SANTA CLARA — Heimir Hallgrimsson wasn’t bothered by the singing, swaying crowd Friday night that turned Levi’s Stadium into Little Mexico.
Never mind the 68,917 raucous fans attending the World Cup tuneup amounted to one-fifth of the population of Hallgrimsson’s Iceland, the blip of a country that has caught the imagination of soccer worldwide.
“I think everybody will support Iceland in Russia,” the dentist-turned-coach said. “They will all be on our side.”
And why not?
Iceland, the Nordic island best known for volcanoes, geysers and hot springs, is making its World Cup debut June 16 against soccer giant Argentina.
The game, by the way, already is sold out for the smallest country in history to reach the tournament. The only other sellout so far is the final July 15.
Iceland brings some excitement to a tournament that won’t include soccer powers Italy, Netherlands and Chile. Those countries, along with the United States, failed to make it to Russia.
The exhibition Friday against Mexico and its star-studded roster was another big moment in Iceland’s ascent in joining soccer’s elite — even with a 3-0 drubbing. But the Icelanders haven’t let the momentous achievements change them.
Not with Hallgrimsson at the helm. The coach from the island of Heimaey returns home from time to time to practice dentistry at a local clinic.
“Some coaches like to play golf in their spare time, others go fishing.,” he has said. “I go to my dental office.”
Hallgrimsson has developed another tradition that has endeared him to Iceland fans. He makes house calls at local Reykjavik pubs to chat with fans hours before national team home games.
After qualifying for the first World Cup in the fall the players performed their Viking ‘Thunderclap with their supporters and then joined crowds at Ingolfstorg square in downtown Reykjavik.
Even as the players have become hometown celebrities they’ve remained level-headed, …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports