Sigrún Davíðsdóttir's Icelog

Why are Icelanders good at football… and music?

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Björk and Sigurrós may be the most famous Icelandic musicians but there are many others. Now, footballers are doing pretty well. Better tame the football hubris for the time being but there are good reasons for Icelanders to excel in these two fields: young Icelanders have very good opportunities in both.

Recently, I watched a program on Rúv, the Icelandic broadcaster, on kids at the age of 12 to 14 preparing for a national science contest. The program followed the kids, from all around Iceland, at home and in school. One question they all got was what their did in their spare time. The answer? Each and every of them either did sport or music, some did both.

This is nothing new. After the war, the Icelandic music life was revived, or rather to a great degree, created by some Icelanders who had studied abroad and by a few foreign musicians who chose to make Iceland their home. The music life, also the music education, is still to some degree nourished by foreigners. This, in addition to many Icelandic musicians.

Most kids, not only in Reykjavík but also outside of Reykjavík, have access to music education. Many schools have school orchestras where children are taught to play the various instruments that make up an orchestra.

The same with sports. All over the country there are good facilities for the various sports, most notably football, handball and swimming.

It is from a broad base of nurtured talent that Björk and Sigurrós grew – and in football, footballers like the captain of the Icelandic national team Aron Einar Gunnarsson and Björn Bergmann Sigurdsson. Globalisation has helped these talents, both in music and football, to grow far beyond the amateur level with the world as their stage or their field.

Most of the football players playing for Iceland either do play professionally abroad or have done so. In addition they have grown up in the under 21 national team. Then there was the good work of the Swedish trainer Lars Lagerbäck whose assistant trainer Heimir Hallgrímsson is now the trainer of the national team.

Most national teams can count on their countries to support them. In Iceland, the support is tremendous. Basically everyone who is old enough to be aware of the world and not too old to be completely out of it, has his or her whole heart behind the team. On days with important international matches the traffic all over Iceland stops. Completely.

Just to qualify for the World Cup was a fantastic achievement, on the Icelandic scale of achievements – the smallest nation ever to qualify. The joy was profound. Icelanders definitely did not take it for granted that their team would indeed qualify.

From now on, every victory will be a bonus, deeply felt all over the country. The small economy will be shaken by every victory: consumption – such as buying trips to Russia – will go through the roof, productivity will most likely fall if Iceland wins a few matches.

But as you wonder why Icelanders can be so good at music and football keep in mind that it has nothing to do with some sudden wonder: it’s based on good education and easily accessible opportunities and facilities for decades. Something that every nation could match, if it is willing to invest in its youth and equal opportunities in education.

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Written by Sigrún Davídsdóttir

October 13th, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorised

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