Euro 2016: Heroes' welcome for Iceland's band of Viking warriors

Members of the Iceland team are feted by fans as they are taken through the streets of Reykjavik, the national capital, on an open-top bus on Monday on their return from Euro 2016. The smallest nation at the tournament had stunned fans and pundits by
Members of the Iceland team are feted by fans as they are taken through the streets of Reykjavik, the national capital, on an open-top bus on Monday on their return from Euro 2016. The smallest nation at the tournament had stunned fans and pundits by reaching the quarter-finals.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

REYKJAVIK • Iceland's footballers received a heroes' welcome on returning home on Monday following their astonishing run to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals in France.

Their plane flew low over the capital Reykjavik before landing at Keflavik International Airport, where the local fire services gave them a fire hose guard of honour with water arcs creating a rainbow.

Striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who scored a consolation goal in the crushing 5-2 defeat by the hosts at the Stade de France on Sunday, said he was happy to be home.

"It was a dream come true to get that support," he said of the estimated 30,000 fans - some 10 per cent of the population - who followed the nation in France.

"We experienced something simply wonderful, it was a dream come true and we are proud to have brought such cheer to our country," he said, adding that the friendly behaviour of the fans had done the country proud.

The players were then paraded through the streets of the capital on an open-top bus in the direction of Arnarholl Park, to celebrate with their fans and do their famous Viking war cry.

Meanwhile, midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson hopes to open talks with Swansea City over a new contract in the wake of his performances for Iceland.

The 26-year-old played every minute of his country's five matches at Euro 2016, scoring against Hungary in the group stage and providing a constant threat from set-pieces.

Sigurdsson, who moved to Swansea from Tottenham Hotspur for £6.8 million (S$11.9 million) in 2014, having enjoyed a loan spell at the Liberty Stadium in 2012, is contracted for a further two seasons and was instrumental in instigating an upturn in form over the second half of last term.

"I've got another couple of years left on my contract and I'm very happy, I'm not running away. There haven't been talks with Swansea yet because of the Euros but hopefully I'll get a call this week," he said.

Sigurdsson also suggested that his fellow Iceland players should take this opportunity to further their careers, especially in Europe's elite leagues.

"All of the players want to play in the Premier League," he said.

"I think it's about being in the right place at the right time. If someone wants to take a chance, then I would definitely say give them a go. They are good guys, good personalities and good players.

"It's been a fantastic three or four weeks for us and it's up to the players if they want to experience this again."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2016, with the headline 'Heroes' welcome for Iceland's band of Viking warriors'. Print Edition | Subscribe