Mar
07
2008
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Iceland – Incredible Numbers

Today, some 50 Icelandic footballers earn a living abroad in addition to a number of young players who are learning their trade at the football academies of some top European clubs. Given the country’s small population, these are incredible numbers. The question of why so many talented players emerge from Iceland, of all places, is one that intrigues Sigurdsson. “Perhaps the Icelanders were at the front of the queue when talent was being handed out,” he surmises with a wink. “We’re among the best in the world in many other disciplines, after all.”
He is not wrong. This small country produced ten chess grandmasters in one century, it boasts a Nobel Laureate in Literature and is home to enterprising billionaires whose wealth exceeds the current national budget several times over. No other country in the world has such a high percentage of literati and poets, and the handball hall of fame is packed with Icelanders.
Those who dismiss supernatural forces when seeking to explain this unusual accumulation ma}’ find an answer in evolutionary biology and what some call the “island phenomenon”. Darwin disciples use this term to describe notable biodiversity hotspots on isolated islands such as the Galapagos archipelago and Madagascar. Nowhere else are there so many species so perfect!}’ adapted to their habitat, highly specialised and equipped with particular abilities. It cannot be proven whether a talent for playing football is also an evolutionary speciality, but there is something to the thesis. Over the years, Icelanders have learned to come to terms with volcanic natural disasters and extremes of climate; hard work and austerity have shaped their lives. Only the toughest can survive in such conditions, which inevitably finds its reflection in the gene pool. Most Hallclors, Finnbogis and Gudjohns are tall and athletically built, their female counterparts often Valkytian in appearance.