July 3, 2016

Iceland's population is just 330,000, yet their men's soccer team has been the Cinderella story of 2016. Partly due to their success (despite being out-shot and out-possessed but never out-worked) they, along with their 30,000 fans who've travelled to France (or 10% of their population), have managed something quite special.

Can the fairy tale possibly continue? Don't count out the Vikings from Iceland just yet.

Source: New York Times

One consequence of all this success is that the Icelandic fan base is growing exponentially. An estimated 30,000 fans arrived from Iceland at the start of the tournament, and Magnus Mar Einarsson, a top soccer journalist in Iceland, said many more were trying to reach Paris ahead of Sunday’s game, with reports of fans buying flights to Spain, Italy and Belgium, and then making their way to France from there, because of the paucity of direct routes.

After each game, the players and fans in the stadium have taken part in what is essentially a syncopated, overhead slow clap with chanting — Arnason called it “a Viking quest kind of thing that the fans came up with and is pretty cool,” though it may have its roots in Scotland — which only adds to the atmosphere. Back home, residents have packed bars and public spaces, and 99.8 percent of televisions in Iceland were reportedly tuned to the England game.

Sunday’s match will be the team’s most difficult test yet. France has a glittering lineup of stars and a strong history in tournaments it hosts, having won the 1998 World Cup and the 1984 Euros.

Iceland's announcer Gudmundur Benediktsson has become famous for his over-the-top celebrations.

Benediktsson has done his part to contribute to the global mania. After each of the most thrilling moments from the tournament, his calls — which aggressively straddle the line between passionately frenzied and worryingly hysterical — have been shared widely on the internet and praised (or parodied) on late-night talk shows in a variety of languages.

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