With only one week remaining before the opening of the Union of European Football Association (UFEA) European Women’s Under-19 football championship, event organisers are looking forward to big crowds, good weather and friendly competition.
The football matches will be held at four pitches around Reykjavik from July 18th. Free football matches will be open to the public for a total of eleven days, including the finals and feature competition between seven European teams.
Klara Bjartmarz is the tournament director. She hopes that the games will encourage a spirit of camaraderie between the different teams. “We can expect a friendly finals,” she said. “The teams will all be staying at the same hotel so there will be a harmonious atmosphere with great facilities.”
Bjartmarz also hopes that by hosting the games in Iceland, it will encourage more local women to take up the sport. “We are very proud to be hosting a tournament of this quality in Iceland,” she commented. “We will try to use it as a way of inspiring young girls, of giving them goals to aim for. We want them to come and think ‘I want to be like that’.”
There are certainly plenty of opportunities for young women to play. With women’s teams increasingly offering good competition at matches all over Europe, there has also been an expansion in the development of sports facilities back at home. There are now 100 mini pitches in Iceland and five indoor pitches.
The indoor pitches are crucial to playing the game in a country which doesn’t get a lot of good weather. But event organisers are hopeful that this years championship won’t need the indoor facilities. “I can almost promise sunshine,” Bjartmarz said hopefully. “I’ve been in charge of three major tournaments and they’ve all been played in sunshine.
Bjartmarz is hoping that good weather and free football will coax Icelanders to come out and support the team. “Iceland is a small country with a population of just 300,000 so we can’t expect enormous crowds,” Bjartmarz concluded. “But it is free and football is the biggest sport in Iceland so we are hopeful.”