter the country right before match day and will not be subject to the five-day quarantine and double COVID test regulations.

“There are different regulations for this,” Víðir explained. “They are entering this ‘bubble,’ you could call it, which is created around these UEFA matches. Such that teams enter it while abroad—undergo screening abroad before they arrive in Iceland and are basically in quarantine before they get here. So they are tested here at the border and are allowed to train and play matches within the five-day timeframe if necessary.”

Farewell, Guðjón Valur: Iceland’s All-Time Top Scorer Retires

Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson Icelandic handball player

Icelandic handball player Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson has announced his retirement from the sport. Guðjón Valur, who will turn 41 this fall, concludes his career with Paris Saint Germain.

A long and illustrious career

Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson was born on August 8, 1979. He began his career with Grótta in Seltjarnarnes, before moving north to Akureyri and joining KA. He played his first match with the national handball team in December 1999. Guðjón Valur went on to play for seven clubs in four countries, among them Rhein-Neckar Löwen, AG København, and FC Barcelona Lassa. He won his first Champions League title in 2015 with Barcelona. He joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2019.

For over three decades, Guðjón Valur has enjoyed a remarkable career with Iceland’s national team. He has participated in ten Euros, eight World Cups, and three Olympics. He won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2010 EHF Euro.

Yesterday, Guðjón Valur announced his retirement on Instagram: “Well, it’s come to that time in my career that all athletes reach eventually. After 25 years at the senior level and 21 years in the national team, I’ve decided to retire … I would like to thank all those who have stood by me through thick and thin.”

All-time top scorer

Guðjón Valur is Iceland’s all-time top scorer. He scored a total of 1,879 goals in 365 games, which also makes him highest-scoring handball player in the history of international competition. Guðjón Valur is also the EHF’s Euro’s all-time top scorer. He was the highest-scoring player at the 2007 World Cup, as well.

“One just wants to be a good person”

Iceland Review spoke to Guðjón Valur earlier this year, in the lead-up to the 2020 European Men’s Handball Championship. Asked to speculate upon his legacy, Guðjón Valur told IR that it was for others to judge: “I just hope that I leave as few people disappointed as possible. As time goes by, one just wants to be a good person. To make good decisions. I don’t worry about the handball so much; so long as one works hard, it’ll be fine.”

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.”