World Cup 2018: small population, big dreams for Iceland Football
Recently Iceland became the smallest nation to qualify for the World Cup 2018. They sealed their spot in the upcoming summer gathering by beating Kosovo on 9 October last year. This is certainly a golden period of Iceland football. They have won the hearts of football fans all around the globe with their performance and will surely be hoping to make a mark in Russia.
Just 5 years prior, they had a world ranking hovering around 130! No one could have foreseen them qualifying for the 2018 world cup. If it's said that success comes overnight, that night has been a very long night!! It took many years and the combined effort of coaches and players. Their current FIFA ranking is 20. By any standard, this is a huge achievement and it will surely go down in history books as one of the great success stories. It has brought Iceland on the map like never before.
Iceland has a total population of just 330,000 but the more interesting fact is that there are only 21,500 registered players in Iceland. Out of 23 players that play for the national team, 15 are homegrown, not having played in foreign leagues. That reflects how strong and efficient of a football system is followed in Iceland at the grass roots level.
Its also prudent to look at Iceland's manager Heimir Hallgrimsson, the man who orchestrated everything. You won't believe that Iceland manager Heimir Hallgrimsson is a part-time dentist on the island of Vestmanaeyjar with a population of just over 5000. He left his job as dentist a few years ago to work full-time as coach of the Iceland Football team.
“Even now that I am sole coach and full-time, I still go back home now and again and do a little bit of dentistry, “That's just me. Some coaches like to play golf in their spare time, others go fishing, I go to my dental office! It takes my mind off football for a while and I get the chance to see my patients and colleagues –-people I miss” said Iceland's boss, who hails from a small island, Heimay.
During a Euro 2016 match against Hungary an astonishing 98.6 % of Iceland's population watched the match on Iceland TV.