It wasn’t until 2016 that Iceland saw their side play in a major tournament for the first time. And one Icelandic family in particular have played a starring role. So how did the Gudjohnsen’s come to dominate the sport across the nation?
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today, the story of an Icelandic football dynasty.
Eidur Gudjohnsen is Iceland’s joint-top international goalscorer. He’s also the eighth most capped player in the nation’s history.
You probably remember him.
He played as a striker with the Brazilian Ronaldo at PSV Eindhoven, before moving to England with Bolton Wanderers in 1998.
He then joined Chelsea, where he won the Premier League twice.
“Gudjohnsen! Ah that’s fantastic! That is a fantastic goal… Eidur Gudjohnsen brings Chelsea level… absolutely brilliant.”Chelsea TV
He’s also won the treble with Barcelona. That’s La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
He’s essentially Iceland’s most famous footballer.
And he comes from a football family.
His father, Arnor, is sixth on the all-time top scorer list for Iceland. The pair are the only father-and-son duo to have appeared in the same match.
A 34-year-old Arnor was substituted for his 17-year-old son Eidur during an international friendly versus Estonia in 1996. He said afterwards that “it was a crazy thing to look across the dressing room and see your own son there.”
“It’s still fresh in the memory, it’s obviously a special occasion. Er…to play with your father in the same, same game.”
“Two, maybe three good chances. But it’s my first game, I’m satisfied.”
“Whenever we talk about it or think about it that it was…you know…a big moment in football history.”FIFA TV
All this is pretty remarkable in itself. But Eidur also has three sons of his own.
And two of them have already made a senior appearance for Iceland. The third, is in the Barcelona youth setup.
Eidur’s half-brother, also called Arnor, joined Swansea City as a teenager in 2017. He’s now playing in the Icelandic top division.
So… this is a real football dynasty.
But there’s a reason for this.
Before Iceland knocked out England at Euro 2016, the nation of around 360,000 people had never seen their side at a major tournament before.
You might remember their Viking clap celebration which has been copied at multiple football grounds since.
Then, two years later, they became the smallest country to ever qualify for a World Cup.
Iceland have been working to improve their football as a nation for some time now. Since 2000, the country has installed many heated and indoor pitches to combat the harsh climate and lack of natural light.
And it worked – in 2010, Iceland found themselves languishing in 112th in the FIFA world rankings. After their run at Euro 2016, they rose as high as 21st.
When you watch them though, you can tell that the improvement has come from more than just financial investment.
There’s a togetherness, a team spirit… like one big family.
And the Gudjohnsens epitomise that spirit.
Arnor Gudjohnsen nurtured Eidur’s talent.
Eidur says his father never made him feel under pressure. And now he’s passing that on to his three sons. Eidur says his father wanted him to be a better player than he was and now he wants his sons to be better than him.
“They seem to have the same passion for it as I did, and as their grandfather did. They have to choose for themselves what they want to do. We try and… as parents just to guide them to be respectful of what they do, be respectful of people around them and er…as long as they do that and er…do their best at whatever they do then…we’re proud parents.”Eidur Gudjohnsen, FIFA TV
In 2020, the Icelandic football association changed the design of the national team’s crest. It represents four guardian spirits of the land, a bull, a giant, a dragon and an eagle.
Upon the release of that new logo, they explained “their fighting spirit, resolve and perseverance are all-encompassing.”
It seems to me like these values are one and the same with those of the Gudjohnsen family.
Eidur is now the assistant manager of the national side.
Their nickname by, the way, is “our boys.”
And Iceland seems to have adopted the entire Gudjohnsen family as boys of their own.
Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Studio Klong.