Bjarni Felixson (27 December 1936 – 14 September 2023), widely known as Bjarni Fel, was a prominent Icelandic footballer, sports reporter, and commentator. Nicknamed “The Red Lion” due to his signature red hair, he was an iconic figure both on and off the football field. Bjarni represented the Iceland national football team between 1962 and 1964, earning six caps. He had a long stint with the Icelandic football club Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur, winning multiple titles during his career. Later, he switched gears to broadcasting and served as a sports reporter and commentator for RÚV for over four decades.
Born on December 27, 1936, Bjarni grew up in a family passionate about sports. Although details about his early life are scarce, his love for football became evident at a young age. His red hair soon earned him the nickname “The Red Lion,” a moniker that would stick with him throughout his career and life.
From 1956 to 1968, Bjarni played for Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur. As a defender, his role was primarily defensive, and he was not known for his offensive capabilities. Throughout his career, he only scored two goals. In a 1997 interview with Morgunblaðið, Bjarni humorously mentioned that after scoring what ended up being his last goal, the opposing goalkeeper said, “I knew I should’ve retired last season.”
During his time at Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur, Bjarni won the national championship five times and the Icelandic Cup seven times. His contributions were pivotal in establishing the club as a dominant force in Icelandic football.
Iceland National Team
Bjarni won six caps for the Iceland national football team between 1962 and 1964. Although his international career was relatively short, it was impactful. He became one of the few Icelandic players of his generation to gain international recognition.
After hanging up his boots, Bjarni transitioned into broadcasting. He worked for RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, for 42 years. Bjarni was instrumental in bringing English football to Icelandic audiences, earning him a special place in the hearts of football fans across the country.
He was present at Hillsborough Stadium as a commentator during the Hillsborough disaster, an event that had a profound impact on him and his subsequent commentary career.
Family and Personal Life
Football ran in the family for Bjarni. His brothers, Hörður and Gunnar, also played football and were his teammates at both Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur and the Icelandic national team. In 1963, all three brothers represented Iceland in two games against England.
In 2008, a sports bar in Reykjavík was named Bjarni Fel Sportsbar in his honor, highlighting his immense popularity and impact on Icelandic sports culture.
Death and Legacy
Bjarni Felixson passed away on 14 September 2023, at the age of 86. His death marked the end of an era in Icelandic sports. He left behind a rich legacy as a player, commentator, and sports personality. His contributions to Icelandic football and sports broadcasting are remembered fondly, and he continues to be a revered figure in the annals of Icelandic sports history.