'The women’s game is changing for the better' - says top coach Nik Chamberlain
Nik Chamberlain has been successful in his time at Thróttur Reykjavík and in that time he has seen women’s football grow – and he knows where he sees it going in the future.
“I couldn’t achieve what I wanted from the game as a player and coach at that time in Eastbourne or in the country.
“Here, in Iceland, I had a reputation that has continued to grow over the past few years , especially as a women’s coach. In January 2016 I signed for a team in the second division called Afturelding where the goal was to work, start coaching a bit more and see how things would go here.
“The football side of life was great, we were top of the league and I was top goalscorer but it wasn’t turning out how I wanted it to be as I was working on a construction site and that wasn’t something I was interested in doing.
“I was about to leave but then got offered the chance to coach the women’s team here at Thróttur as they had just fired the coach.”
SEE ALSO From Eastbourne United to the top flight of the women’s game in IcelandThere are three tiers of women’s football in Iceland: ten teams in the top division, ten in the second and eight in the third. When Chamberlain joined, Thróttur were in the second division and were a team with zero expectation or pressure as they had a very young side and were on one of the lowest budgets in the league.
In Chamberlain’s first two seasons, the team just missed out on promotion but the season just gone was far more successful: “We were predicted fourth but we won the league by a canter and were easily the best team in the division.
“We have two girls born 2003 who were regulars this season and a girl born in 2001 who was top goalscorer.
“I also managed to bring in a couple of great players and characters that helped the team, one was from America and one plays for the Northern Irish national team.
“Going into the top division next year will be extremely difficult. I already know we will be relegation favourites as that is the image that this club still has because we will have the lowest budget and a young team. The club has been in the top division three times before (2011, 2013, 2015) and have finished rock bottom each time. We are going into next year hoping to create history. I am confident in my abilities and the players to really challenge staying in the division.
“For me, I am contracted to the end of the 2021 season. By that time I will hopefully have my UEFA A badge, as I have aspirations of coaching at the highest level I can within the women’s game and maybe one day I’ll get the chance to coach in a top league in Europe. However, I have goals to complete here in Iceland first and that starts with next summer and staying in the top division.”
Chamberlain has noticed a huge improvement in women’s football in general: “The women’s game as a whole is changing here, and for the better. Overall quality has improved since I’ve been here, you still have two clubs that are a million miles better than everyone else, but behind that the level is improving and you can see that at the national level.
“Equality is still a problem here though.
“Who gets the best training times, equipment, budget and salaries are still issues that need to be addressed but club by club it is changing but too slowly. At our club everything is good apart from the budget and salaries for the players but it is something we are working towards changing.”
Chamberlain is also thrilled by the how media coverage and fan attendances have improved in recent times.
He said: “There is a media outlet that just focuses on the women’s game and the national media do a great job of informing people of the details about clubs, games, players etc. Our team was shown on national tv four times this year as a TV deal with the women’s second division came in this past year.
“We also got great numbers following us this year with one game reaching 490 and around the 200 figure for home games.
“I follow the game back home as well and its brilliant to see the professional leagues sustaining and getting better year on year with money flowing in and attendances improving. This was seen with England against Germany recently selling out Wembley which was amazing to see and also some of the numbers in mainland Europe have been incredible as well.
“Things will hopefully continue to improve all over.”