LOST BOYO IN ICELAND ( Haukar Hafnarfjörður, ÍH, Magni Grenivík), FAROE ISLANDS (AB), AND ESTONIA (JK Tammeka Tartu)
Liam Killa left Wales for Iceland at the age of 17 to try his hand at a professional football career overseas. His positive experiences took him back to Iceland for the 2012 season after also spending time in the Faroe Islands and Estonia.
Liam has just finished an excellent season with Magni Grenivík. Magni comfortably won their Icelandic 3. Delid group by eight points. The team from northern Iceland were unbeaten in their 14 league matches (10 wins and 4 draws), scoring an impressive 59 goals – including 14 in one game. Liam himself ended the season with two league goals.
The team advanced to the end of season play-offs and continued their unbeaten run with a 4-3 win and 3-3 draw against Kári to progress to the semi-finals. Magni finally tasted defeat on September 8th (the season having started almost five months earlier in May), going down 3-1 to Ægir. They also lost the second leg 3-2, bringing a successful season to a disappointing end.
Lost Boyos got in touch with Liam recently and he kindly answered our questions on his football career so far, life in Iceland, and what the future might hold.
Lost Boyos: A year ago you were playing with Ammanford Town, but you’ve just spent the season in Iceland. How did the move come about?
Liam Killa: I returned back home to the UK and Ammanford was a local choice for myself to play regular football before returning to Scandinavia. I knew one of the current coaches Gruffydd Harrison from my playing days at Swansea. I got in contact with my friend Aron Gunnarsson and he set up a move to his brother’s team here in Iceland.
LB: How did your friendship with Aron Gunnarsson begin?
LK: Through a mutual Icelandic friend. When he was home in the summer he was training/coaching us and when I’m back home I try and watch a Cardiff game to catch up with him.
LB: Where exactly have you been playing this season and how did the it go?
LK: I have been playing for Magni Grenivík in the Icelandic 2nd Division. We went through the league unbeaten in 17 games and finished top of the league. We then entered the “playoffs” to get promotion but we lost in the semi-finals last weekend.
LB: What are your plans now the season is over?
LK: As the season has just finished I’m going to return home to Swansea within the next few weeks and have a holiday. I’m then going to look at a few options to keep fit in Wales over the winter to return to Scandinavia in January.
LB: You’ve spent several seasons in Iceland and quite a few British players are currently there (but only one other Welshman to our knowledge – Rhys Weston); what do you/they gain from playing in Iceland in terms of football and lifestyle?
LK: Since I first moved to Iceland, I feel I have gained a lot. To play regular football at a good level in a European league has many benefits. We currently train four times a week and all of the games are scattered around Iceland, so you travel via coach or airplane. Everything is very professional here. Football-wise, I think Iceland is a great stepping stone for footballers. Many clubs from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and England look at the Icelandic league to bring players over. Lifestyle-wise, it was hard to adapt at first, but now I feel part of the community. Everybody is polite and speaks English to me and it is just a totally different culture to being back home.
LB: We came across a rather silly article in the Daily Mirror from your first move to Haukar. So, have you ever eaten rams’ testicles or puffin?
LK: I totally agree with you. That story was a shock to me especially in a national newspaper (haha). I have never eaten rams’ testicles, but I have tasted puffin a few times. It is nice. Another good meat to try is whale, I eat that a few times a week.
LB: Welsh teams have benefitted from some Icelandic imports in the past year- Aron Gunnarson and now Heidar Helguson at Cardiff, and Gylfi Sigurdsson at Swansea; who are the Icelandic players to look out for at the moment?
LK: The players you have mentioned are obviously established players and doing very well in England. I believe Aron Gunnarsson will have another strong season at Cardiff and push for promotion and is definitely a worthy contender as a future captain there. There are many Icelandic players playing around Europe at the moment, but one I would like to see playing in England is Kolbeinn Sigþórsson who has recently been given the number 9 jersey at Ajax. He is a great goalscorer. One to look out for this year is Björn Bergmann Sigurðarson of Wolves.
LB: We’ve seen that you also played in the Faroe Islands and Estonia a few years ago? How was the set-up and the standard there? How did you enjoy playing there?
LK: I really enjoyed my time in the Faroe Islands. It was a nice place and totally different culture there. The set up was good at the club and we were in the top division where we ended in 6th position and reached the semi-final of the cup. We lost to the eventual winners EB Streymur who went on to play Man City in the Uefa Cup. The standard was similar to the Welsh Premier League. It was disappointing that my time was cut short there through injury.
In Estonia, I played with JK Tammeka Tartu in the Estonian Premier League. I had a successful trial period in January 2011 and I signed for 6 months. I later left after 3 weeks due to personal reasons.
LB: Wales’ young team have had a bad start to World Cup Qualifying. Which (if any) of the current team did you play with when you played for Wales in your younger days? Who was the best? Is there anyone that you are surprised hasn’t made it yet?
LK: There were a few players around the Welsh scene when I was younger including Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale, Chris Gunter, Joe Allen,Rhys Taylor, Darcy Blake and also former U21 captain Shaun Macdonald. The best player I played with was Joe Allen. He has unbelievable ability and is going to be a world class player in the future. I was quite surprised that Scott Evans (former Swansea / Man City) player never got to the U21’s or 1st team because he was always highly thought of.
LB: On the Ammanford AFC website, your interesting fact says that you ‘smashed’ Theo Walcott at U15 level. Could you tell us about that?
LK: We were playing for Swansea City away to Southampton in a friendly which Malcolm Elias, former Swansea and Saints’ Head of Academy, set up. Theo was on the wing and none of us could get near him as soon as he started to accelerate. One time I read what he was doing and tackled him fairly but off the pitch at the same time. Shortly afterwards, he went onto Arsenal and England and I will always remember that moment.
LB: It’s around 9 months since Lost Boyos began and we’ve found Welshman all over the world. Would you like to continue living and playing abroad and if so, where?
LK: Yes, the plan is to definitely continue playing abroad. The challenge on and off the field while playing abroad keeps me busy and I look forward to doing it for years to come. I have played in Iceland, Faroe Islands and Estonia so far and I would be open to offers if any other opportunities in other countries came up. To live in Scandinavia is amazing, but I have always wanted to play in the USA at some stage of my career.
LB: What attracts you to playing football in the US?
LK: I have always been a big follower of the MLS; big stadiums, large crowds and that is something I would love to be a part of. Also the country as a whole. It is a great place and I have definitely set a goal to play there in the near future.
You can follow Liam Killa on Twitter at @LiamKilla4