Afrám Ísland: how social media is powering Iceland’s Euro 2016 campaign

With a population a little over twice that of Norwich, Iceland is by far the smallest nation ever to have qualified for a major football tournament. On the pitch their excellent efforts so far have belied their tiny stature, but in the world of social media they are on course to win the tournament hands-down.

On Tuesday 14th June, as Iceland prepared to take on Portugal in their first-ever match in the European Championships, few people had heard of a tiny English-language magazine called Reykjavik Grapevine. However, the social media manager in control of @rvkgrapevine was about to change all that…

The tweets started coming thick and fast, playing humorously on Iceland’s proud heritage – the centuries-old Icelandic ‘sagas’ that form an integral part of their folklore were rebranded under the hashtag #EuroSaga, and applied liberally to Iceland’s contemporary sporting combat.1

As the match against Portugal progressed, and Iceland surprised their illustrious opponents with a resilient defensive display, the tweets gained in both frequency and intensity while retaining their ironic and light-hearted demeanour. Then, they struck gold: “AND NOW WE SMITE THEM INTO TINY PIECES OF DUST & DESTROY THEIR GOAL WITH A BALL SET ON FIRE BY OUR VOLCANIC THUNDER.”

As the ‘retweet snowball’ gathered momentum, so too did Iceland’s performance – despite having conceded a goal in the first half, they struck back early in the second. “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAJHHHHHHHHHHHHHTHJJJHJKHKJHH”, came the guttural roar from the Grapevine, shortly followed by: “Ahem. If Twitter is inviting you to translate that goal tweet from Turkish, tell them it was a Viking battle roar.”2
And so it continued. Upon Iceland’s securing a wonderful 1-1 draw, Portugal’s (and, indeed, the world’s) box-office footballing sensation Cristiano Ronaldo criticised Iceland’s ‘small’ mentality for the manner in which they celebrated their phenomenal result. Enough sour grapes to fill a vineyard, and Grapevine themselves filled their boots. Within 24 hours, #RonaldoTears was all over the Twittersphere.

For Iceland’s second match against Hungary, the rhetoric intensified. “Smiting” became synonymous with Iceland’s campaign, as the northern invaders were portrayed as a conquering horde of primal warriors rather than a somewhat inexperienced team of footballers. Twitter users in their droves were sending photos of offerings (mostly in the form of meat and spirits) to Óðinn, the ‘Allfather’ of Norse mythology, in an attempt to drive the Grapevine’s social media gurus to ever greater levels of pathos.4

I could easily compile a Top 40 of my favourite Grapevine tweets of the tournament so far, but as far as I’m concerned the Euro 2016 trophy for social media excellence has already been won by a landslide – nay, an avalanche of glacial detritus from the mighty Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Let’s all hope that Iceland continue to upset the odds, or at least that @rvkgrapevine keeps tweeting even after their mighty warriors have been eliminated.Iceland Portugal Euro 2016

 

Since this article was written, and as you are no doubt aware, Iceland have beaten England and progressed to the quarter-finals. The author has since disowned his national team and applied for Icelandic citizenship.