Football

Everybody's Favourite Icelandic Commentator Was Actually Sacked From His Day Job During The Euros

Everybody's Favourite Icelandic Commentator Was Actually Sacked From His Day Job During The Euros

With Iceland in Dublin this week, The Balls.ie Football Show decided to track down one of their most famous sons, Gudmundur Benediktsson, with a view to having him in studio. If you don't know his name, you will recognise his voice:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlsvlTT1Rm0

It turned out, however, that Gudmundr had the vision not to be dulled into a catatonic trance by proceedings at the Aviva, and instead went on holidays. He was kind enough to take a phone call, however, and you can listen to the interview in full on iTunes, Stitcher, or below:

Gudmundr fell into commentary while playing with KR Reykjavik: injury restricted him to the sidelines, so the local radio station invited him to climb the steps into the gantry. To go from there to being featured on Stephen Colbert in the United States is quite the journey, and Gudmundr admits that the entire experience was strange:

I was pretty surprised. I am pretty shy, actually. so it was strange for me, but you learn to live with it. It doesn't bother me too much, I'm not watching it every day!

I actually think most of Iceland didn't hear my commentary, because they were all screaming and shouting at the same time, so they all missed it! I got more famous abroad than at home.

Much of football's power is distilled in the fact that most of those who loved Gudmundr's commentary had no idea what he was saying, but then again, viewers weren't the only ones not sure of what was being said:

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You can't really prepare for a moment like this. I don't have a clue what I did say, or what I didn't say, it's just something that comes out when you're feeling really good.

That's the beauty of sport, you never know what will happen. You try to be prepared, but then something happens, and you go....mad.

Iceland's greatest days were those between the Austria and England games, but the interlude brought a sharp change in mood for Gudmundr. Domestic football in Iceland was not suspended for the French odyssey, and poor results meant Gudmundr was sacked from his post as assistant manager with KR Reykjavik before returning to France for the knockout game with England.

I stopped playing myself in 2009, and got into coaching straight after. So I have been a coach and assistant coach ever since. Most recently I was into my second year with KR Reykjavik, where I spent ten seasons as a player. We just didn't do well last summer, and the results were not good, so me and the manager got sacked between the Austria and England games. That's about it, things happen in football, and there is nothing new about a manager and assistant manager getting sacked.

It was an emotional week. The game against Austria, in which we scored the winning goal in additional time, and then... I did fly home to Iceland between the games to coach, the season in Iceland didn't stop because of the Euros, as we didn't have any players from the Icelandic league in the national squad. I think we played three games in Iceland during the Euros.

Getting the sack between those big Iceland games...it's just life, or sport, ups and downs.

The ecstasy of the England game helped banish those lingering regrets, with Gudmundr admitting that it was something he had agreed to think would never happen, as it had eluded every Icelandic international prior. This includes Gudmundr himself, who was capped ten times between 1994 and 2001:

It was an unbelievable feeling. Something I didn't believe that I would live to see, a small nation like Iceland playing at the European Championships. It was huge, and in my opinion the biggest sporting moment in Icelandic history.

I definitely think it will help Icelandic football in the years to come: it gives every young player a dream. They saw their heroes do it at the Euros last summer, and I think it will help our young players as they know it is possible now. Everybody wants to be the next Gylfi Sigurdsson, and everybody wants to go to the Euros or World Cup finals, and everyone wants to repeat last summer.

Of course we had our heroes, but they never made it to the finals, and that was my dream as a young boy. It didn't happen, because my teammates weren't good enough and I had to do it all myself! I'm kidding, of course. But we had this dream, and everybody has this dream, and it didn't happen for us, but I'm just happy they did it last summer.

Today, Gudmundr maintains his desire to return to coaching, while he maintains his commentary duties along with hosting Iceland's version of Match of the Day. He admires the impact Andy Gray and latterly Gary Neville have had on commentary around the world, but when I ask if he consciously modeled his commentary on anyone else, this is his response:

No. I just tried to be myself. Everybody else is taken.

Listen to the interview in full on this week's edition of the Balls.ie Football Show. 

 

 

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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