Marathon, Running out of Ideas and the Great Town of Bíldudalur


Last weekend I was in Ísafjördur, the West Fjords. It was pure heaven: seven degrees Celsius, 44 Fahrenheit, in addition to the rain and the wind. I was there to watch mýrarbolti, swamp soccer/football.

The history of swap football is very short. It has been practiced for four years in Ísafjördur (and Iceland) and for ten years internationally.

Elite cross country skiers in northern Finland were looking for a different kind of exercise to stay in shape during the summer so they started playing football in the swaps and quickly realized that it is a sport that appeals to all.

This type of football is now popular in Russia, Brazil, Sweden, Iceland and, of course, Finland, where the World Championship is played every year in Hyrynsalmi.

Swamp football is a heavily modified version of standard football. The rules are as follows:

Games are played in two 13-minute halves. Boots can not be changed during the game, corner kicks, penalties and throw-ins are made with drop kicks.

There is no offside rule, the penalty area is five meters deep, but the goalkeeper is only allowed to hold the ball in a three-meter radius from the goal.

There are six players on the field, with maximum of 12 in the squad. The players can be substituted as often as they want.

And what a tournament! Six hundred people were playing, 2,009 people watching and it was a lot of fun. Not to mention a lot of dirt. The tournament will be covered in the next issue of the Iceland Review magazine. Subscribe now!

And I do like the West Fjords. Where the nature is as strong as it gets in the republic and the people are down to earth.

Arnarfjördur is second largest fjord in the West Fjords and home to the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland, Dynjandi.

There is also a village there called Bíldudalur with a population of 150. Only a total of 200 souls, or even fewer, live along the coastline of the fjord. Now there are plans to build a huge oil refinery at Bíldudalur. It will create 800 new jobs—in a village of 149.

Bíldudalur, a village of 148 inhabitants, has the worst road connections to other parts of the island compared to other settlements and there are close to 500 kilometers to the capital.

No major oil refinery has been built in the USA for 33 years, since the one in Marathon in Garyville, Louisiana was constructed in 1976—because of environment and safety reasons.

Have you heard better plan for repairing Iceland’s economy and vitalizing Bíldudalur’s employment market, a village with a population of 147 (the population is shrinking day by day)?

Yes, maybe, if you have been digging into the newsletters of the (former) Icelandic banks. Their plan, and the plan of the Oddsson-Ásgrímsson government, was great. Iceland was to become the world’s finance center.

And now, the banks are… bankrupt.

Páll Stefánsson – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.