I have entirely favorable memories of Iceland — I’d like to go back someday. But then I get this news that sends mixed messages. The national men’s football team is a horror off the field.
Arnarsdottir told national broadcaster RUV that she and another woman were sexually assaulted in a club in Reykjavík by a well-known player from the Icelandic national team in September of 2017. Both women were left injured and filed police complaints the next day, she said. Arnarsdottir’s family also informed the soccer federation and her parents spoke to Bergsson directly, she added.
The allegations threw Bergsson and the soccer federation into a crisis and put new attention on similar accusations against current and former players on Iceland’s national team. Those accounts include allegations that some players perpetrated a gang rape roughly 10 years ago.
But wait! There’s more! The chair of the Football Association of Iceland had declared that there hadn’t ever been any reports of sexual assaults by the team. Oh, this is familiar: the president of the James Randi foundation also tried to claim that there hadn’t been any reports of harassment at their annual meeting, and boy, did that backfire when women raised their hand to say that they had filed reports. Was the organization in the habit of sweeping any unflattering accusations under the rug?
You can guess what happened one day after the denial.
One day after that interview on national television, Thorhildur Gyda Arnarsdottir spoke out on the same network to say Bergsson’s denial was false, saying that both he and the federation were well informed about an incident she reported four years ago.
You might be thinking there’s nothing like a mixed message in this story — it’s all bad. But there is one positive outcome.
The entire board of Iceland’s soccer federation has abruptly resigned after being accused of mishandling allegations of sexual assault committed by players on the national team — and of covering up at least one alleged incident. The board also issued an apology to the victims, saying it believes them and promising to do better.
Iceland seems to have a culture of accountability. Just to remind you, 40 years ago they had a massive economic crash, and they responded by throwing those responsible in jail.
Unlike all other nations with capitalist-run economies, Icelanders refused to bail out the criminal bankers. Parliament passed emergency legislation to take over the major banks domestic operations and established new banks to handle them. The government, however, did not take over any of the foreign assets or obligations. Those stayed with the original banks gone bankrupt.1
Folk got behind recovery. Many politicians now listened to the people and refused to cut back on social services. People utilized their natural resources to attract the tech industry. Commercial fishing remained strong. The tourist industry bloomed. The International Monetary Fund conceded that Iceland “surpassed pre-crisis output levels”.
Best of all, Icelanders jailed the criminal bankers. By early 2016, 26 bankers had been sentenced to a total of 74 years in prison. Charges ranged from breach of fiduciary duties to market manipulation and embezzlement (thievery). The average sentence was from four to five and one-half years.
See? They do things right. Let’s hope their football team can respond properly and do better.