Make a killing playing soccer in Iceland
Iceland is that island in the Atlantic Ocean where everyone knows each other, or can. The slightly more than 350,000 citizens have at their disposal a telephone database to contact anyone, including the president or the prime minister. When someone dies, whoever they are, their obituary is published in the newspaper with the largest circulation. The tradition on Christmas Eve is to give away books and ten percent of the population ends up publishing what they write. The weather is unpredictable and the pools are going to get hot. They don’t have an army either, but it’s been 50 years now in its capital, Reykjavik, one of the great battles of the Cold War between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer was fought with the world chess championship at stake.
The journalist Anthony Adeane, author of a ‘best seller’ on this unique territory, says that for centuries foreigners were not allowed to spend the winter there and were forced to leave in September. And that until not so distant 1995 they could only reside permanently if they renounced their last name and adopted a local one. Today, on the other hand, tourism accounts for more than a third of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And foreigners come en masse, also to work.
Football player Jose Javier Amat Domenech (Petrer, 1995), center back of Club Deportivo Guadalajara, has been one of them. He received an offer to play in the UMF Víkingur Ólafsvík, of the second division, and he didn’t think about it: it was planted there last July. He arrived halfway through the competition along with two other Spaniards (Simón Colina and Juan José Ducó) and two more foreigners. The club was at the bottom and tried to avoid relegation by importing higher quality raw materials. He didn’t get it. “We knew it was difficult because the league is very short. We live it as an adventure, “he acknowledges.
«For footballers of my level, summers tend to be a bit long. If you haven’t signed for any team yet, it’s like you’re not calm. I don’t like to wait too long; I had been standing at home for a month and the option of going to Iceland came up. The economic conditions were good and it is a country that, apart from football, I wanted to visit, “he explains.
Ólafsvík is a small town of 1,000 souls and a few animals to the west of the island, two and a half hours from Reykjavík. The landscape painted by Joseja Amat is quite similar to what must be in paradise: «The area is surrounded by almost wild nature. Mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rivers, volcanoes, something brutal. About local society, he adds: «It’s another roll. Everyone leaves the keys in the car and in the gardens of the houses there are bikes and children’s toys. Nobody there is going to take anything from you that isn’t theirs and, if they find it, they’re going to give it back to you. In that aspect, it is an enviable country.
Amat trained in the lower categories of Hércules de Alicante. He made his debut with CD Eldense in Segunda B, but a large part of his career has been spent in the Third Division: he has played for the Castilian-La Mancha side Atlético Ibañés and UB Conquense, the Galician side UD Somozas and the Valencian side Atlético Saguntino. Before emigrating to Iceland, in 2018 he had already experienced crossing borders. Then he went to JS Hercules, from the Finnish Second Division.
«I remember that I arrived in April and it was all snowy. The first weeks we trained in covered fields. Although what most caught my attention was the schedules. At six in the morning, everyone is out on the street and, at five in the afternoon, the shops close. We ate at twelve and had dinner at five or five-thirty. The light was crazy. There were only about three hours of night in the summer and the sky did not go completely dark. In winter it is the other way around, of course, “he exposes.
Oulu, a city of about 200,000 inhabitants, halfway between Helsinki and Lapland, “full of parks” and in which “young people try by all means not to take the car and cycle everywhere.” JS Hercules had established an alliance with Deportivo Alavés to be a kind of subsidiary, so Amat landed in Finland with four teammates and two Spanish coaches. Thus, adaptation was ‘easier’.
In northern Europe, the competition covers only the months of good weather. The level of the Second Icelandic or Finnish division resembles that of the Spanish Third. Therefore, it is not uncommon for dozens of national players to sign for one of these clubs at the end of the season in our country. The advantages are obvious: enjoy a unique experience while earning extra money doing what they like the most, which is playing football. In addition, they feel one hundred percent professional there, when in Spain defaults continue to be the order of the day.
At the moment, Dépor Guadalajara is free of suspicion. Amat signed in October and found a team that is on the way to promotion, the intractable leader of the Castilian-La Mancha Third Division. “Apart from the fact that there are very good players, the good people in the squad, in the coaching staff and in the rest of the staff are essential. We spend a lot of time together. We arrive early, we have breakfast, we train and we all eat too. That adds points,” he says.
Do you see yourself outside of Spain again?
I don’t know, really, but of course I recommend it. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different. Although if you like meeting people, seeing the world and you can do it taking advantage of football, I think it’s something interesting.