Veronica Smeltzer Diary: My Icelandic Adventure, Part Five

Expectations. Predictions. Ideologies.

Prior to the start of a season, these words echoed around the town of Grindavík. It seemed as if ghosts of last season appeared, leaving an unsettling feeling around the fate of the team. After finishing in second-to-last place in the first division last year, our club was relegated. Despite that though, we are expected to finish at the top of the second league this summer, promoting to where we were one year ago. Though mere words, they hold an abundance of weight; enough to pressure the strongest of teams, and ignite a spark to meet such beliefs and intentions.

Preseason ratings are always fun to read and decipher; which teams have gotten what players, who finished in what position last season, changes in coaching staff. It all creates a buzz around women’s’ football, which in all honesty, is much needed today.

In Iceland, this season started full of excitement. With the first round of the Mjólkurbikarinn Cup (Milk Cup), and over a month since the team had played together due to the global pandemic, Grindavík started the 2020 season with a 5-0 win over Fram, a newly added team to the second division in Iceland. However, what started as a great game slowly deteriorated due to the opposing team’s goalkeeper going down with a serious head injury in the 55th minute. Paramedics arrived to the scene and c-spined the athlete, placing a cervical collar on her and spine boarding the athlete in the case of a serious injury. The game was soon put to an end goal after goal, due to a loss of focus from both teams after the tragic event.  As glad as we were for the win, it was not the statement we wanted.

Sadly, it was our second game of the Milk Cup that the tides turned. It seemed that we as a team were to fall, and in the same fashion in which we had won last match- a 5-0 loss to a team in the first division. The game was a battle; from the moment the whistle was blown in the first half, each team had their moments to capitalize and take the lead. The game remained in a state of eb and flow, that is until Augnablik scored off of a corner towards the end of the first 45 minutes. From the start of the second half though, it was goal, after goal, after goal. Defensive break downs, an error on my part, and easy passes given to the opposing team sealed the game by the 55th minute.

I began to feel a little dejected. After this defeat, which unfortunately was by such a large margin, I had to look introspectively. With the global pandemic, I was unable to practice any goalkeeping unlike I had the year before prior to signing with Grindavík. No gyms were open before leaving, my college’s spring season had been cancelled where I was helping with practices and my former coach who I trained with unable to work with me. Thus, when I was finally cleared to play in Iceland, I was submerged quickly back into the world of goalkeeping and with no room to ease back into it.

Since I had been in quarantine my first two weeks, I was only able to complete drills and practices on my own in solitude. Though I could watch my team train and discuss tactics, drills, and goals for the season, it was done at a distance. Flashback to our 5-0 loss, I had to look at the positives of that game and what I did right, but also the areas I needed to improve on- and quickly too. This year was definitely starting off on a different note then last season. 

Having played four league games at this point, as a club, Grindavík currently sits tied for second place with six points. After losing our first two matches of league (close games, one that were heavily influenced by a red card, and the other a defeat at home still missing our red carded player), stress began to build throughout the board. Afterall, WE were picked to finish top of the table this year. How could we lose two straight matches?

Our team has had some wonderful support though this time, and many solutions were offered to help our dilemma.  After a visit from a sports psychologist, a few signings, and multiple team meetings, something has appeared to click. We went on to win our next two matches, and in style too. A 3-1 win over a team we had previously lost to the season before, and then a landslide 6-0 victory at home as our second win. The team’s confidence soared, and for the first time this season, every player agreed on one prominent factor- we had fun. Not simply because we won, but everything that had been practiced and rehearsed during training leading up to the match was well executed in the game. Maybe, it was all those expectations, predictions and ideologies that were weighing heavy. Now though, it appears as if the weight has been lifted.

With a two-week break until Grindavík’s next match, preparation is our main focus until then. Rest, focus on formations and tactics, but above all else, enjoy the process.

It’s time to prove why Grindavík is one of the top teams in this league.