Celtic FC are facing Icelandic opposition for only the second time in the shape of UEFA Champions League second qualifying round rivals KR Reykjavík, but there will be a familiar face at the KR-völlur on Tuesday night.
KR striker Kjartan Henry Finnbogason played for Celtic between 2005 and 2008, moving to Parkhead after trials with FC Girondins de Bordeaux, Middlesbrough FC and Feyenoord. "I fell for Scotland," said Finnbogason, now 28. "The people, the city and especially the coach Martin O'Neill. This was a famous club with their legendary shirts and 60,000-capacity stadium which is always sold out whoever Celtic are playing, so this was like a dream."
Young Finnbogason had a good start, graduating from the Under-19s to score on his reserves debut but there was a cloud on the horizon. On loan to lower-division neighbours Queen's Park FC, Finnbogason broke a metatarsal, and after three months' of recovery it snapped again.
For a young boy in a big city far from home, that was enough. He went to back to Iceland where local doctor Sveinbjörn Brandsson identified the problem. It was fixed back in Scotland but the 18 months had cost him his chance, with O'Neill now replaced by Gordon Strachan.
"I decided to give it a go," Finnbogason said. "I read somewhere that I scored 28 goals in 20 games for the reserve team but no matter what I tried I never got a chance and Strachan wanted to use his own players so I declined a new contract and wanted to join a club where I could play.
"So I left Celtic but everything is great about the club, you can hardly find better supporters and club staff but sadly I was in most contact with the physiotherapist and know him best of all. I still go to Scotland to visit."
Following spells at Falkirk FC, Sweden's Åtvidabergs FF and Norway's Sandefjord Fotball, Finnbogason went back to KR in 2010 and was soon back in the goals. They took the Icelandic title in 2011 and 2013, but they know a first UEFA Champions League win since 2000/01 is a tough proposition against Celtic.
"We have to realistic – they are a big club with a huge budget," Finnbogason said. "But there is always a chance. KR have done well in UEFA competition and 2011 we beat MŠK Žilina who had played in the Champions League the year before.
"So if we play our best game and they are not so good, anything can happen, but the key thing for us is to enjoy playing football and try to show what we can. Our staff are gathering information and trying to find the weakness in Celtic – if there is any – but we will not surrender before this big game. Like we have seen in the World Cup, results do not always go by the book."
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