In Iceland, there is Eyjafjallajökull, the unpronounceable name of the volcano that disrupts airspace when it erupts ; but there are also good football players. The most famous of them ,Eidur Guðjohnsen (Chelsea, Barcelona) has today given way to a golden generation that creates the sensation in Group A of qualifying for Euro 2016 after beatingTurkey and the Netherlands. In this country of 325,000 inhabitants (50,000 fewer than in Haute Vienne), meeting with Thorlàkur Arnason, the U17 national coach who tells us about state of mind, flight and indoor soccer.
Can you introduce yourself, what is your career and how long you are coach of U17?
Well i have coached for a very long time. Born in 1969 and played the game but got injured early in my career and started coaching in 1990. Most of my career i have been working at club level in youth football.But i have also coached in the premier league as a head coach both man and women. I also coached the u17s womens team from 2009-20012. Went to semi finals in 2011. I took the boys u17 national team in 2013 and we won the group stage in Russia.
Let's talk about current events. Your team began the qualifications for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finishing 2nd in his group in Moldova and has therefore qualified for the Elite Round. Is it the minimum target? Think of being able to qualify yourselves for the Final Tournament in Bulgaria?
Well we are at least very happy that we got trough. Italy are of course very strong and Moldova have a good team.So it was always going to be tight but be played well during that week. It will be very hard to go trough to the finals but anything is possible. This year there will be 16 teams in the finals so the chances have increased.
How do you prepare this Elite Round? Have you planned friendlies?
We will try to get 2 frindlies but we need to fly to play.It costs money but hopefully we will get some games. But we have practises all winter and that will help a lot.
Does not exist with British or Scandinavian countries a partnership to play regular friendlies yet it does not cost too much money on travel?
Sometimes we do that, specilally with Denmark.
The last Icelandic championship (Pepsi-deild) took place from May 4 to October 4, 2014. Is this the case for all leagues? How do you do to play football in winter?
Season is from mai-october.We play a lot indoor during the winter.Very short season but a very long pre-season.
Is that all U17 national team players play in the Icelandic championship?
No 2 in Denmark, twins, FCK and AB.And one in Reading, England.
Waiting for the Elite Round, what is your program? Is that KSI has an indoor sports complex and how often will you be able to train with the U17 national team?
We have practises every other weekend together until xmas.Than we hopefully will play a practise match in february. The city Reykjavik and the towns nearby have indoor halls that we use.
The results of the national team are very good today (they beat the Netherlands and Turkey for the Euro 2016 qualifiers). Is this related to the fact that the first indoor pitches were built 15 years ago so that young players can play all year round in good conditions?
Yes but mainly because of quality coaching in the youth teams.All coaches are educated coaches.
What is your relationship with Lars Lagerbäck? Does he also look at the results of U17 and U19 teams?
It is good. Yeh he follows everything but of course he is mostly focused on A team. Very humble man and a great coach.
In A team, most players play abroad (Denmark, Norway, Netherland, Russia, Spain, Italy, etc ...). Do you talk with your young players when they have to leave Iceland to progress?
Yes, of course. When young players leave a lot changes because they go away from their families. And i always talk extra to the players abroad when i meet them...
Finishing this interview, let's talk about you… Is there a coach or a tactic system that you're found of ? (like Ajax Amsterdam in 70's or Barcelona with Guardiola, etc…)
No not really, you never have the same team. Last year the 97 group was offensively very good and we scored a lot of goals. The 98 group of players is totally different...very good defensively . So it depends on the squad and the players how you approach them Iceland can not play like Barcelona but we need a balance of fighters and of quality players
Last question... What are your plans for the rest of your coaching career? With U17 or do you have other desires?
My ambition is to go abroad to coach one day in the future.
I am happy at the F.A. of Iceland where i am in charge of player development.