Olafur Stefansson: Life lessons from Iceland’s handball hero

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Olafur Stefansson is regarded as Iceland's most famous handball player

The 40-year-old has played for Iceland in 330 matches and won an Olympic silver medal

After retiring in 2013, he is now coaching the next generation at Reykjavik club Valur

The lessons he learned along the way inform his hopes of "affecting others in a good way"

CNN  — 

Even if Olafur Stefansson dressed up as Santa Claus this Christmas, he would still have one of the most recognizable faces in Iceland.

He may not rival Bjork when it comes to fame on the international stage but, just like the singing icon, he is a big name in Iceland’s popular culture.

Stefansson is a handball hero – and handball is the second-most popular sport in Iceland after soccer. When the Iceland men’s team matches are televised, a whopping 80% of the Nordic island’s population of 322,000 tunes in.

With that kind of coverage alone, it’s no wonder Stefansson is a household name, but that’s not all.

An Olympic silver medalist and four times voted Iceland’s sports personality of the year, at his peak he was rated as one of the best players in the global game.

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Olafur Stefansson: Iceland's handball icon
03:00 - Source: CNN

After more than 20 years at the top, Stefansson retired in 2013 and is now handing down his knowledge to the next generation of Icelandic handball hopefuls.

The 40-year-old has come home to the capital city of Reykjavik to coach a group of young athletes at the Valur club, where his own career began.

“It’s full circle,” ponders Stefansson, who now distinguishes himself from the players buzzing around him by donning a fluorescent coaching bib and yellow whistle.

“It’s one thing being a player and another being a coach.