Iceland, a far northern country, with a small population produces some of the world’s best soccer players.
What is their secret to such outstanding success?
Investment in coaching and infrastructure have amazing results.
Iceland is a far northern country. You might think winter sports would be their strength. But the most popular sports are football (soccer), handball, athletics, basketball, golf, volleyball, tennis, swimming and chess.
Their women’s and men’s football teams out perform those of many larger countries. This was recently demonstrated when their men’s football team knocked England out of the Euro 2016. Although they lost to powerhouse France in the next round, they returned to Iceland as national heroes. How did they achieve these amazing results?
Iceland has only about 330,000 people. This is less than the population of greater Victoria, on Vancouver Island, BC Canada, where I currently live. Less than the population of Honolulu, Hawaii
They have 20,000 football players and the shortest playing season in the world. After all, they have to deal with average daily temperatures that stay below freezing for nearly half the year. But they manage to out perform more than 150 larger countries on the FIFA (Federation International de Football Association) ranking list.
Iceland is the smallest country ever to qualify for a major soccer tournament. Statisticians have a field day showing what a remarkable achievement this is for such a small population base. It can be easily shown that these are the best results of any country based on their population base.
The Iceland Football Association (KSI) has improved the standing from 112th in the world rankings just 6 years ago.
How have they achieved these amazing results?
They have done so by making a series of intelligent investments in infrastructure and instruction. They have invested in youth development.
INFRASTRUCTURE: In the last decade Iceland built seven full-sized and four half-sized indoor soccer fields and they have 5-a-side artificial pitches at every children’s school. Almost every club in the country has some form of artificial pitch which can be used 12 months a year. The weather in Iceland is not conducive to outdoor soccer.
COACHING: The statistics are amazing. By January 2016, more than 189 Icelandic coaches held an A license, and nearly 600 held a B licence. This means that one in every 550 Icelanders is a Union of European Football Association or UEFA-qualified coach. The corresponding ration in England is about 1 in 10,000. Many top clubs in Iceland have B or A licensed coaches overseeing children as young as age 6.
RESULTS: The country has 58 senior professionals playing in Europe with another 23 in youth divisions on the continent. Here is a link to view a video that shows some of the successes of Icelandic football players.