GELENDZHIK, Russia (Reuters) - Iceland film maker-turned-goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson showcased his skill at creating drama in his side’s 1-1 World Cup draw against Argentina, taking center stage as he saved a penalty from Lionel Messi in front of millions of TV viewers.
To complement the modest wages on offer as he started his career in the domestic league, the 34-year-old net-minder worked in the film business before going full-time as a professional footballer when he moved to Norway in 2012.
Back home in Iceland, 99.6 percent of the country’s TV viewers saw him stop Messi’s shot as the tiny island nation made their World Cup debut on Saturday.
“Many footballers, when they play in the Icelandic league, they have a job on the side, it’s a semi-professional league,” Haldorsson told reporters ahead of Iceland’s clash with Nigeria on Friday.
“My job just happened to be a film-maker. I always had a passion for it when I was young, and that’s what I got sucked into after high school,” he added.
Plenty of players in the squad have followed the same path through the semi-professional ranks as Halldorsson, and head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson still practices as a dentist when he has the time.
“I’m not an expert in which jobs the players have, but I think film-maker must be up there among the strangest - it’s not a usual combination, footballer and film-maker,” Halldorsson said.
The heightened exposure brought about by World Cup qualification has caused Halldorsson, who plays his club football for Danish club Randers, to take a seat in the director’s chair once again, if only briefly, to make a TV ad.
“It was a commercial for Coca Cola, they are one of the big sponsors of the football federation and we made a commercial shortly before the World Cup. The response has been very positive,” he said.
With the team dominating the TV ratings and Halldorsson’s commercial rolling regularly during the ad breaks, the nation’s footballers are almost never off Icelandic screens, and there is also a documentary film being made about their progress.
Though he may have another starring role to play between the posts in Friday’s Group D clash with Nigeria, Halldorsson says he will not be offering the documentary crew any advice.
“It’s a very ambitious project. They are following us and I am looking forward to seeing the result, but I’m staying out of the way this time!” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Christian Radnedge