To anyone watching the Euro cup, Iceland making it out of the first round was a surprise. The country has less than half a million people, and they've never been known for soccer. But somehow, they scraped through in their group, placing second, allowing them to advance to the next round. The next game they played England, a country known for its soccer abilities. No one would think that Iceland could beat England. But again, they pulled off a massive surprise, winning the game 2-1. Memes flooded the Internet, pointing out that Iceland is this tiny country in the middle of the ocean, while England is a top professional at soccer.
Several days later, it's time for the Iceland v. France match. More than ten percent of the entire population of Iceland is in France to watch the game. And of all the places I could be in Iceland, I'm in Sedisfjordur, a town of 700 people at the end of an Icelandic fjord. As our boat arrives, we can see almost every house in the whole town, as well as tons and tons of waterfalls. Sedisfjordur is a little town in the middle of pristine wilderness. We learn on the boat that there are two public places to watch the game, in the reception area of the hotel (which i later learn is actually not the only place to stay in this town, as one might think), or at the bar. My family and I opt for the bar.
We enter the bar and it's already crowded, filled with locals and a couple tourists from the boat. All the tables are angled to face the TV in several semi-circle rows, and several benches have been brought in from outside and covered with cushions to increase the seating. The bar's been decked out in Iceland flags sponsored by the euro cup, and people are wearing jerseys and crazy hats with tufts of fake fur in Iceland's colors. All the bartenders are wearing the same shirt, supporting Iceland in the tournament. The back says "Eg er kominn heim", "I'm home".
Pretty soon it's clear the game isn't off to a great start. France opens with two shots on goal, though by the sound of the crowd when the goalie saved the shots you might think Iceland had scored twice instead. This crowd, though small and packed into the one local bar, is excited. The whole country is excited. Though Iceland does not take the lead once in the entire game, spending a good portion losing by 4, people still cheer and shout every time anyone on the Icelandic team does anything good. When they score, twice, the crowd literally goes wild. Never mind they're far behind, a goal is something to celebrate. More and more people pile inside as the game continues, ordering more beers and cheering louder and louder.
When the game is over, Iceland has lost 5-2. And the crowd claps. Not a single Frenchman in the bar but Iceland claps for the winner, for a game well played. It's so cool to watch this unfold in such a small town. This isn't a big city (not even by Icelandic standards). This is friends and families and a community that's all grown up together, gathering to watch their team. A bunch of locals, not putting on a show for the tourists but just trying to support their own. And when it was all over, as the Icelandic fans and soccer players did one of their chants in France, the locals matched it in the small bar in Sedisfjordur.