Iceland

Capital: Reykjavik
Population: 277,000
Currency: Krona
Official Language: Icelandic
Borders: None – Island
GNP per Capita: $26,580 (11th in world)
Main Airport: Keflavik International – Reykjavik

Europe’s most westerly country and located just south of the Artic Circle.  Its position on a rift where the North American and European tectonic plates meet mean that the country experiences over 200 Volcanic eruptions a year, and is the home of the original Geysers.  Iceland became fully indepedent in 1944.  Virtually all towns are located on the coast where the temperature is very mild.

The Úrvalsdeild karla is the premier division football league in Iceland. Because of the harsh winters in Iceland, it is generally played in the spring and summer (May to September). It is run by the Football Association of Iceland and is currently comprised by 12 clubs. UEFA currently ranks the league 37th in Europe.. As of 27 April 2009 the Úrvalsdeild will be known as Pepsi-deildin (e. “The Pepsi League”) after KSÍ and Ölgerðin (The producers of Pepsi in Iceland) signed a three year sponsorship contract.

The top division consists of 12 clubs. Each club faces every other club twice during the season, once at home and once away. At the end of each season, the bottom two clubs are automatically relegated to the second level of the Icelandic league system, the 1. deild karla (First Division), with the top two clubs of the 1. deild karla automatically promoted to the Úrvalsdeild.

For the first time in the competition’s history, the 2008 season saw 12 teams compete in the premier division, a part of KSI Football Association of Iceland attempt to strengthen Icelandic football. Therefore only one team were relegated in the 2007 season and three clubs were promoted from the 1. deild karla (First Division).

KR hold the most titles, 24. Valur is next with 20, and ÍA and Fram follow with 18 each. The current champions of Iceland are FH.

The last ten winners of the title have been:-
1999 KR (Reykjavík)
2000 KR (Reykjavík)
2001 ÍA (Akranes)
2002 KR (Reykjavík)
2003 KR (Reykjavík)
2004 FH (Hafnarfjörður)
2005 FH (Hafnarfjörður)
2006 FH (Hafnarfjörður)
2007 Valur (Reykjavík)
2008 FH (Hafnarfjörður)
2009 FH (Hafnarfjörður)

For the forthcoming 2010 season, the following clubs will compete:-
Breiðablik from Kópavogur
FH from Hafnarfjörður
Fram from Reykjavík – see below for more details
Fylkir from Reykjavík – see below for more details
ÍBV from Vestmannaeyjar
Stjarnan from Garðabær
Keflavík from Keflavík
KR from Reykjavík – see below for more details
Valur from Reykjavík – see below for more details
UMF Selfoss from Selfoss
Grindavík from Grindavík
Haukar from Hafnarfjörður

FOOTBALL IN REYKJAVIK

Fram Reykjavik – Laugardalsvöllur Stadium – Capacity:        14,000 (7,176 seated)

Laugardalsvöllur Stadium
The national stadium is not just home to the famous blue shirts of the national team, but also to Fram.  The biggest crowd in the stadiums history was in 1963 when 18,000 crammed in the stadium for a game between Valur and the then great Benfica.  Since its redevelopment the biggest attendance was for a friendly between Iceland and France.  The stadium is made up of two roofed all seater stands, each holding 3,500, with additional temporary stands being installed behind each goal for big games.

Who Plays There?
Fram are today one of the smaller clubs in Reykjavik despite their glorious past, and currently play in the second division of Icelandic football after relegation last season.  They have started the season on top form and should hopefully return to the top division at the end of this season.  The club were formed in 1908 and have played in the top flight for much of their history.  They have won the Icelandic title on eighteen occasions, including an amazing run in from 1913 when they won the title ten times in just twelve years.  In more recent times they took the title in 1986, 1988 and 1990.  They also have won the Icelandic cup on seven occasions including four times in the 1980’s.

One of the biggest games in their history came in 1998 when they drew Barcelona in the first round of the European Cup Winners Cup.  In front of a sell out crowd at the national stadium, the minnows restricted the score to just 2-0.  In the second leg in Spain they conceded five and despite losing 7-0 on aggregate they won many friends in Spain.  Two years later they won in Europe for the first time in five years, beating the Swedish cup holders Djurgarden 4-1 on aggregate before meeting Barcelona again.  With a place in the quarter finals at stake, the Icelandic team managed to equalise at one point in the home leg before losing 5-1 after 180 minutes. The club play their home games at the national stadium, the Laugardalsvöllur.  See below for directions to the stadium.

How to get a ticket for the Laugardalsvöllur Stadium
Unless there is a big team in town then tickets for any game at the national stadium are available up until kick off.  The last sell out was for the France game in 1998.  The last time a domestic game sold out was decades ago.

How to get to the Laugardalsvöllur Stadium
The stadium is a twenty minute walk from the centre of Reykjavik.  The easiest way to reach the stadium is to follow the main shopping street, Laugavegur, eastwards, across the main roads of Noatún and Kringlumyrabraut and up the hill.  When you reach the junction with Reykjavegur you will see the stadium ahead of you down the hill.

Around the Laugardalsvöllur Stadium
The stadium doubles up as the national athletics stadium and so there is a running track around the pitch.  To the west of the stadium is the large national swimming stadium.  The stadium is located next to the zoo and family fun park.  The stadium is used by a number of teams in the city including KR, Throttur and Fram.  There are very few amenities in the region of the stadium – best stick to the main roads coming out of the city centre which are lined with bars.

Vikingur Reykjavik – The Viking Stadium

Making a welcome return to the top division of Icelandic football this season is Vikingur who won the second tier last season.  The club were founded in 1908 and have been associated since them with the Urvalsdeild Karla in the Vakin area of the city.  The team play in Red and Black striped shirts, used in honour of the mighty AC Milan.  The team had an amazing start to life in Icelandic football, losing only once in a ten year period, although all of these games were friendlies!  When they did join the national league 1919 they won the league at their first attempt.  They followed this with titles in 1924, 1981, 1982 and finally in 1991.  They also have won an Icelandic Cup in 1971.  In Europe they have yet to record a win despite plating in the Champions League qualifying rounds on three occasions. Their biggest game in their history came in 1982 when they narrowly lost 1-0 at home to Spanish champions Real Sociedad.  Last season they had a disappointing campaign, finishing in 7th place, two points above the relegation zone.

The Stadium – The Viking Stadium
The club currently play at the modest Viking Stadium in Vikin which has a single stand capacity of just over 1,000 seats and was constructed in 2004.  The stadium is located close to Fylkir’s in the south east of the city.  It is located a 10 minute walk south of the national stadium.  Head down to the main Miklabraut road and continue south on the Rettjarholtsvegur.  Take the first left into Sogavegur and then follow this road until you see the ground. Buses 3 and 12 run from the city centre to Bakkar which is a 5 minutes walk from the ground.

The Stadium – KR Vollur/Hlioarendi Stadium

KR Reykjavik
KR have always been considered the first team of Reykjavik, as well as the country as a whole.  They were originally formed in 1899, and went on to win the first Icelandic championship in 1912.  As a mark of respect to the English influence on the team, they chose to adopt the black and white of Newcastle United, who had won the First Division in 1912.

The team have won the Premiere league championship on 24 occasions, the last being in 2003.  However they have also had their bad times as well, probably the worst being in 1977 when they were relegated to the second division.  Their stay in this league lasted less than 9 months as they returned as league champions in 1978.  This honour was the only one the club managed to capture in a near thirty year period from 1968 until 1994 when they won the Icelandic Cup.

The club were also the first Icelandic team to take part in European competition when they drew Liverpool in the 1964/65 European Cup.  However, an 11-1 aggregate defeat just showed the difference in class between the teams.  These two games though gave the team a taste for European nights and they regularly returned to European competition.

Some highlights and lowlights of their European campaigns included a 16-2 defeat to Feyenoord in the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup, a 10-0 away defeat to Aberdeen in 1967 and a 7-0 defeat over two legs to QPR in the 1984 UEFA Cup.  On a plus side they recorded their first ever win away from home in 1997 when they beat Dinamo Bucharest 4-1 on aggregate and Slavia Prague the following year.  They also managed to make the first qualifying rounds of the Champions League in 2000 after beating the Moldavians of Birkirkara.

So far this season their fortunes have been mixed, winning eight but losing nine of their games, and sitting firmly in midtable going into the winter break.  The team is managed by Willum Thor Thorsson. The club played for many years at the national stadium, the Laugardalsvöllur until 1984 when they decided to move to their own ground the KR-Völlur, or Hlioarendi, which they share with Valur.  The club have the highest attendances in the league with an average attendance of over 2,000, which doesn’t sound too many, but actually equates to 1% of the total population of Iceland!!  This season the club have led the challenge to Hafnarfjordur although at the start of the winter break they were trailing them by 6 points in second place, and runners up in the Cup Final to Keflavik.

Valur Reykjavik
Valur are one of the oldest clubs in the capital, having been formed in 1911 as a subdivision of the Icelandic YMCA.  The club is a real sporting affair with teams encompassing Handball, Skiing and more recently Basketball.  The team’s most famous players include Eidur Gudjohnsen and ex-Spurs centre back Gudni Bergsson.  The team won their first championship in 1930, and have since won the title on over twenty occasions including a golden period between 1935 and 1947 when they won the title eleven times.  They last one the championship in 1987.  They have also won the Icelandic cup nine times, including the last final in 2005.   This season the club had to make do with a third place finish which was enough to see them enter the 2006/07 Intertoto Cup.   In the 2007 season they set a blistering pace and were never likely to be caught, wrapping up the championship  with games to spare.  They also beat rivals Fram in the League Cup final in April 2008. The team play their home games at the intimate Hlioarendi stadium which they share with KR Reykjavik.

The teams play at the small KR Vollur stadium in the west of Reykjavik.  It has been opened since 1984, and despite only have one covered stand (sponsored by Shell) the 4,000 capacity ground is often close to full.  The stadium is a fair walk out of town and so it is best to hail a cab from the city centre to reach the ground.  Tickets for the big games can be purchased from the two club’s websites in advanced, or by calling the stadium.

The Stadium – Fylkisvollur Stadium – Capacity: 4,000

Fylkir Football club were founded in 1967 and joined the Icelandic national division 3 in 1972.  It took a further sixteen years before they reached the top division.  The next few years saw them yoyo between the top two divisions, and came close to winning the title in 2000 when they finished runners up to KR.  This meant that Fylkir got to experience European football for the first time, although the club only managed the two first round games.  In 2001 the club won their first piece of silverware when they captured the Icelandic Cup for the first time.  Their subsequent UEFA Cup campaign saw them play probably their hardest ever game when they faced Pogo Szczecin of Poland.  After a 2-1 home victory, the team trailed 1-0 for most of the second leg in Poland before a last minute equalizer saw the team win their first ever European tie 3-2 on aggregate.  In the next round they struggled to overcome Roda Kerkrade of the Netherlands and lost 6-1 on aggregate.

In 2002 they retained their Icelandic Cup yet despite their success in the knock out competitions, they have still yet to take a national title.  In 2005/06 they finished in 5th place in the league. Whilst last season they had to endure a play off to avoid relegation.

Fylkir play their home games at the very basic Fylkisvollur stadium which has a capacity of around 4,000.  The stadium is a simple single covered stand with grass banks for additional capacity behind the goals.  To get to the stadium, you need to head out to the south east of the stadium along the Miklabraut main road (which is just to the south of the national stadium).  Follow this road until you reach the junction with Hofdabakki, where you should turn right.  Follow this road south across the river and then turn left into Vatnsveituvegur before turning into the third right – Fylkisvegur for the ground which is next to the outdoor thermal pool.  The only public transport option is the bus route 12 which runs from the city centre bus station to Holar.  The journey time should take around 15 minutes.

Getting around
The capital city is a very small affair, and most of the places you will want to visit can be reached on foot.  If you do need to venture out of town then initially speak to your hotel as you may find someone is willing to take to there on the cheap.  Alternatively, local buses are quite frequent and cheap.

Nearest Airport – Keflavik Airport (KVL)
Telephone:              +354 425 0600
Website:                  http://www.keflavikairport.com

In order to maximise your budget when coming to Iceland then you should use the excellent daily service offered by Iceland Express from London Stansted.  Keflavik sits on a very flat, moonlike peninsular in the south west corner of the island.  For miles around there is nothing – in fact the 40 minute drive into Reykjavik is probably as close to isolation as you will see in Europe.  The island is also served by the national carrier Icelandair but expect to pay top dollar for these return flights.

The airport is served by a regular bus service into central Reykjavik, run by Icelandair which stops at most of the big hotels in the town centre before terminating at the BSi Terminal in the town centre.  The bus journey costs 1000ISK.  A taxi will cost 8,000ISK maximum.

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