Presidential election just the warm-up show for Iceland’s football fairy tale

Iceland is expected to elect a new president on Saturday - but no one really cares very much. Polls are predicting a landslide victory for Gudni Johannesson, a history professor and political commentator who has never held public office. However, the 47-year-old newcomer is likely to arrive on the political scene almost unnoticed as this football-obsessed nation is distracted by its highly unfancied team’s heroics at the Euro 2016 finals. Instead of following the thrust of political debate, they have been absorbed by the prospect of tomorrow’s final 16 tie against England.

I’m just an ordinary guy. I am a historian, an academic, a person who I hope people see like ‘he’s a likeable guy, I could chat with this guy over a beer or I could go camping with him and his family and it would be fun’

Gudni Johannesson

Outraged Icelanders massed in the streets for days in April calling for the prime minister to be ousted. But that anger has turned to cheers in the final days of the presidential campaign, overshadowed by euphoria after the Icelandic football squad achieved beat Austria 2-1 with a last-gasp winner in France on Wednesday It means, while almost everyone on the island nation of just 334,000 souls knows the team’s goal difference, far fewer are aware that Johannesson has a commanding lead over his eight rivals. The latest polls credited him with between almost half of the voters’ support with his nearest rival on just 16%.

We respect the English team, we respect every player. We have to have a great game to stand a chance. But we’ve beaten great nations before and if we just focus on ourselves we stand a good chance

Midfielder Elmar Bjarnason