ICELAND’S JOURNEY TO EURO 2017
Women On the Field
Although soccer arrived in Iceland in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that a women’s tournament, a precursor to the league, was officially established. This was not due to lack of interest; in 1914 a group of women founded the soccer club Hvöt in Ísafjörður, as a protest against the local football club’s ban against women practicing soccer, and a year later, in 1915, the Reykjavík club Víkingur established its own women’s team. These efforts, however, were met with criticism among their male counterparts and discontinued soon after.
In the 1960s, women handball players began to experiment with soccer as a warm-up method before practices, and a way to keep fit off-season. With more women turning to the sport, interest took off again, and in 1970 the first official women’s soccer match, between Keflavík’s and Reykjavík’s All-Star teams, was played at Laugardalsvöllur, as a warm-up to a men’s international match.
Two years later, the first women’s soccer tournament in Iceland took place. Two groups of four teams participated, and Hafnarfjörður’s FH wound up as victors. In the subsequent years, more clubs would introduce female squads within their ranks. Yet, even though these teams were often very successful, several clubs decided to drop the program without specifying a reason behind it - so much that in 1980, only three clubs were enlisted into the tournament.
Iceland’s Women's Team Soccer Established... and Discontinued
In 1981, after some lobbying by the chairman of the Icelandic Soccer Association at the time, the decision was made to form a women’s national team. They played Scotland abroad that same year, but lost the game by a single goal, 2-3.
The team entered Euro qualifying in 1982, but failed to qualify for the final stages. This led to a decision not to enter the team in the subsequent year, a decision that was met with harsh criticism and a petition, signed by almost 3000 women. The withdrawal from competition meant that they wouldn’t be able to participate again until 1987. Before that happened, however, the squad was disbanded and the women’s national soccer team discontinued, in 1987.
Returning in 1993, the team kept improving gradually, learning from previous experiences, and a new generation of women soccer players. Already in 1994, it made the second leg of the qualifying stages for Euro ‘95 in Germany, where they were defeated by England in the play-offs.
The Rise of Women Professional Players
In 2001, two women soccer players were signed on as professional soccer players in the United States, and the same year local club KR made it into UEFA’s Women’s Championship League, as the first Icelandic contender.
The year 2008 marks a new era for the Icelandic national women’s soccer team. 10 players from the national squad turned professional that year. The team qualified for Euro 2009 in Finland, as the first Icelandic national soccer team to qualify for the final stages of any major tournament.
A couple of years later, the team qualified again, this time for Euro 2013 in Sweden, and made it all the way into the quarterfinals, where they were defeated by the hosts. Icelandair has a long standing tradition of supporting the Icelandic Soccer Association and we are proud to lend the national women’s soccer team our support on their journey.