Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman, this is The World. Nail-biting time for many soccer fans out there. It’s the World Cup playoffs, which means that over the next week national teams will do battle to try and snag one of the few remaining tickets to next year’s World Cup in Brazil. The smallest nation with a dog still in this fight is Iceland. They’re up against Croatia. Now Iceland has a very small population, and a small stable of professional players to choose from. And yet, there they are, with a chance, however slim, of making it to Rio. That’s more than Ireland can boast. The Irish national team has already been eliminated, and most Irish fans are already looking well beyond Rio. But not Eoin Conlon. Over beers with a Brazilian co-worker in Dublin recently, Conlon started wondering out loud about throwing his support behind Iceland.
Eoin Conlon: We just sort of laughed, but it’s the closest Ireland’s going to get to go on to Brazil.
Werman: Conlon and his friend worked for a digital design firm, so they did what comes naturally. They built a website in support of Iceland’s soccer team. Then they started up a Twitter feed and started urging Irish soccer fans to back Iceland. The campaign is called County Iceland. Ireland already has 32 counties, so Conlon says why not make Iceland the 33rd?
Conlon: There’s only 320,000 people in Iceland, so if they were a county in Ireland, I’m calling them the 33rd county, they’d only be the fifth largest county in Ireland. It’s incredible success they’ve had, and hopefully it continues.
Werman: Conlon says the website is just a bit of fun. All a visitor has to do is click a support button. The site also introduces Irish fans to the Iceland lineup. Although they’ve added a few Os here and there, so that for example Icelandic forward GuÃ°johnsen is now o’GuÃ°johnsen. Conlon’s also conveniently changed some of the traditional Irish soccer chants to make them Iceland-friendly. He says some people are questioning his Irish patriotism, but for the most part everyone’s taking it in the spirit it’s intended, as a bit of fun, and a way to forget about Ireland’s failed qualifying campaign. Although Conlon does admit to having something of an ongoing love affair with the Icelandic soccer team.
Conlon: My relationship with them started many years ago. My first international match was Ireland Iceland. Finished nil-nil. It was a terrible match, so I think that’s when the story of Eoin and Iceland begins. It was around a fifteen year hiatus, but now we’re back together.
Werman: Isn’t that sweet? The County Iceland site’s only been live since Sunday, but already more than ten thousand visitors have become supporters. Conlon says he can’t believe the site’s gotten this much attention, but now he says why not try to get as many supporters on the site as Iceland has people? He notes that if Iceland does manage to beat Croatia, it will become the least populous nation to ever qualify for a World Cup. Previous record holder? Trinidad and Tobago. So, what’s left to say butâ€¦
Conlon: Go on Iceland!
Werman: Conlon also admits that Icelanders find his site pretty darn weird. But hey, given how few of them they are, they’ll probably take all the support they can get. You can check out some of Conlon’s Iceland-friendly soccer chants at pri.org.