Below is a link to a very interesting article written by Tryggvi Kristjansson, that was posted last week on http://www.thesefootballtimes.co, an international soccer specific website/blog. The article describes the ascension of Iceland – a country which, with a population of just over 300,000 is one of the smallest European member nations in UEFA – as a soccer contender capable of consistently producing results against the traditionally stronger teams on the continent. At week’s end, Iceland sits in 1st place in Group A of UEFA Euro 2016 Qualification, with 19 points (8 wins, 1 tie, and 1 loss) from their first 10 games. Incredibly, they have already qualified and secured their place at Euro 2016 in France.
The success of Iceland’s National Soccer Teams has been the result of several changes instituted over the past 20 years by both the Icelandic government and municipal sport authorities, as well as the “KSI” (Knattspyrnusamband Íslands; the Icelandic FA). Among them include investment in development and improvement of soccer facilities, better funding for National Teams programs and. perhaps most importantly, a comprehensive, nation-wide restructuring of their coach education program.
According to the author, the Icelandic FA:
“created a training programme for coaches (both UEFA A and B license training, as well as a Pro License in cooperation with the English FA) which has been made available to all coaches in the country at the lowest possible cost – KSÍ does not make a profit on the programme.”
Furthermore, he adds:
“These changes have seen a drastic increase in both the number of academic seminars (from 2-3 to 20-25) and the number of participants (from 70 to 700-800), and in this way KSÍ are able to accommodate every coach in Iceland, of which there are around 700.”
The end result is that in Iceland today, over 70% of the coaches have UEFA ‘B’ Licenses, and over 30% have UEFA ‘A’ Licenses (the highest license available to amateur coaches). This is unprecedented not only in Canada/North America (where the overwhelming majority of coaches are volunteers who do not hold any coaching licenses at all) but also in Europe, as Iceland now have a higher percentage of UEFA ‘B’ and ‘A’ Licensed coaches than any other European nation.
Of course, there are some factors working in Iceland’s favour, including their small population (only 300,000), small total number of coaches (only 700), and small geographical landmass/area (just over 100,000 square kilometres). The influence of the changes made to their soccer programs, however, including the emphasis placed on coach education, has produced results that are impossible to ignore. It would be very interesting to see if these results can influence other nations, including our own, to push for the same type of changes.
Below is a link to the article. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.