Playing in the black-and-white stripes of Newcastle United, Knattspyrnufélag (‘KR’) Reykjavik are Iceland’s oldest football club. They have also won the most titles, including the first in 1912, and first cup in 1960. Both times they beat eternal rivals Fram to the trophy.
Formed by expat Scot Frank McGregor, KR had to wait a decade before Fram came along, then Valur and Víkingur and these four monopolised the Icelandic league. KR’s periods of domination came in the late 1920s, early 1930s and late 1940s, all five-team tournaments. Their own ground, KR-völlur, was built in 1951, though major games are played at the national Laugardalsvöllur.
The title win of 1963 allowed KR to be Iceland’s first representatives in the European Cup, the visit of Bill Shankly’s Liverpool scheduled a month earlier than the other preliminary round ties. All three Felixson brothers played for KR – Gunnar actually scored at Anfield, while Bjarni went on to become a famous TV commentator and have a sports bar named after him in Reykjavik. The Icelanders all took their wives with them to enjoy the delights of Liverpool at the height of Beatlemania.
It is only relatively recently that KR have actually started winning games in Europe, the 2-0 victory of Luxembourg’s Grevenmacher in 1995 paving the way for a creditable 3-2 defeat at home to Everton. KR were actually leading 1-0 at Goodison until the hour.
KR’s best result was a 4-1 aggregate win over Rapid Bucharest in 1997, goals coming from Einar Daníelsson and Ríkardur Dadason, both later of Stoke City.
Between Anfield and Goodison, KR had suffered a bleak period, and had even been relegated in 1977. By the club’s centenary year of 1999, KR had gone 31 years without a league title, missing out three times that decade on the last day. Later Chelsea and Barcelona star Eidur Gudjohnsen played a few games for KR in the 1998 campaign, as did David Winnie, a Scottish Cup winner with St Mirren in 1987.
The long-awaited double win of 1999 coincided with a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock in the UEFA Cup, Killie getting two goals on and after 90 minutes in the decisive second leg.
Under former KR midfielder record Iceland international Rúnar Kristinsson, KR won two titles and three cups, Darlington-born Gary Martin the top scorer in 2013.
Ex-KR midfielder Bjarni Gudjónsson, once on Newcastle’s books, is now in charge of wresting the title back from FH.
The club’s dinky KR-völlur ground holds just under 3,000, half seated in the one main stand. Surrounded by the residential housing of Vesturbaer in west Reykjavik, KR-völlur was opened in 1951 with an inaugural game against Oslo’s Vålerenga, although it wasn’t until 1984, during the KR’s fallow period, that the club switched to the stadium full time.
These days, European and derby matches are still staged at the Laugardalsvöllur, while an average of around 1,500-2,000 gather in the main stand for regular league games here.
Atmosphere is provided by a rousing rendition of the KR club anthem, ‘Heyr Mína Baen’ (‘Hear My Prayer’), a ballad by beloved Icelandic songstress Ellý Vilhjálms, as the players come out.
The stadium is about a 15-minute walk from the city centre, in suburban Vesturbaer. The stadium also has its own stop, KR, on the No.15 bus route ten stops from the BSÍ bus terminal, and on the No.13 bus route from central Laekjartorg and Hlemmur bus terminal. Each bus runs every 15-30min. The stop before, Aegisída, also nearby, is on the No.11 route from Laekjartorg and Hlemmur.
It’s only for big European games that there’s any rush on tickets. For big-name visits, locals can expect to pay ISK2,000 for a seat at the Laugardalsvöllur. For domestic fixtures, there’s a simple pay-on-the-day system, prices set around ISK1,200-1,500.
On match days at KR-völlur, there are KR hats and scarves are sold from a little window in the clubhouse building. For games at the Laugardalsvöllur, souvenirs will be out on display on folded-up tables in the main concourse.
The best choice for a pre-match drink is the Rauda ljónid (‘Red Lion’; Eidistorg mall, Seltjarnarns), a ten-minute walk to the ground. Eidistorg has its own stop on the Nos.11 and 13 bus lines, five from KR/Aegisída. Locals gather here for a quiet pint beneath KR memorabilia and souvenirs of recent European opponents, such as FC Basel and Larissa. Note also the shirt signed by Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Not football-themed but closer to the stadium and on the city-centre side, Stúdentakjallarinn studentakjallarinn.is (‘Student Pub’) is in Haskolatorg building of the University of Iceland, and shows games on a big screen.
At the stadium, hot dogs, coffee and snacks are sold by the main stand.