Having solid foundations has contributed heavily to Iceland's success at UEFA EURO 2016; Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) general secretary Klara Bjartmarz explains more.
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Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) general secretary Klara Bjartmarz is head of the Icelandic delegation in France and told UEFA.org that UEFA EURO 2016 success can be the springboard for further football development the country and an inspiration to women in leadership positions in sport. She was in discussion with Liney Rut Halldorsdottir, general secretary of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland.
How does it feel to see Iceland doing so well at this EURO?
Klara Bjartmarz: It feels great to take part and to do so well – to reach this stage is more than we expected.
Liney Rut Halldorsdottir: It's not only inspiring for sport in general in Iceland but for the whole nation. We can sense that across the population, across politics and across the whole society.
How inspirational can this be for the future of football in the country?
Bjartmarz: When the women's national team has participated in UEFA final tournaments the number of participants in football has grown; we expect the same this summer. The next challenge for the football association is to keep those players in the game.
Halldorsdottir: The younger generation now has Icelandic heroes. Before, they had a lot of foreign heroes but they now have role models from Iceland to look up to.
What have you enjoyed most about your role here in France?
Bjartmarz: It was a challenge to take the role as head of the Icelandic delegation as the only woman in a group of men! But it's been a great experience and one that I will benefit from in the coming years, to use this knowledge for football in Iceland. The women's national team is also with us here, so it could also be very useful for them if they qualify for their tournament [UEFA Women's EURO 2017] in the Netherlands next summer.
To what extent is Iceland's success down to strong foundations for football?
Bjartmarz: This is the result of many years of hard work. We have been investing in coach education, in stadiums, mini-pitches, football halls and things like that. The results here are a reward for all that and we hope it feeds down to the clubs as well, because they're the ones developing players.
Halldorsdottir: For many years, the football association has been raising standards and promoting football. UEFA is making more requirements for the national associations and raising standards at all levels of the game, down to the clubs. It's going to be easier for the association to gain funding and sponsorship as a result of the success at EURO and that will spread to other sports.
How has Icelandic football benefited from women in leadership positions?
Bjartmarz: In Iceland, we're equality minded. We've fortunately had men in positions to support us and women who have been prepared to go the extra mile in leadership roles. Hopefully, that can also be inspirational for other women to see that they can achieve it too.
What messages do you have for other women to take leadership positions in sport?
Halldorsdottir: Take the responsibility and the chances that you have to go the extra mile.
Bjartmarz: Grab every opportunity that you have to progress, like I did when I had the chance to do UEFA's Women in Football Leadership Programme. We know we need more referees, more volunteers, more coaches and it's easier to find those among women than among men.