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September 12, 2021

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Iceland’s football fairytale tarnished by scandal

MINNOWS Iceland became the darlings of the football world when they beat England to reach the Euro 2016 quarter-finals and then qualified for the 2018 World Cup, but the fairytale has been tainted by a sexual assault scandal rocking the tiny nation.

The scandal has led to questions about whether some people went too far to protect the team’s image in blatant disregard of justice.

Iceland, a country of 370,000, was stunned and angered last month by revelations of sexual assault and harassment after 25-year-old Thorhildur Gyda Arnarsdottir accused a national squad player of grabbing her by the crotch and neck and making obscene remarks at a Reykjavik nightclub in 2017.

The player was later identified as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who shares the national scoring record with 26 goals.

Arnarsdottir also said she knew of at least six other players involved in assaults.

The Icelandic Football Association (KSI) has been accused of inaction.

Following the revelations, KSI belatedly admitted it was informed this summer of a gang rape that allegedly occurred in 2010, and of other accusations against players.

In a nation that regularly ranks highly in women’s rights, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdottir, who is seeking re-election at the end of the month, said she was “saddened to see that it took all of this to trigger this series of events.”

Sigthorsson, who plays for the Swedish team IFK Goteborg, scored in the famous 2-1 win over England at Euro 2016.

Expelled from the national team and then suspended by IFK Goteborg, the striker has denied the nature of the allegations but admitted in a statement he reached a financial settlement with Arnarsdottir in 2018.

“What I found shocking and interesting was that there were several allegations against players on the same team,” said Vidar Halldorsson, a University of Iceland professor of sociology specializing in sports. “I tend to look at it more as a cultural thing rather than just isolated incidents.”

Arnarsdottir chose to come forward with her account after KSI chairman Gudni Bergsson said in a television interview the association had not been informed of any sexual assault allegations against players.


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