The goalkeeper signed a contract with Bayern Munich this summer ahead of an unexpectedly different but huge experience at the Women’s Euro
When Cecilia Ran Runarsdottir, the young Icelandic goalkeeper, made her senior debut, she was just 13 years old. Fast forward five years and since then she has become her country’s youngest goalkeeper, signing with one of the biggest clubs in the world, Bayern Munich. Now, she’s ready for her first full season in one of the best leagues in the world.
The 19-year-old was close to being part of Iceland’s Euro Women’s squad this summer, her first major tournament. Unfortunately, a broken finger ruled her out of the competition, but she had the opportunity to try it out with her team, staying in England to soak in a special atmosphere.
when the GOAL spoke with Thorsteinn Magnusson, Runarsdottir’s first goalkeeping coach, there is a burning question: how does a goalkeeper make such an impact at such a young age?
Your answer is simple. “That depends on the character.”
In fact, Runarsdottir became a goalkeeper by chance. She had been playing soccer for some time when, at age 10, her team needed someone to be in goal in a tournament.
Two years later, Magnusson found himself at a goalkeeping school organized by the Football Association of Iceland. Recalling the day, the words “there was something special” are uttered several times.
From there, he took her under his wing and worked to bring out her potential. It only took a year before she was playing professional football in Iceland’s second division.
“Back then it was so natural for me because I always wanted to play, I always wanted more and obviously I had a great goalkeeping coach, Thorsteinn, who helped me a lot,” Runarsdottir told GOAL.
“When you look back, you’re so grateful for the opportunities the coaches gave you. You don’t realize it at the time – because you always want to play, you just think about it – but it’s crazy to put a 13-year-old girl in goal.”
“(People around me) always saw how hard I worked and knew I deserved it. They knew I was good enough. For them, it wasn’t that surprising, but I think it must be surprising when you’re watching the game to see a very tall 13-year-old goalie come in!”
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“You have to see how she was coached,” adds Magnusson, explaining how she managed to break into professional football at such a young age.
“She was trained like, ‘What is your role as a goalkeeper? It doesn’t matter who you’re playing with or who you’re playing against. You always have that role.’”
It’s one thing for a coach to say that – it’s another for a player to genuinely think about it. And Runarsdottir has.
After making her debut with Afturelding in Iceland, she signed with Fylkir in the top flight. After her first season at the club, she won her first call-up to the senior national team and a few months later she made her debut.
At 16 years, seven months and seven days, she was the youngest goalkeeper in her country, beating the previous record by 148 days.
Voted young player of the year in the Icelandic top flight in her second season, she soon began to attract attention from abroad.
She moved to Sweden, which has one of the best leagues in the world for developing young talent, before signing a contract with Everton and, this summer, moving to Bayern Munich.
When asked if she thinks of the names of the stars she’s been training and playing with in Germany, Runarsdottir responds with an answer that reflects what Magnusson said.
“When I walked into the locker room, you recognize all these faces and all these names,” she says. “But I think as soon as you get on the field, you’re not thinking (about it).”
The work that made Runarsdottir one of the most exciting young goalkeepers in the world isn’t just about psychology, of course.
“We were training six days a week,” Magnusson recalls of them working together for the first time. “It was a little difficult for her – you can imagine, the girl will be 13. But she never gave in.”
“After about two or three weeks I had to change the training schedule because she was doing so well. It was unbelievable to see the speed at which she was adapting and realizing what she had to do to be a goalkeeper.”
“Immediately, there was a great character and a very smart, intelligent person.”
He remembers the teenager kicking “400 to 500 balls” every day to improve her kicks. He remembers the weighted vest she trained in four times a week for four years to get the “unbelievable” jumping ability she has now.
“Six times a week for four years, it didn’t matter if it was snowing or raining, we always went out (to train),” he adds. “She never had an excuse not to go.”
Another thing Runarsdottir and Magnusson did when they started working together was write down some goals.
One was to make the senior team in six to eight years. “And we were a few years early!” Magnusson laughs.
Runarsdottir believes the “crazy” moment is the achievement she is most proud of so far. It’s likely that she has a lot more to come as well.
She has played abroad, lived alone and been in an environment that gave a taste of the highest level.
“Bayern Munich is one of the best teams in the world and you see: ‘Okay, this is the level. This is your goal,’” she explains.
The 18-year-old can dream of anything, but her goals are pretty simple. First and foremost, she wants to help Iceland qualify for the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Furthermore? “I always want to be better, give 100%, help my teammates and be a good person,” she adds.
With that attitude, an elite mindset and a relentless work ethic, it’s no wonder this talented goalkeeper has already scored some big goals – and she’s just getting started.