Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja is quite a mouthful so I’ll be referring to them as ÍBV from now on. I had been to Iceland twice before and caught a glimpse of these islands off the south coast.
I managed to persuade my missus to go back to Iceland in September of 2016 and we spent four nights in Vestmannaeyjar, or the Westman Islands as everybody calls them in English. Apparently the West Men were the Irish.
To get to Vestmannaeyjar is not the easiest task. You can get to the ferry by car but we decided to use public transport this time. From central Reykjavík you make your way to a bus station at Mjódd in the south east of the city. From there it is a 2 1/2 hour run to the new ferry terminal at Landeyjahöfn in the south, and a 40 minute crossing aboard the ferry Herjólfur. This takes you to Heimaey, the main island with a population of 4000. Although the new harbour at Landeyjahöfn makes for a very short crossing, it is vulnerable in certain weathers. When the weather is not suitable the ferry goes from the old terminal at Þorlákshöfn and takes 2 3/4 hours, although Þorlákshöfn is much nearer Reykjavík so the bus journey is short.
So after piddling around Reykjavík for most of the day, we got the bus from Mjódd at 4.30 and got to Landeyjahöfn around 7pm. By the time we sailed, our introduction to Heimaey was in the dark. Luckily our hotel was only a couple of hundred yards from the ferry.
Heimaey is only about 7km long and has an area of about 13 sq km so there’s no problem getting around. The first view we got when we looked out of the window next morning was Eldfell, 200m high.
This mountain only appeared in 1973 after a volcanic eruption which buried about 400 houses in lava and ash, and added about 2 sq km to the east side of the island. The islanders had to evacuate. Helgafell (227m) is the neighbour of Eldfell but is positively ancient at 6000 years.
Today, the lava forms a visible barrier to the east of the town, and it is easy to climb up 10m or so and overlook the town from it. If you carry on and climb Eldfell, maybe, like me, you can stand on a mountain which is younger than you 😉
Meanwhile, back in 1973, the harbour was saved by pouring billions of gallons of seawater on the lava which threatened to envelop the whole harbour area. This harbour accounts for over a third of Iceland’s fish catch.
During our 4 days on Heimaey we got around a fair bit despite the poor weather, including a walk to the lighthouse at Stórhöfði at the south end, which claims to be the windiest place in Europe. We climbed Eldfell, where it is red-brown basalt gravel underfoot, and apparently if you were to dig down 1 metre it would be about 800 degrees C.
ÍBV are the island team. They have won the Icelandic championship, or Úrvalsdeild, currently known as the Pepsi Deild, in 1979, 1997 and in 1998, when they did the double.
I knew that ÍBV had a fixture arranged for Thursday 15th, against Stjarnan from Reykjavík. Stjarnan had faced Celtic the previous season and after we returned to Reykjavík I was able to catch one of their games at the Samsungvöllur before we went home. Stjarnan were to finish second to FH in the league.
ÍBV had faced Hearts in 2000 but the Hásteinsvöllur had no stand and was not suitable at the time so the game was played at the national stadium in Reykjavík where only 815 turned up. The stadium was renovated in 2012 so I assume that’s when the covered stand was built. The capacity of the Hásteinsvöllur is listed as 2834 with 534 seated. Man of many clubs, goalkeeper David James, was player-coach at ÍBV in 2013 before retiring.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Samsungvöllur experience didn’t come near the magical heights that the Hásteinsvöllur reached.
On the Thursday afternoon I sauntered up to the Hásteinsvöllur for the 5pm kickoff, taking advantage of a welcome break in the weather. To my dismay there was a board on the way to the ground which, with my limited knowledge of Icelandic, seemed to be saying that there was no game. I saw the home team having a training session and had a chat with one of the players. The Stjarnan team had not been able to make it due to ferry disruption.
The good news was that the game would be played on the Friday evening instead. So the following afternoon it was take two. The weather was even better so I mostly retook all the photos from before.
The game was played out in heavy showers alternating with blinding sunshine. Stjarnan, in blue, led in 16 minutes through Guðjón Baldvinsson, who celebrated with a small knot of away fans. After much pressure and many missed chances, the home team finally equalised after an hour through Aron Bjarnason.
The home fans took heart from this and for a while it looked like their team might go on and grab the winner, but their hopes were dashed in 72 minutes when Baldvinsson restored the Stjarnan lead with a lob from outside the box. The crowd was given as 403 on the excellent Soccerway website.
The white shirts of ÍBV pushed for a point but it wasn’t to be. Full time ÍBV 1 Stjarnan 2.
I can’t leave ÍBV without a short report on the fan experience! Admission was free. During my trip i went to 2 other Pepsi Dield matches in Reykjavík where the admission was 1500 ÍKR (about £11). On the way in you could help yourself to laminated ‘clappers’ which had a team photo on one side and a club badge on the reverse. These concertina-ed to make a noisy clapping aid and again were free, so I brought back a few for the mates 🙂
There was one fan who was completely driven by his passion for the team and started the same frenzied chant every few minutes. To me it sounded like ‘eBay Vuff’ till I realised that’s how they pronounced ÍBV…
You can just about see the clapper in the photos:
We were sorry to leave Heimaey on the Sunday morning ferry at 8.30. We’re used to crossing the Minch in all seasons, but although the sea didn’t seem rough, the conditions were unsuitable for landing at Landeyjahöfn, and so we had the longer journey to Þorlákshöfn on the mainland. It was a fine autumnal morning with great views to the Eyjafjallajökull glacier on the mainland, and back to the magical island of Elliðaey.