Monday, July 22, 2024

Who is Heimir Hallgrímsson, the dentist now in charge of Ireland’s footballers?

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Heimir Hallgrímsson, both a dentist and football coach by trade, has been announced as the new Republic of Ireland manager.

The 57-year-old famously oversaw Iceland’s 2-1 victory over England in the last 16 at Euro 2016 as co-manager alongside Swede Lars Lagerbäck. He also guided his country to the 2018 World Cup where they drew 1-1 with Argentina during the group stages.

Until elimination from the Copa America earlier this month, Hallgrímsson took Jamaica to 10 wins, seven draws and 10 defeats, culminating in a 3-0 loss to Venezuela on July 1st.

A former Icelandic club defender, who began coaching women’s teams in the 1990s before being named Iceland assistant coach in 2011, he will hold a press conference at the Aviva stadium on Thursday at 2pm.

Hallgrímsson hails from Heimaey on Vestmannaeyjar, also known as the Westman Islands, off the southern coast of Iceland. It is home to eight million puffins, 80 volcanos and just over 4,000 people.

A club footballer at Íthróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja (ÍBV), where he made just over 100 appearances in 10 years, his main income came from his dental practice.

“That is, in Iceland, probably my main job, and has been,” he noted eight years ago. “For a coach it sounds strange, I know. When I was doing my pro licence in England, they said, ‘Don’t tell anyone you’re a dentist!’ But I never think that education can do you any harm. I’m proud of being a dentist.”

He gave up dentistry after becoming the sole Iceland manager in 2016.

Having proved a success with the ÍBV women’s team he took the men’s side into the Europa League qualifiers where they lost 2-1 over two legs to St Patrick’s Athletic in July 2011.

In between coaching Iceland and Jamaica, Hallgrímsson spent two years in Qatar with Al-Arab, a period that yielded more defeats (25) than wins (22). On his watch, the Doha club also conceded more goals (93) than they scored (88).

It has been 231 days since the FAI parted ways with former manager Stephen Kenny, which led to John O’Shea filling the gap for two friendly defeats to Portugal and Switzerland, a scoreless draw with Belgium and a 2-1 victory over Hungary.

FAI director of football Marc Canham has repeatedly stated that Kenny’s long-term successor must have sustained international experience.

As the lone manager of Iceland – a country with a population of just 377,000 – Hallgrímsson engineered defeats of Turkey (twice), Croatia and Ukraine en route to qualification for Russia 2018.

“It doesn’t matter who we play or what the scoreline is, we try to never change our priorities,” Hallgrímsson told The Guardian in 2016. “We do not think of ourselves as a small country in these moments. We know we don’t have the individual players of Holland or Turkey. We win on unity and hard work and organisation, and we have to be better than everyone else in these areas.”

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