Saturday, November 18, 2017

Qatar and Iceland Soccer: My worlds colliding....

Before the game getting ready to cheer for Iceland in Doha, Qatar on November 14. Doha invited some teams for a "friendly" tournament. My Viking hat was a perfect choice to buy when I was in Iceland. I wear it quite a bit these days--for Halloween, etc. I am definitely a Viking to be reckoned with!

One of my mottoes that hangs in my house.

Since I don't plan on going to Russia for the World Cup to see strakarnir okkar (means "our boys" in Icelandic), I was thrilled to see them play in Qatar this week--on my own expat turf. I am half Icelandic and was proud to cheer Iceland--the land of my heritage. The tiny country of 330,000 recently qualified to play in the 2018 World Cup, beating out Croatia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Let's just say the US, the Netherlands, and Italy did not qualify to play in Russia this year so it is a huge accomplishment. Iceland is the smallest country to ever qualify to play in the World Cup.

This week the Icelandic men's soccer team came to Qatar to play the Qatar team. Qatar is the host of the World Cup for 2022, and it was a "friendly" game--a bit of jousting and fun. I guess it was so "friendly" that they tied. Ha! To see the Qatar team who is comprised of six different nationalities, with different accents, backgrounds, and languages was thrilling too. Soccer is their common language.



The Icelanders have their famous clap. The Qataris have their famous chants, singing, and drum playing that lasted the entire game. 

Not far from where I live is the Aspire Academy, a leading training ground in the world to bring promising soccer players to realize their dream. The tiny country of Qatar, roughly the size of Connecticut, sponsors a program called "Football Dreams," which brings in young soccer players from Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Sahara Africa. Their hope is to bring kids from all over the world to the soccer academy. Their aim? The 2022 World Cup here in Doha, Qatar.

A group of Africans cheering on Qatar

After the game, everyone cheering for the tie.
Qatar is inviting teams to play, such as Iceland, to bring their global team together. Iceland, the team that has brought a new edge to soccer on the block, was thrilling to watch. They play with a serious, calculated fearlessness that is strong and confident. In a New York Times article, Gudni Bergsson, a former national captain who is now the president of the Icelandic Football Association expressed his views for his country when he said, "It means the world. For years we have watched the major soccer tournaments on television. People would choose their sides and which countries to support. Now we are actually going to the World Cup."

I was not the only one to put on a Viking hat to cheer on Iceland. Some other fans from Iceland here in Doha. 
In a very short time, the small country of Iceland has put soccer on the map. The head coach, a part-time dentist, also adds a piqued interest. In less than a decade, seven new soccer domes have been built, a hundred all-weather surfaces made for schools, with underfloor geothermal heating. World class coaches, and as Bergsson said, his players are "workaholics."

Undoubtedly, there will be many people this summer cheering for Iceland at the World Cup. The sports world loves their clap where the crowd and team cheer when they win a game. It's like the Vikings invaded the party. Yes, I think they will be party crashers this year in Russia. I predict the little country of Iceland is going to surprise the soccer world.

Watch Iceland celebrate with their win from Kosovo to go to the World Cup with their famous Viking clap: Famous Iceland Clap on the team's return to Reykjavik To see Reykjavik crowd the street for their team and clap. Epic.