Some Thoughts on Fandom

In the aftermath of Vikingur Olafsvik’s loss to Fylkir, dooming them to relegation for the 2014 season, there were a lot of tweets flying around.  But the one that most caught my eye was this one:

I think the last part is some Icelandic aphorism about the devil and flagstones that Google Translate can’t really handle, but the first part translates loosely to, “Vikingur Olafsvik supporters stood and applauded for 20 minutes after the match.”

Let’s parse that.  At the other team’s stadium, 200 km from home, your team just lost a match it had to win (and had opportunities to win), and as a result was relegated.  And you stand and cheer them for 20 minutes straight.

Or you sit at a computer 2600 miles away watching a live stream of comments and hanging on every word.

It’s weird how you can get emotionally attached to a team you’ve never seen play.  I discovered Vikingur Olafsvik on a lark, really – a long-form internet joke involving a blog about a US baseball team, a vacation in Iceland (not mine), sports superstition, and an opportunity to show that all the reactions that fans could have about a major league baseball team in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, could be just as applicable to a soccer team playing in a 900 seat stadium in a small town on the west coast of Iceland.

And along the way, I found that I was more right than I’d ever imagined.

Being a fan transcends language; it transcends distance; it transcends culture.  It transcends the sport that you’re following.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re hoping for one big hit to drive in a run or one goal to equalize on the road.  Whether you’re on the edge of your seat because the other guys have a runner on third and one out and you need a strikeout, or because the other team just got a spot kick and you need a save.  Whether you’re suffering through a 20-year streak of futility or your team just got relegated, but you still believe.

Einar Hjörleifsson, who seemed to single-handedly keep Vikingur in every game over the last two months.  Gudmundur Steinn Hafsteinsson, the captain.  Pálsson and Magnússon up top.  The Spanish Armada, Kiko Insa, Samu Jimenez, Toni Espinosa, and Juan Manuel Torres,   And the first player to follow me on Twitter, Damir Muminovic.  I have never seen any of these guys play.  I don’t know that I could even pick them out of a lineup.  But there’s a connection no less than if I grew up in Olafsvik and lived down the street from the Ólafsvíkurvöllur.


Vikingur Falls to Fylkir and Falls to 1.Deild

Vikingur Olafsvik came into today’s match at the Fylkisvöllur needing a win to have a chance at avoiding relegation, and for the first 45 minutes, it looked like it could happen.  Vikingur controlled the play and built up well on the attack, but was unable to finish, while Fylkir was limited to defending and counterattacking.  The teams entered halftime in a tight scoreless draw.

In the second half, however, Fylkir came out aggressively, playing a tight pressing defense, and getting the ball into striker Viðar Örn Kjartansson.  Kjartansson had three good opportunities in the first ten minute of the second half, firing a shot outside the post, banging one off the crossbar, and having a third saved by Hjörleifsson.  In the 62nd minute, Pablo Punyed and Kjartansson connected on a corner, with Kjartansson sliding it in at the far post.  Five minutes later, Kiko Insa brought Kjartansson down in the box, and Emil Berger converted the penalty.

Vikingur threw everyone forward in the last 20 minutes, subbing in forward Magnusson for defender Hjaltalin and bringing in Birgisson’s fresh legs for Palsson.  Two quick opportunities came to naught, as Eldar Masic shot wide and Guðmundur Magnússon’s goal was disallowed due to offside.  After Farid Zato hit the crossbar from 25 meters and Eyþór Helgi Birgisson went over the top of the frame, the two connected to bring Vikingur back within one goal, with Zato passing into the box to the feet of Birgisson, who calmly slotted it home.

There were no more miracles for the men from Olafsvik, though, as time ran out on their attempts to equalize.  With the loss, Vikingur stayed at 17 points as Fylkir moved to 23.  Thor’s 1-0 victory at IA moved them to 21 points, dooming Vikingur to relegation.

Paths to Victory 2: The Unrelegationing

A couple of weeks ago I posted that Vikingur Olafsvik would need to win at least one match in the last four weeks of the season to have a chance at avoiding relegation.  Today, Vikingur certainly came through, with a resounding 5-0 victory over 1.Dield-bound IA.  At the same time, Thor was held to a 2-2 draw against Keflavik, while appearing to outclass them for most of the match.

As things stand, Vikingur Olafsvik trails Thor by a single point, and is within striking distance of three other teams (Fylkir, Keflavik, and Fram).  While Vikingur is still in the drop zone, today’s match could put them on the path to staying in the PepsiDeild next season.

Vikingur travels to Reykjavik on Sunday to take on 9th-place Fylkir, and returns home to take on 6th-place Valur to end the season.  Let’s look at the possibilities.

Obviously, with two losses, Vikingur Olafsvik returns to the 1.Deild next season.

A loss and a draw puts them at 18 points, which will only avoid relegation if Thor loses both of their last two matches, against IA and 5th-place IBV.  Possible, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

With two draws, Vikingur ends with 19 points.  With a single Thor draw and a loss, they would also be on 19 points, and VikingurOl would stay up on goal differential.  Any other result from Thor would send Vikingur down.

With a win and a loss, more paths open up: two Thor draws would put both teams at 20, with Vikingur staying up on goal differential.  Vikingur could also beat out Fylkir for the last spot if Fylkir loses its last two matches, including Sunday’s against Vikingur and week 22 at IA and Vikingur is able to make up 5 in goal differential.  (Vikingur and Fylkir drew earlier in the season; with a win Sunday and a tie on points and goal differential, I believe Vikingur would edge ahead on head-to-head results.)

Turn the loss into a draw, and Vikingur closes out the season with 21 points, and still more paths open up.  If Thor beats IA and loses to IBV (or vice-versa), they end up with 21 and Vikingur stays up on goal differential.  If Vikingur’s win comes against Fylkir and Fylkir loses to IA as well, Vikingur passes them regardless of differential.  Or, if Keflavik loses their last two matches (home vs. 5th-place IBV and at 4th-place Breidablik), Vikingur overtakes them.

Finally, if Vikingur closes out the season with two wins, they end on 23 points, and could pass any of the three teams ahead of them:

  • Thor will drop behind Vikingur with anything but two wins.
  • Fylkir will drop behind Vikingur with a loss or draw at IA, or with a win at IA that allows Vikingur to make up five goals.
  • With two losses, a loss and a draw, or two draws, Keflavik will fall behind, either on points or goal differential.
  • Even Fram comes into reach, with matches against the top two teams in the league (FH and KR), for whom the Champion’s League seat might still be in play; two losses leave them on 22 points.

Bottom line: Win Sunday against Fylkir, and things start falling into place.

Vikingur Olafsvik Sinks Akranes 5-0

Vikingur Olafsvik went into Akranes today desperately needing three points to gain ground on Thor at the edge of the drop zone, and left with five goals, a clean sheet, and a dominating victory.

In the 16th minute Toni Espinosa buried a free kick, and two minutes later Juan Manuel Torres took a cross from Captain Hafsteinsson and fired a laser into the bottom corner.  After some back and forth with no scoring, IA midfielder Arnar Mar Gudjonsson picked up his second yellow card, and the rout was on.

Kiko Insa took a pass from Samu Jimenes in the 43rd minute and slotted it past the Akranes keeper to send Vikingur into half time up 3-0.  Vikingur controlled play in the second half, with Alfred Mar Hjaltalin and Gudmundur Magnusson finding the back of the net to close out the match, sending Vikingur home to Olafsvik with the most lopsided victory scored by any team in the Urvalsdeild this season.

Just Because You Play the Right Way Doesn’t Mean You’ll Win

About a week ago, I noted that Vikingur Olafsvik could not afford to play for draws, even against teams like KR.  With four weeks left, they were trailing Thor by three points, and needed to get some wins to avoid relegation.

Today, they certainly played like a team going for a win.  Emir Dokara fired a shot over the crossbar in the second minute, and six minutes later Samu Jimenez pushed forward from the back line and fed a cross to Alfred Hjatalin, who put the ball on frame but was turned away by the KR keeper.  Throughout the first half, Vikingur continued firing on the KR goal, with shots from Dokara, Eythor Birgisson, Togo national team callup Farid Zato, and Captain Gudmunder Stein Hafsteinsson peppering the KR keeper, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

The barrage continued in the second half, as Birgisson and Hafsteinsson had shots saved, but in the 57th minute, KR midfielder Sigurdarson scored against the run of play to put Vikingur down 1-0.  For the last half-hour the Vikings pushed forward to try to get an equalizer, and things could have gotten ugly fast if not for the stellar goalkeeping of Einar Hjörleifsson, who had five saves in the final 15 minutes.  The whistle blew with KR still up 1-0 on Vikingur.

When the day ended, the bottom of the table was just like it was when the day started, as Thor fell to Stjarnan and IA lost to Keflavik.  Vikingur Olafsvik trails Thor by three points, while IA is six points further back with a game in hand.  A win Sunday at Akranes – losers of five of their last six matches – would give Vikingur a shot at escaping relegation with some help and a strong finish.  But like today, it’ll be a day to go out for a win.

Paths to Victory

Well, if not victory, then at least to avoiding relegation.

Vikingur Olafsvik has four matches left, and is sitting at the top of the drop zone with 14 points.  Thor and Keflavik are both on 17.

Thor and Keflavik both play IA at home, and both play IBV, Keflavik at home and Thor away.  They play each other at Thor, and their remaining games are away at top-four teams: Thor at Stjarnan and Keflavik at Breiðablik.

Thor and Keflavik both beat IA away; it’s hard to count on them losing or drawing at home.  That’s three points you have to expect them both to earn.

Keflavik lost to Breiðablik at home and drew IBV away.  Best case for Vikingur, Keflavik gets a home draw against IBV and loses again to Breiðablik.

Thor lost to IBV at home and drew Stjarnan at home.  Two losses aren’t out of the question.

If Keflavik beats Thor, that puts Keflavik at 24 and Þór at 20.  But a draw against Keflavik, IBV, or Stjarnan puts Thor at 21 points.

While Vikingur could reach 20 points with three draws and a win, 21 points would require another win.

Two wins and a draw gets Vikingur to 21 points, and probably keeps them ahead of Thor on goal differential.  Interestingly, that probably makes it more important for Vikingur to beat IA on Sunday than to draw KR at home on Thursday.  

And while it’s hard to imagine a home win against powerhouse KR, consider this: one of KR’s only two losses this year was at Fram.  One of Vikingur’s two wins this year: a week later, at Fram.


Comeback at the Kaplakrikavöllur

Things started slowly for the first quarter-hour in Hafnarfjörður, but the home side quickly got into gear and it looked like it was going to be a long day for Vikingur.  With possession deep in the Vikingur end, FH broke through in the 27th minute with a header in off a corner.  Vikingur was unable to capitalize on some opportunities late in the first half, with Hafsteinsson heading off the crossbar and Torres’s strike going wide, and halftime saw them down 1-0.

Early in the second half, things got worse for Vikingur, with another FH goal off a corner, to put the visitors down 2-0.  It looked bleak until Hafsteinsson was taken down in the box by FH keeper Róbert Örn Óskarsson, who got sent off and brought Toni Espinosa to the penalty spot.  Espinosa’s shot snuck past backup FH keeper Dadi Larusson, and the match was on, with Vikingur bringing on Björn Pálsson to put more pressure on the attack.

The pressure paid off in the 79th minute, as Kiko Insa scored off a corner from Espinosa.  The last twenty minutes was a wild run up and down the pitch, with both sides getting opportunities but being unable to convert.  Vikingur comes away with the road point against a top-class team, and will enjoy the long break until facing off at home against perennial powerhouse and top-sitting KR.