ICEMAN JON HAS WORLD AT HIS FEET
Royals ace looks forward to Russia adventure
JON Dadi Bodvarsson grew up dreaming of playing in England, but now he has Russia on his mind.
The Reading striker was a Manchester United fan as a child even though, like most of his compatriots, Eidur Gudjohnsen at Chelsea was his idol.
For Bodvarsson, the idea of playing alongside Gudjohnsen was something he could scarcely have imagined. Going to a World Cup with Iceland was even more unlikely.
However, that’s exactly what he will be doing.
Last month’s win over Kosovo made Iceland the smallest nation ever to qualify for a World Cup and they will take their place in the draw on December 1.
That magical night in Reykjavik stands out as the career highlight for a 25-year-old who, barring injury, should be part of the first Icelandic team to play at a World Cup next summer.
And, while fans are increasingly kept at arm’s length from their heroes in the modern game, Bodvarsson loves the fact that players and supporters still celebrate together in the Icelandic capital.
“In my short career, it’s the best feeling I’ve had,” said Bodvarsson.
“The feeling afterwards when we beat Kosovo at home and qualified for the World Cup was just unbelievable. You get to the stage where you are just so emotional.
“You are on the bus with all the players, you go to the centre of town in Reykjavik, and most of the city is there celebrating.
“You feel on top of the world. It’s the greatest feeling you can get and you will always keep it in your memories.
“It’s quite special to play in front of the fans and for the fans from your country. You are so together in this. The country is so proud. The togetherness is unbelievable.”
It’s been a remarkable journey for Iceland, who qualified for their first major tournament at Euro 2016, with that last-16 victory over England still arguably their greatest-ever result.
Bodvarsson has been an integral part of the ride, making his debut in 2014 just after they had missed out on the last World Cup in Brazil. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength.
He said: “I remember watching the national team as a young kid and a young player. It was lots of disappointment year after year. We never achieved anything.
“At the Euros, our aim was to get out of the group stages. When we managed to do that, I remember Eidur Gudjohnsen spoke.
“We had England next. He asked everyone in the meeting: ‘Are you satisfied? Or do you want to go further?’.
“Now, nobody is really satisfied. The coach manages to get people back on the ground.”
Bodvarsson is in his first season the Royals, having spent last year at Wolves. He is one of five current members of the Iceland squad plying their trade in the Championship, including skipper Aron Gunnarsson at Cardiff.
He admits it’s not been the easiest of starts team-wise or personally at the Madejski, particularly with the calf injury that is due to keep him out for another two weeks.
But, after Tuesday’s win over Nottingham Forest – Reading’s first at home since August he is confident they can turn things around.
“Reading is very family-orientated. It’s very stable and everyone has helped me get settled really quickly,” he said. “My team-mates are really nice.
“The Championship is bizarre. If you get on a bad run, it’s so hard to get out of it. But, if you get on a winning streak, it’s almost easy to get another win. We just need to keep being positive, things will come around.
“When (the Icelandic Champiwith onship players) meet with the national team, we talk about the league and how it’s going with our clubs.
“We all agree that the Championship is a very tough league, very physical, and there’s not a lot of breathing space. You have to be on your toes.
“It was always in the back of my head, a goal that if I were able to play in England, happy days.
“I think the environment is good, the culture is easy, the language too, so it’s a nice environment to be in.”
Coming to England fulfilled one lifelong ambition for Bodvarsson. Russia 2018 is the next.
COOL AS YOU LIKE: Iceland’s Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in action against Turkey and, insets, the Iceland fans and playing for Reading