Nice (France) (AFP) – Iceland will have about 3,000 fans in the Nice stadium for their Euro 2016 clash against England on Monday but thousands more chanting their Viking songs will be in the Mediterranean resort.
Like Irish Republic supporters who had to lay out for black market tickets to see their country against France on Sunday, Iceland’s fans have become caught in the European Championship quandary. No-one expected them to get this far.
Euro 2016 fever has gripped the 330,000 population. Even the nation’s new president Gudni Johannesson, who won an election Saturday, said his first priority is to be at the match.
Asked before the final results were announced what his first task would be if elected, the history professor replied: “Go to France on Monday and see Iceland play England.”
Johannesson has a better chance than most of his countrymen of getting a last-minute place in the 35,000 capacity stadium.
But that will not deter the Icelandic nation. There were about about 10,000 Iceland fans at each of their group games in France and a similar number are expected in Nice.
Iceland star Gylfi Sigurdsson criticised UEFA’s ticket distribution system for Euro 2016 knockout games.
“We’d love to have more tickets for the Icelandic people,” Sigurdsson said Sunday.
Between 3,000 and 3,500 places in the Nice stadium will go to Iceland fans, the team’s spokesperson told AFP.
“Uefa have to find another solution how they distribute the tickets for the knockout games,” said the 26-year-old Swansea City midfielder.
“It would have been nice to have 10,000-15,000 people here, but the people at the game will be loud, hopefully we can make them proud.”
French regional government officials estimated around 25,000 England fans would be in Nice.
Sigurdsson’s criticism follows similar remarks by Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill who protested about the allocation for Irish fans for his team’s last-16 game with France.
Irish fans received only 4,500 places in the 59,000-capacity Lyon stadium.
Icelanders may not be happy about the tickets but they are unlikely to cause trouble.
The fans have become known as the friendly Vikings because of their football chants and the trademark rendition of the romantic Icelandic pop song “End of the Journey: I’m Home.”
At home as well, Iceland has become football crazy.
FK Reyjkavik centre-back Gretar Sigfinnur Sigurdarson tried to rent a Boeing 737 to take 180 fans on a day trip to Nice. But he told AFP the plan fell through when someone else offered a higher price.
Other flights are planned. And there is always television. More than half the country watched Iceland’s 2-1 group win over Austria.
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