Ex-A-League striker Gibbs uncertain of Iceland spell amid virus crisis

Joey Gibbs during his time with the Western Sydney Wanderers in 2012 Source: Getty Images

Former Western Sydney Wanderers forward Joey Gibbs’ spell in Iceland has hit a roadblock because of the impact of the coronavirus.

Gibbs signed a one-year deal with Icelandic giant Keflavik in January, marking his return to full-time professional football after five years with Blacktown City in the NSW NPL.

But with football shut down globally thanks to the pandemic, the striker has been left in limbo and had his wages cut.

However, the 27-year-old is remaining upbeat and determined to see out the crisis in the Nordic country.

“I’m OK compared to what else I’m hearing is going on,” Gibbs told The World Game.

“I’ll be staying in Iceland. They are looking to hook me up with a job mowing at a golf course in the meantime to ensure normal wages can be managed, which is good.

“It’s funny times with what’s going on. We’ve been individually training and staying inside. It’s a bit tough being out of the team environment but it’s all for a good reason.”

Gibbs has been left wondering jokingly if he is cursed, after a dream move to Belgian club Olympic Charleroi back in 2010 as an 18-year-old broke down because of financial issues.

“The last time I went to Europe to play football was in Belgium,” he said.

“I was making a joke to myself that that was the time of the big global financial crisis, and now there’s another one. It’s kind of like I’m not meant to be in Europe.

“That was part of the reason why Belgium didn’t work out, investors pulled out of the club and they couldn’t pay us. I laugh a little bit about that.

“I’ll just have to wait and see how things play out here, but it feels a bit more optimistic than maybe some of the other places around the world.

“The season was supposed to start in May, but they’ve moved it to mid-May and it’s pending on things as well. No one knows what’s going to happen here, but I think that’s still realistic for it to go ahead.

“There’s optimism around and hopefully by mid-May we can be back on the field and playing.”

Gibbs came through at Manly United and debuted in the A-League for Sydney FC in 2010. After time with Manly and the Marconi Stallions in the NPL, he signed for Western Sydney for their inaugural season in 2012.

The striker bagged four goals in the Wanderers’ first-ever match - a 5-0 pre-season victory over Nepean FC.

Gibbs then spent a season with the Newcastle Jets before stints with APIA Leichhardt and Tai Po in Hong Kong.

He admits his switch to Iceland, after five seasons with Blacktown, came out of the blue.

“I wasn’t expecting it. If someone said I’d be playing in Iceland last year I wouldn’t have believed it,” Gibbs said.

“It came up through my agent and a few connections that are around. I thought it would be a great experience and it has been a great experience, even considering all the things that have happened that are out of our control.

“Blacktown is a good club, there’s good people there. We were winning things. But it comes a time when an opportunity comes up and you have to take it.

“You only have a certain amount of time in your football career, it’s up to you as a player to take the opportunity when it comes otherwise you might not get that opportunity again. It was tough to leave my mates and people I’ve played with for a while, but they all understood and I’m happy to be here.”

Gibbs is hoping to impress in Iceland and potentially put himself in the European shop window.

“Number one, the move was about experiencing a different football culture,” he said.

“But I’m 27, I don’t feel like I’m near the end of my career in any respect. I still feel young and I feel like I’ll play for quite a bit longer.

“That’s plan, I want to do well, score some goals and you never know what can happen. This club really wants to get promoted and I wanted to be a part of that too. That would be awesome.”

Keflavik are one of the oldest and most prestigious clubs in Iceland, and have participated in the European Cup, UEAF Cup, the Cup Winners’ Cup and the Intertoto Cup in the past.

But the 91-year-old outfit were relegated from the Urvalsdeild karla in 2018 and now play in the second division Inkasso-deild karla.

“Keflavik’s one of the bigger teams in the country,” Gibbs said. “They’ve got a bit of history behind them and have been quite successful. But at the moment they’re in the second division, so part of the reason they’ve invested in a few players is they’re really pushing to get back to the top league and where they were.

“It’s one of the more well-known teams around here. A few Aussies have played for them as well, which was a bit of a surprise.

“The opportunity came up and my other stints were quite short, there were other factors to do with things. I really wanted to give it another shot and Iceland seemed like an appropriate destination, and it could be a place where I play and start.

“You never know what could happen if you score a few goals. I jumped on it and I’m sure things will turn out fine. I’m looking forward to playing and turning out for the club.”