Tuesday 23 April 2024, 15:15

Youth development and infrastructure in focus as FIFA President meets Icelandic counterpart

  • Gianni Infantino and Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) President Thorvaldur Örlygsson meet at FIFA office in Paris, France

  • FIFA President calls KSÍ application to join FIFA's Talent Development Scheme "a major step"

  • Programme will reinforce KSÍ investment in youth development across the country

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has congratulated the new Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) President Thorvaldur Örlygsson on his recent election to the role and discussed how the north European nation is building its football future. Iceland men's national team reached the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-finals and qualified for the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time in 2018. The women's team has reached the last four UEFA Women's EURO final tournaments, and only just missed out on qualifying for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™, which would have been their first, losing to Portugal in the final play-off round. To ensure sustained success at international level, the KSÍ has implemented its own youth development strategy with the help of funding from the first two phases of the FIFA Forward Programme. They have now also applied to join FIFA's Talent Development Scheme (TDS), which aims to give every child in all 211 FIFA Member Associations the opportunity to maximise their talent en route to potentially becoming elite-level footballers. "It was fantastic to meet the President of the Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ), Thorvaldur Örlygsson in Paris and I congratulated him on his recent election. Everyone has seen the success of the country's senior national teams in recent years, and I am delighted that the KSÍ has put in place initiatives to ensure that success continues in the future with significant investment at the youth level," said Mr Infantino following the meeting in the FIFA office in Paris, France.

President Örlygsson, as a former international player himself, knows the importance of growing the game from the grassroots up, and the KSÍ’s application to join the Talent Development Scheme is certainly a major step to doing that. “Many thanks to everyone in Iceland working towards the development of the game and FIFA will always support you in taking football to more girls and boys in your country."

With a population of just over 360,000, Iceland's talent pool is limited in size. In a bid to maximise every drop of football ability within it, the KSÍ's own programme evaluates and monitors boys and girls around the country, especially in remote areas, from the age of 13 upwards. The most talented among them are then invited to join regional training sessions with specialised coaches. The TDS, which is headed by FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger, will reinforce and enhance the KSÍ's work by facilitating knowledge exchange, coach education and increased contact time with young players.

"There is great development in our youth systems. Our women’s team is developing well, so is our men’s team and we see a bright future," President Örlygsson said after having what he described as "a really constructive talk" with President Infantino. "[The KSÍ's strategy] is to continue what we have been doing and our clubs have done a great job for Icelandic football with the development of young players. Our national coaches, and the youth systems within our national teams, have supported that and continue on that path. But first and foremost, we have to continue the great work that our clubs have been doing over the years." The KSÍ has also focussed on infrastructure issues in recent years. It used USD 820,192 from their Forward 3.0 entitlement to replace the LED system at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium in Reykjavik after the original system was badly damaged in January 2023.

Mr Örlygsson said he had discussed with President Infantino the next step in upgrading facilities. "We also spoke about our most important topic, which is our pitch issues," he explained. "It is a great beginning for us to get the support from FIFA President Infantino, to hear he is willing to support projects such as that of our pitch issues and our football in general."

FIFA President Gianni Infantino alongside (L-R) FIFA Director Member Associations Europe Elkhan Mammadov, Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) President Thorvaldur Örlygsson and FIFA Secretary General ad interim Mattias Grafström