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Against The Elements: The Eruption of Icelandic Football

Jospeh Fox shares some of the incredible images he captured whilst following the beautiful game in Iceland for the exciting new book Against The Elements: The Eruption of Icelandic Football. He worked with writer Matt McGinn to produce a stunning a stunning account of one of football's most inspiring underdog stories.

"Reality often outdoes fiction", wrote Einar Már Guðmundsson, the Icelandic novelist. Rarely has this sentiment been clearer in the world of sport than in the unprecedented rise of Icelandic football.

For almost six decades Iceland failed to qualify for a major tournament. They bumbled along in the lower echelons of the world rankings. A win against the Faroe Islands here, a draw against Norway there. Things began to change at the start of the 21st century. Like when a kaleidoscope is twisted, the various shapes and colours came together to form a coherent image. In 2016 the men’s national team reached the quarter-final of the European Championship, beating England along the way. Two years later Iceland became the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup. The women’s team, meanwhile, have reached three consecutive European Championships and made the quarter-final in the 2013 edition.

Iceland has a population of just over 350,000. That is roughly equivalent to Bradford or Leicester. Or, for the American reader, significantly fewer souls than live in Wyoming. Icelandic soil should not be fertile for anything, let alone football.

Against the Elements is part travelogue, part thematic investigation into the factors behind the eruption of Icelandic football. It is a book about football that strays from music to weightlifting; from five days on a fishing trawler called Vestmannaey to a volcanic eruption in 1973. The sport becomes a richer subject – and one that makes more sense – when we take a step back from the white lines of the pitch.

McGinn draws on 50 exclusive interviews with the key protagonists to unpick how it happened. Does an Icelandic "Viking" mentality exist? Can smallness be an advantage? Is there a template for your nation to follow? Photographs by Joseph Fox, an award-winning documentary photographer, capture the brutal beauty of Iceland. 

Against the Elements is the enthralling account of football’s most captivating underdog story. The reality of football often outdoes its fiction.

Pick up your copy of Against The Elements here.

Words and Photographs by Joseph Fox.