CELTIC travel out of Glasgow today to officially begin their 2014/15 season with a Champions League second qualifying round, first-leg encounter with Icelandic Champions KR Reykjavík.
The bookmakers have made the hosts 6/1 long shots to triumph on their own turf tomorrow night since they are perceived minnows on the European front. In their homeland, however, they are one of the most feared teams around. To get warmed up for the match we’ve put together a list of facts from the past and present to tell you a little more about Iceland’s answer to Manchester United.
• Reykjavik completely dominates Icelandic culture and politics. In the Greater Reykjavik area there is said to be a population of roughly 250,000 people. The rest of the country combined only adds up to around 75,000. For that reason KR is just one of, wait for it, SIX teams from the city currently in the Icelandic top flight’s 12 team league. Fjölnir, Fram, Fylkir, Valur and Vikingur R are the others. Despite this only seven of the last ten titles have been won by Reykjavik teams, thanks largely to the rise of FH (from Hafnarfjarðar) as a domestic powerhouse in the noughties.
• The club was founded in 1899 by a Scotsman, ironically enough. Engineer Frank McGregor was responsible for creating the club, which is the oldest in Icelandic football. The club’s full name (Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur) is literally ‘Ball-kicking Club Reykjavik’, which was deemed a more elegant name than just ‘Football Club Reykjavik’. You can be the judge.
• The team play in black and white vertical stripes. Similar to the way in which Leeds changed their kit to all white to mirror Real Madrid, KR adopted the shirt colours of Newcastle United when the Tyneside club were one of English football’s most successful sides in the early 20th century.
• KR’s top scorer this season is English striker Gary Martin. The 23-year old from Darlington actually played under Scotland national coach Gordon Strachan at Middlesbrough. After being deemed surplus to requirements he made the unusual move to Iceland, first signing with ÍA before moving to Reykjavík in 2012. He’s hoping the media exposure from the two-legged tie can help secure him a move back to Britain.
• Due to the harsh winters, the Icelandic football season only runs from early May to October. Therefore KR are currently 11 games into the campaign but have disappointed thus far, sitting in third, six points off the top of the table. They even trail Stjarnan, who are Motherwell’s opponents in the Europa League on Thursday.
• KR won the first ever Icelandic league title in 1912 and have repeated the feat an additional 25 times since then, making them the most successful club in the country’s history. Their 13 cup final wins is also greater than any other side. That total may not sound particularly high, but the Icelandic cup didn’t exist until 1960. KR won the first tournament in that competition as well.
• The Icelanders will be hoping for a happier time against Celtic than the first time the club came up against Scottish opposition. KR were Aberdeen’s opponents in the Scots’ first ever European match in the Cup Winners’ Cup. The Dons won the first leg 10-0, which remains their highest ever European win. KR also played Kilmarnock in 1999, losing 2-1 on aggregate in the first round of the UEFA Cup.
• The club play their home matches at the KR-völlur, with its modest 2,800 capacity. The 2013 season saw them record an average attendance of 1,860, which was the largest in Iceland, despite there being no roof over 1,000 of the available seats inside the ground.