Iceland’s Only Team To Challenge Multiple Norwegian Champs

American football seems to caught on with a vengeance on the tiny little island nation of Iceland.

With a population of only 300,000, Iceland is famous for its glaciers (10% of the land surface is covered), volcanoes, banking system and national soccer team although not always in that order. The soccer team famously reached the 2016 European Championship quarterfinals defeating Austria, the Netherlands and England before succumbing to the host French.

Now this fearless nation is embracing American football and a group that has been practicing for years is finally ready to step up to play 11 man football.

The Reykjavik Einherjar have been practicing and honing their skills for years now, in a sort of cocoon. Finding opponents who will travel all this way is not easy and there are not enough players to form more than one squad.

The Einherjar, led by firebrand and quarterback  Bergbör Phillip Pálsson, are preparing to play their second game of the year Saturday, but their very first 11 man ball game. And a team from Norway is the opponent.

Enter Norway.

The Eidsvoll 1814s, one of the storied teams in Norwegian American football history, are making the 2.5 hour  flight to Reykjavik (located on the 66th parallel just 150 miles from the Arctic Circle) to play the Einherjar. Earlier this year, the Åsane Seahawks a division 2 team from Norway, traveled to Iceland to play a game of nine man football and the Icelandic squad proved their worth winning easily.

This time though, the opposition will be a little tougher. Eidsvoll are nine-time Norwegian champions and have appeared in the final for the past four years in a row. Although they are not bringing their entire squad, they will still be formidable opposition for the Icelanders.

According to Pálsson, who played quarterback in Norway for the Seahawks and will be behind center for Reykjavik in this game, his team will be ready. They will rely on Ingi þór Kristjánsson at running back who will be the workhorse and have a lot of carries.  At wide receiver, Reykjavik will look to 19 year old Viðar Gauti Onundarson, who is rated as the best receiver in Iceland.

The defense is led by middle linebacker Nikulás Snær Magnússon.

Eidsvoll head coach and sports director Greg Kleidon thinks this is a wonderful opportunity:

“The game has been in the process of being organized since late August. I was contacted by Bergbör Phillip Pálsson, and instantly we were intrigued by the opportunity. I have known about their team for over a year now and thought it was a great way to help grow the game in Iceland. By giving them a chance to play an 11 man game against a club who has a storied history to help show everyone in Iceland that what the Einherjar is doing is something special and deserves recognition.”

The contest will give Reykjavik a tough game in a friendly game setting. The 1814s are bringing 26 players mixing it up between veterans, a few of the younger players. They will not have any of their import players and at least 4-5 starters from both sides of the ball will be staying home.

“For us the whole goal is to go out there and have fun, compete each and every play and be good ambassadors of the game. We know they are an extremely talented group of players who are technically sound, got great size, speed and strength and are ready to show that they can compete with anyone out there. We are looking forward to playing in front of what we imagine will be a loud crowd and against a tough opponent.”

Kleidon is aware of how difficult it has been for the Icelandic organization to drum up support but hopes that after this trip people will pay more attention to help build a solid foundation for American football in this highly unlikely spot.

Pálsson is extremely happy with the visit from Eidsvoll and given the number of clubs he and the Reykjavik Einherjar have been in contact with is optimistic that this is only the beginning.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.