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23.08.2012, 17:51
Kristjánsson grabs second chance
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Big shoes to fill as Iceland announce new national team coach
 

Kristjánsson grabs second chance

When Aron Kristjánsson was approached regarding the job as coach of the Icelandic national team in handball for the second time he simply could not pass on the opportunity to try his mettle against the best. 

Four years ago, when Alfreð Gíslason, coach of German superpower Kiel, resigned at the end of EHF EURO 2008, Kristjánsson was offered the job.  Then he declined because of family reasons, but now he could not say no, even though it means trying to fill the shoes of Iceland‘s most successful coach.

Kristjánsson is a one-club man in Icelandic handball. He spent his playing career as a playmaker with Hafnarfjörður club Haukar, winning several titles.  For the national team, Kristjánsson was a key player at the EHF EURO 2002 in Sweden where Iceland came fourth and at the World Championships in Portugal in 2003.  In the whole he played 75 matches for Iceland.

In 1998  Kristjánsson moved to Denmark where he played with Skjern, winning the Danish title in his first year. Later he became assistant to coach Ander Dahl Nielsen.  When Dahl Nielsen quit, Kristjánsson took over as head coach before moving back home to Iceland in 2007 where he took charge of his old team, Haukar.  

Under his tutelage, the team won the Icelandic championship three years running before Kristjánsson was offered a chance to coach German team Hannover Burgdorf.  There he was sacked midterm and upon returning to Iceland he continued his success with Haukar, winning yet another Icelandic title.

When national coach Guðmundur Guðmundsson announced this spring that he would put an end to his successful second stint after the Olympics, Kristjánsson was one of the obvious candidates.  Before the Games rumours had it that the Icelandic handball federation had already secured his services. Whether true or not, ten days after the closing ceremony he was presented as the new national coach.

“Of course it‘s an enormous challenge, trying to emulate the success the team has enjoyed the last few years,“ Kristjánsson says when asked how he feels about his new post.  

“I still haven‘t talked to the players, but I hope all of them are willing to play on for the national team. The big question is, of course, what Ólafur Stefánsson decides to do.  He‘s 39 and without a contract, so we don‘t even know if he‘ll go on playing, let alone with the national team.“

Asked whether he expects big changes, Kristjánsson grins, shrugs his shoulders and says: “Not really. I inherit a strong team with many experienced players and my predecessor made a fantastic job.  And since we only have two training days before our first match, there‘s really no time for changes.  But in the course of time, I will of course mould the team according to my ideas.“

The fanatical Icelandic supporters of the national team hope that those ideas include following up on the success enjoyed in the last four years.   After two medals in the last five big tournaments, demands are high and Kristjánsson is bound to feel the burden of carrying the nation‘s hopes on his square shoulders.

Photograph: Eva Björk 


TEXT: Adolf Erlingsson
 
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