So the 1 Nil Down 2 One Up antidote for the frustrations of the transfer window returns as my Global Gooner Passion series 2013 continues. Today we are still in Europe as we move across the continent from Belgium to Iceland. Probably not the first country you might think of when you consider hotbeds of Arsenal support perhaps? Well perhaps my friend Guðni Þorsteinn Guðjónsson might alter that view once you have read my interview with him…….
GD6 6 – Firstly I would like to get a feel for the following in Iceland of the Premier League. Are all the games on TV and do most fans have an Icelandic side and an English side?
Guðni – Here in Iceland the English Premier League is widely followed. I think it’s the most popular “show” in TV over the long and dark winter. People that follow EPL look forward to the weekend to watch their favourite football team. There’s one TV station here that broadcast games both on Saturdays and Sundays. The match on Monday is broadcasted as well. After the matches on Sunday we have a special show where we go over what had happened over the weekend. Similar to Match of the day. The Champions League is also well covered. I think it’s fair to say that every fan that follows the EPL has its favourite team. A country of only 300 thousand people it has been quite amazing to see how many great players we’ve had in the league. Eiður Gudjohnsen at Chelsea obviously is our biggest star and next season we’ll have two players in the league, the captain of the national team, Aron Gunnarsson at Cardiff and Gylfi Sigurðsson at Tottenham.
GD66 – Where do Arsenal stand in the affections of the Icelandic Premier loving community?
Guðni – Manchester United and Liverpool is the most supported clubs in the country. I would say that Arsenal is slight behind those two. Then come Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Everton and Aston Villa for example.
GD66 – Has Arsenal support or the membership of the supporters club/s suffered in the barren trophy years?
Guðni – Yes it has. People want to see trophies again; they miss the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp etc. Icelandic Gunners have two Facebook groups that I’m a part of. I would say that it simply equal between groups that wants Arséne to stay and who want to see him leave. I’ve been torn between both groups quite often over the past few years. I’ve said that I want to see Arséne leave because we have no ambition. We have seen clubs around us, clubs that we used to compete with on all courses, splash the cash and win titles. But after rethinking I’ve always come down with the same conclusion. I hope Arséne stays as long as he can. We will win a trophy someday and I don’t want to see another manager than Wenger to lift that trophy. But oh yes we and I have suffered it has taken its toll on me. Most of my mates support Manchester United and they’ve been extremely boring for the past few years.
GD66 – So now to you Guðni tell us a little bit about yourself.
Guðni – I am born in the merry month of May in 1988 in Reykjavík, Iceland. My first memory is probably when my grandparents gave me jersey of the Dutch national team. I’ve probably been around 3 years of age then and that’s when I got interested in football. My dad took me to my first football practice when I was 6 and after that my life has been about sports. I played football for about 15 years but I decided to quit due to injuries. My right ankle is a mess since I’ve torn the ligaments twice. I decided to play golf instead a sport that I started playing when I was 8 when I got my first golf club it was a 7 iron. Most of the time in summer I’m playing golf and trying to lower my handicap, it takes time but it’s definitely worth it. Whether it’s football, golf, basketball or even snooker in TV I need to watch. Some would say I’m a sports fanatic. I like music as well and listen mostly to 80s and 90s stuff. My favourite bands are The Smiths, The Clash, Stone Roses and Guns N Roses. I went to Reykjavik University in 2008 and studied business administration. I graduated and got a B.Sc. degree in January 2012. Now I’m working as a sales representative in a phone company. My favourite team here in Iceland plays in the Icelandic Premier League. Its name is KR Reykjavík. We are the most successful club in the country with 25 league titles and 13 cups. In 2011 we won the league for the first time since 2003. We won the cup as well and it was on the 100th anniversary of our rivals. We won the cup again last season and now we’re 5 points clear at the top after 9 games after eight and one draw. However last but not least, I’m a Gooner and I’m proud of it. I wasn’t born a Gooner, I chose to be a Gooner and I have never regretted that.
GD66 – Can you describe how and when your love affair with the Arsenal begun? Was it love at first sight, a slow burner or was their one moment or one player perhaps? I only recall Siggi Jonsson as an Arsenal link?
Guðni – We’ve had a few players that have played for The Arsenal. The first one, Albert Gudmundsson, played in 1946/1947 season. He is our first ever professional footballer. He played I think two games for Arsenal. Siggi Jonsson as you mention played as well and then there was a youngster that joined the club in 2001. Olafur Ingi Skulason then 18 years old only played in one game. He came on as a substitute against Wolves in the League Cup in 2003. In the same match we saw Cesc Fabregas score his first ever goal for the club. But those players are not the reason why I support Arsenal. It all started on a sunny day in May. I was going to my first match at Highbury, I was 10 years old and the match was against Everton. Me and my father who has supported Arsenal since 1971 went to our first match together and we sat in the North Bank. This is an experience that I will never forget. The atmosphere, the build up ahead of the match, to walk in the North Bank and see the green grass and the team warming up. It was love at first sight. To see my then favourite player Marc Overmars tear the Everton defence apart and the cherry on the top and to see our captain lift the premier league trophy after he’d sealed the match in front of the North Bank was just amazing.
Since then I’ve been a Gooner and I can thank my mom and dad because for my 10th birthday they decided to give me a trip to Highbury. Since then I watch every Arsenal match that I can see. I read any news regarding Arsenal, I follow hundreds of Arsenal supporters on Twitter so I think it’s fair to say that I live and breathe for Arsenal.
GD66 – Is there an official Arsenal Supporters Club over there and are you involved?
Guðni – Yes and I’m a member. Last year the club celebrated its 30th anniversary. A group of 200 Icelandic supporters went together to see Arsenal against QPR in late October. Saw the return of Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta’s late winner. The club always choose the player of the season and the chairman gives that player an award from the club. Thierry Henry was once presented a taxidermied puffin from the club. There are around 3000-3500 registered members in the club, which is around 1% of the entire population in Iceland.
GD66 – If so do they organise activities or indeed get you all together to watch matches
Guðni – Yes some members get together and watch matches. I prefer to watch matches at home but sometimes I like to go to a pub and grab a pint over a match. Arsenal matches are usually in some side rooms at pubs and the place is crowded by Man Utd and Liverpool supporters and I don’t like that. But we as members of the club should definitely meet more often; I think it would be fun.
GD66 = Have you travelled over to see games either on your own or with others? Have you been able to do this often? Perhaps once a season?
Guðni – Yes I’ve been to both Highbury and The Emirates. My first match was in 1998 as said before and my second was in February 2004 against Charlton. Both times I went with my dad. My first time at The Emirates was in November 2008 when my dad and I got to see Arsenal play against Fenerbahce in the Champions League and then Manchester United few days later. My first North London Derby came in October 2009. My girlfriend and I went together, she’s a Gooner like me, and it was her second match. In 2010/2011 season I didn’t go to a league match but I went to Wembley with my dad and saw us lose in the League Cup final against Birmingham. In February 2012 I saw us against Blackburn and this year I went in January to see us against Manchester City. I try to go every season and now I’m hoping to make the last home game against West Bromwich Albion.
GD66 – Is there one player in your time supporting Arsenal that is your personal favourite or perhaps there is more than one? Also tell us why?
Guðni – There have been so many. Marc Overmars is one of my favourite players of all time. His pace and how he tore apart defences was simply amazing to watch. I’ve always been an admirer of Tony Adams. He was the leader and the captain we have been missing for a long time. Dennis Bergkamp is probably the greatest player I’ve seen and one of my favourite and Cesc Fabregas as well. But my all-time favourite is Thierry Henry our record goalscorer. He’s in my opinion the greatest player that has ever played in the premier league. I’ve never understood why he wasn’t chosen as the best player in the world at the time. He won us so many games and he scored so many goals in all colours. His hattrick I was fortunate enough to see him score at Highbury and The Emirates. I went absolutely mental last year against Blackburn when he scored his final goal for the club in his final home game. When he was sold I got so depressed but he came back few years later and it was great to see him again. So of all the players that have played for Arsenal since I started following the club my favourite players are Tony Adams, Marc Overmars, Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas and Thierry Henry. Of our current team my favourite is Jack Wilshere.
GD66 – What has been the stand out moment or moments for you since you have followed Arsenal?
Guðni – My dad has told me stories about Anfield ‘89. He says he still got goose bumps when he thinks of that game. I wish I had been born earlier! My standout moment as a Gooner? That must be the double in ’98 and to witness us winning the league. The Invincibles comes next. The greatest football team in the history of the league no doubt. It was such a privilege to watch them play. I have to mention Old Trafford in 2002 as well. Paris 2006 is also on my mind. Not the match itself or the result but because Arsenal played in the Champions League Final which seemed impossible at the time. Henry’s goal at the Bernabeu, the battle between Fabregas and his mentor Patrick Vieira at Highbury, Jens Lehmann’s save at El Madrigal. Yes, I think this comes third even though we lost the final in Paris, I was just proud to be a Gooner.
GD66 – Is there any particular signing/s you would like to see this summer ahead of the new season?
Guðni – A goalkeeper is a must. We saw that Szczesny somewhat stagnated last season since there wasn’t any challenging for the spot. Fabianski did well when he played but I think a better goalkeeper than him is a must. I’ve always been a fan of Pepe Reina but I think Liverpool won’t sell him to us. Julio Cesar is a name that we should be aware of right now and he ticks all the boxes. He has experience, he’s young for a goalkeeper, van der Sar joined United at the age of 35, he’s been playing at the highest level for a long time so I think he would be a great addition to our team and Szczesny could learn a lot from him. I would like to see a new centre back but I don’t have anyone specific in mind.
Since Arteta was moved in Song’s position when he was sold we struggled a bit in the midfield. I would love to see a new addition there. Always been an admirer of Marouane Fellaini and I said in January when I was at The Emirates watching the match vs City that he was a player I would like to see in our team. He’s big and strong and he scores goals, something that we lack in midfield. Ilkay Gundogan in Dortmund and Luiz Gustavo in Bayern Munchen would be great as well. Having said all that of all the midfielders in the world, I want Cesc to come back home. Hopefully that will happen someday.
In addition we desperately need a striker. Giroud had a fine first season but really we didn’t have any backup for him. We’ve been linked with a few strikers this summer most notably Higuain and Rooney. I want to see them both but if I am being realistic there’s no chance of getting them both, maybe one of them. Higuain is a fantastic player with immense goal scoring record for both club and country. We all know of Rooney’s ability on the pitch. Another one that has been linked to us is Robert Lewandowski and he can score goals! If I would choose one of out those three I would pick Rooney. So to conclude I want to see Cesar, Cesc and Rooney this summer. Bit realistic ha!
GD66 – What are you hopes/aspirations for Arsenal for 2013/14?
Guðni – I sincerely hope that we win a title. If we add some players to our squad and keep all of last season’s squad I think we have a great chance of winning the FA Cup or League Cup. I don’t think we have good enough squad to win the title but we should be able to at least challenge for it if we buy some good players.
GD66 – Would you like to have more Gunners around the world follow you on twitter?
Guðni – Of course! One of the reasons why I joined Twitter was to communicate to other Gooners around the world. One of my followers got me two tickets to a match last year against Blackburn. We met two hours ahead of the match at The Arsenal Tavern and chatted Arsenal and stuff. It was great and it would be awesome if I could meet some of my followers when I visit next time, hopefully next season. I have a few foreign followers and mostly Gooners but I don’t understand why they follow me because 99% of my tweets are in Icelandic. But feel free to follow me I’m @gudnigudjons and I’m always up for a chat about Arsenal.
Thanks Guoni. Great interview indeed and a fabulous addition to the list of ‘Global Gooner Passion’ pieces on 1ND2OU. Proud to have this blog on my site and proud as always at our worldwide support and fans.
Ensure to follow and interact with Guoni on twitter @gudnigudjons
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