President of Iceland advocates "gender blindness" in sport


The 11th annual meeting of the Transnational Working Group for the Study of Gender and Sport is now being held at Reykjavik University. The program focuses on sexism, discrimination, sexual harassment and violence studies in the field of Physical Education and sport, LGBTQ+ as well as leadership and coaches' perspectives.

Among the speakers yesterday were Mr. Guðni Th. Jóhanesson, the president of Iceland, Þóra Björg Helgadóttir, former member of the women´s national football team, and Freyr Alexandersson, coach of the national women´s football team. 

Gudni-th-johannessonIn his talk, the President explained his ambitions to become "gender blind" when it comes to watching and enjoying sports. He said his efforts arise from a personal interest and from being a figure of authority with the ability to change people´s perspectives. He said that we should all strive towards making sport, and society as a whole, more balanced. The media could also do better. He gave an account of when he attended an important game in the basketball league, first he went to the men´s game and a bit later, to the women´s game. "The media covered my attendance at the men´s game, not the women´s."

Þóra Björg Helgadóttir, a former professional goalkeeper and national squad member with 108 games played, shared her experience of playing in the national team. She detailed the poor facilities, and offers from a drunken coach of joining him in his hotel room. According to Þóra, the training sessions were way too easy and aimless, and the coach didn´t know the names of many of the players.

Þóra BjörgÞóra Björg talks to RUV news yesterday.

"It´s about respect, and we were not getting any", she said about KSI´s (National Football Association) reactions to their complaints. "It was clear that they only had a women´s team because they had to".
She says things are moving quickly in the right direction now with new management at KSI. Examples of this are equal bonus payments.

Freyr Alexandersson, head coach of the Icelandic national women´s team, discussed the difference between coaching men´s teams and women´s teams.

He said "the difference is non-existent. It is that simple". He said the difference between teams is social, cultural, and economical. "FIFA and UEFA have a lot of explaining to do".

The event is organised by RU Department of Sport Science and RU School of Law.

The Transnational Working Group for the Study of Gender and Sport was founded in 2005.