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.