Grindavik v BI/Bolungarvik, Saturday 25th May 2013, 2pm

0 -opening shot

Saturday’s game was a first division fixture at Grindavik. Iceland, like so many other countries, doesn’t name its leagues properly though and so the first division is actually the second tier. Grindavik is about forty minutes drive from Reykjavik and arguably more famous for the Blue Lagoon thermal lake than its football team. It wouldn‘t be much of an argument either.

I read somewhere that eighty percent of visitors to Iceland visit the Blue Lagoon. Perhaps I read it in one of their promotional leaflets. I don’t know. It doesn‘t really seem likely to me, but then again I’m not one for going to the baths. It has never seemed fun ever since those visits to Old Stockton Baths as a schoolkid where I’d be drowning and Old Mrs. Hall would be pretending to save me by shouting “Swim, sonny, swim“ and dangling a hoop on a stick just beyond my reach.

Mind you, even if twenty percent of visitors to Iceland forgo a trip to the Blue Lagoon, you can‘t really go to Grindavik and not give it a go. My new pair of thirty quid trunks combined with another thirty quid each entrance fee made it my most expensive trip to the baths ever. On a positive note, neither of us drowned. Apart from that though, I wasn’t overly impressed. For a start, it’s fake. It’s a man-made pool heated by the waste water from the power station next door. Quite why they feel the need to line the pool floor with toe-stubbing rocks is somewhat of a mystery to me. Anyway, we stuck it for an hour and when it became clear that they didn’t have a wave machine we buggered off.

It doesn't even have a roof.

It doesn’t even have a roof.

Grindavik town  was easy enough to find and the football ground easier still. I left Jen in a cafe, paid my 1500 kronar and took a seat amongst the hundred and fifty or so other fans in the main stand. Well, the only stand. Grindavik were in yellow and blue whilst visitors BI were in white with red sleeves.

IB on the attack.

IB on the attack.

Grindavik had a scottish bloke, Scott Ramsey playing in midfield. He looked older than his team mates and was carrying a bit more weight than them too, but he was the best passer of a ball on the field. I googled him and the most I could find out about his pre- Grindavik career was that he’d once been on Partick Thistle’s books. Twenty minutes in he slipped the ball through to striker Magnús Björgvinsson who calmly slotted it past the BI keeper to post the hosts a goal up.

BI had a Scot in their team too. Well sort of. Former Scotland player Nigel Quashie was strolling around the midfield for them, looking like a bloke who couldn‘t really believe where he had ended up. I’m like that with some jobs too. He started the game as an attacking right-sided midfielder but then switched after half an hour or so to sit in front of the back four. He seemed incapable of passing the ball without also telling his team-mates to ‘“Keep it“. When they moved the ball on they would then repeat the phrase in what seemed like a particularly crap version of Chinese Whispers.

Nigel takes advantage of a quiet moment to fiddle with his balls.

Nigel takes advantage of a quiet moment to fiddle with his balls.

Quashie wasn’t the most noteworthy player on the pitch though. Or even in his own side. How could he be when one of his team mates had turned out for  Norton and Stockton Ancients? BI striker Ben Everson was the man who outshone the former Forest fella. At least in my slightly biased eyes.  A career that had taken him to America via half the Northern League and which had peaked in a League Two spell at York was now continuing in Iceland’s second tier. To be honest, I didn‘t discover the Teesside connection until afterwards or I would have paid a bit more attention as to how he did.

Despite having half a leg missing Ben Everson receives the ball.

Despite having half a leg missing Ben Everson receives the ball.

The opening goal livened things up a bit and Magnús Björgvinsson almost scored his second soon afterwards. He managed to go around three men before stumbling and then despite being flat out on the floor he still contrived to head the ball against a post. Half man, half seal, I reckon.

The view from the main stand.

The view from the main stand.

As half-time approached, BI equalised when Alexander Þórarinsson headed home from a corner. The goal revealed the presence of a dozen or so away fans mixed in with everyone else. They didn‘t celebrate for long though as a couple of minutes later Stefán Pálsson restored Grindavik’s advantage, beating the keeper from twenty-five yards.

At half-time I went for free cake and coffee in the little club house on the opposite side of the pitch. I suppose it wasn’t too dissimilar from the old 100 Club at Ayresome Park.

It was all very civilised.

It was all very civilised.

Grindavik has an impressive collection of trophies in their tea hut and pennants from big games in their history. So it’s very dissimilar from the old 100 Club at Ayresome Park in that respect. They’ve turned out in Europe a few times, even playing Basel on one occasion apparently. I doubt that they came back from three down though.

Pele has been to their ground too if the photos are to be believed. It wasn’t clear whether he’d been there for something to do with football or whether it was part of his work in raising awareness of erectile dysfunction. I don’t suppose it matters much though unless he suggests a session of ‘keepy uppy’.

The teams return after their coffee and cake.

The teams return after their coffee and cake.

A few minutes after the re-start BI gave the ball away on the edge of the box leaving their skipper Sigurgeir Gíslason little choice but to bring down the striker and pick up a yellow. Scott Ramsay took the direct free-kick and curled it into the corner to put Grindavik three-one ahead.

Goal.

Goal.

Ten minutes later and it was groundhog day, only this time Gíslason picked up a straight red. Ramsay repeated his direct free kick over the wall to make it four and with the game won it was then just a question of how many Grindavik would score.

The fifth goal came after Björgvinsson chased a long ball, rounded the keeper and then squared for team mate Pálsson to knock it past the bloke on the line for his second of the game. That was enough to make two away fans near me stomp off in a huff.

Not long from the end Björgvinsson went around the visiting keeper again but this time he was brought down. It seemed an unnecessary foul to me with the score as it was, but maybe the keeper fancied the week off that the red card would give him. With BI now down to nine men and all their subs having been used it was a chance for striker Andri Bjarnason to take the discarded goalie shirt and be a hero.

Another goal.

Another goal.

Or maybe not. The makeshift keeper got nowhere near Björgvinsson‘s penalty and the game finished up as a six-one victory for the home side.

After the game Jen and I did a bit of hiking. There’s a trail linking Grindavik with Volgar that goes past the football stadium before disappearing into the wilds. It’s not too wild as the path is clearly marked with orange posts, but it’s an enjoyable walk over what mainly seems to be lava covered in a deep layer of moss.

It's all a bit remote.

It’s all a bit remote.

In some places there was a strong smell of sulphur. I thought that it made the hike ideal for couples on that tricky first or second date when you still feel obliged to discreetly sneak your farts out. We didn‘t have the time or the inclination to walk the full fifteen miles to Volgar, mainly because we had no idea how we would get back to the car afterwards.

In the end we settled for hiking two hours outwards before turning around and heading back to Grindavik. The four hours proved ideal for letting the post-match traffic clear and so we were quickly away for the drive back to Reykjavik.

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