The 2016 European Cup will be remembered for 4 things; 1) Wales’ emergence as a tournament dark horse, 2) Will Grigg’s reported perpetual state of flammability 3) how boring it was and 4) the Iceland Clap. We should probably extend that to the Icelanders’ amazing support throughout, but “The Clap” was so universally popular it had bookies betting which Premier League fans would be the first to replicate it. That’s not really materialised but the Iceland Clap is now being performed by fans elsewhere (I vividly remember a video posting of a Vietnamese fangroup getting it on post victory).
But it has spread in other ways. Almost every nation in the world can claim a diaspora in the Americas. The economic growth of in particular the USA in the past 200 years caused impoverished Europeans to set sail for Ellis Island and relocate in the USA with the promise of a better life. Migration is a key theme at FBTG and the common trend is for migrants to stick together for comfort and safety. Thus large communities of migrants tend to develop very quickly in geographic pockets, often without any clear reason why that particular pocket was chosen. Years later, people living in these places often feel an affinity with said country of origin of the diaspora. From this, you get the whole of Boston claiming to be Irish, the whole of Pennsylvania claiming to be German, the whole of Chicago claiming to be Polish, the whole of New York claiming to be Italian etc.
Impoverished Scandinavians chose the far North, in particular the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Why? You would assume because the landscape and climate are so similar. Residents of these parts strongly identify with their Nordic ancestors today, however distant or tenuous those relationships may be (recollecting conversations with Yank tourists who spout such nonsense as “I’m two thirds Swedish, so I get all my furniture from IKEA”). So much so that the local NFL team are the “Minnesota Vikings”. Of course the franchise model of the NFL makes it hard to claim that the teams truly represent the local fans in comparison to our Football, but this scandiphilic attitude results in eyes looking lovingly at Northern European tradition, customs and behaviour.
Even in Sport. The current NFL season has seen Minnesota Vikings fans consistently performing the Iceland Clap during games. Always keen to align themselves with the Viking warrior identity they feel very much a part of, these fans understand that Iceland’s success this summer is very much associated with the Clap, which they can leverage to further demonstrate their proud heritage. The team management itself caught on to this and has paid famous Icelandic strongmen and sportsmen to endorse the Minnesota Vikings in a short, but typically very dramatic, video, in which they assert the historical ties between Minnesota and Scandinavia and “pass on” their tradition i.e. the Clap. From one Viking to another. Take a look. Maybe it’s the cynical don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously Brit in me, but it’s actually quite funny.
Sport is always a fantastic lens to look through to understand how a people define themselves and what they perceive to be their culture. This story is a great example of that. The Iceland Clap has spread around the Football world, but also to the NFL, thanks to Nordic migrational patterns two centuries earlier.