The Viking clap: How Gunny Jonsdottir has helped shape the Royals’ identity

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals at practice in Sandy, Tuesday March 20, 2018. Gunnhildur Jonsdottir (23).

It started with Utah Royals midfielder Gunnhildur Jonsdottir teaching owner Dell Loy Hansen the Viking clap.

It ended with an entire stadium doing it.

“It means a lot to me that they’re bringing an Icelandic tradition here to Utah and just having the supporters be down for that I think is awesome,” Jonsdottir said. “I like having something that connects us with the fans like that.”

The Royals have adapted the iconic Icelandic celebration, replacing the traditional “Huh,” between claps with “Utah … Royals … FC.” Every time the Royals win at home, it’s a reminder of the impact Jonsdottir has already had on the Royals.

“I knew since it was a new team it was important for me to give everything I have to build up a great environment and a great team,” Jonsdottir said. “And I love being a part of that, and that’s one of the reasons why I came is I wanted to be a part of that build-up. Because I think Utah has a lot of potential to have a top women’s team in the world and I want to be a part of that.”


The Royals first did the Viking clap with their fans after their inaugural win, 2-0 over the Washington Spirit at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 5. Earlier that day, goalkeeper Abby Smith had posted a picture on Instagram of her standing in training with her arms outstretched in a V. She referenced it in her postgame press conference.

“I said, ’channeling my inner Gunny’,” Smith said. “Just because it’s something I think we can definitely take advantage of. Gunny does a great job with it, and it was awesome to have all the fans in on it.”

Royals coach Laura Harvey has a track record of bringing in international players that help define the culture of a club, including midfielders Jess Fishlock and Kim Little, who both played for Harvey in Seattle.

“That’s what makes players special, is what they can do on the field, [matching] what they can give you off the field,” Harvey said. “And Gunny is a special person I think for sure.”

The Iceland international wasn’t a big name in NWSL circles. Before joining the Royals, she spent her career in Europe, earning her first top-flight appearance with Icelandic club Stjarnan FC at 14 years old and continuing her career in Norway from 2013 through 2017.

And yet, she’s evolved into one of the faces of the franchise.

“I think before she even stepped on the field,” Royals forward Katie Stengel said, “we were like, ‘Oh, it’s the Utah Gunnys.’”

Jonsdottir began her Utah career by scoring the first Royals goal in history. Then she appeared on the big screen of the team’s inaugural home game to teach the fans how to do the Viking clap.

Once attacking midfielder Katrina Gorry joined the Royals at the end of April, Jonsdottir moved to a position deeper in the midfield. Jonsdottir has provided two assists in the Royals’ past three matches, including one in Utah’s 2-1 victory at Sky Blue FC two weeks ago. The Royals were missing Becky Sauerbrunn, Amy Rodriguez and Smith to international duty with the U.S. women’s national team.

“I felt in Sky Blue it was the most controlled performance of hers, “ Harvey said of Jonsdottir, “where she really knew we needed her to be disciplined. I felt that she was really disciplined in that game, and I thought she really dragged the team along when we needed it. ”

The Royals’ next test is a two-match road trip, starting Saturday at North Carolina and then Chicago on June 23. Then they’ll return home for two matches at Rio Tinto.

The Viking clap, “is something that when we win I look forward to at the end of the game,” Harvey said.