The Lava Cup: Football and an Active Volcano

Chris Marshall
4 min readAug 16, 2023


This feature was first commissioned for Issue 432 of When Saturday Comes Magazine published in July 2023, you can subscribe to When Saturday Comes here.

The tournament winner’s celebrate their penalty shoot-out win in the final (June 2023)

When the Fagradalsfjall volcano erupted 20 miles from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik last summer few could have predicted that a fragment from that day would find itself superglued to a plinth as top prize in the East Lothian town of Bo’ness a few months later. Football, though, can always surprise you.

The Lava Cup sees teams competing from across mainland Scotland, Orkney, The Western Isles, England, Northern Ireland and Iceland. Players vary in both age, most are between 40–70, and ability; with a former participant in the European Cup Winners’ Cup mingling with Hebridean crofters who had only just returned to playing the game.

With support from the Icelandic FA the event began as a way to support men dealing with a wide range of physical and mental health related issues. “We’ve got two tournaments a year”, explains organiser Marc Boal, “and we try to keep them a few months apart as it becomes an incentive for guys to look after themselves all year round.”

The competition’s Icelandic roots stems from a phone call between Marc and representatives from touring side Throttur Old Boys, “We wanted to go play abroad and to find some new challenges. We met Marc and everything clicked together.” explains Kolbeinn, a founding member of the club based in the suburbs of the Icelandic capital, “I work as a software programmer so I sit at a desk all day, every day. This is my way of staying physical.”

Twelve teams are competing on a warm, clear May afternoon at Newtown Park, home of Lowland League Bo’ness United. The opening ceremony which is soundtracked by a lone piper and the Icelandic national anthem is delayed due to traffic problems for eventual winners, Aberdeen FFIT Legends and although teams have dressing rooms available most are enjoying the sunshine; sprawled across the terraces that surround the action. Competition is fierce but a smile is never far away.

One side with their eyes on the prize is the Northern Ireland Veteran’s side, “We come from all parts, from both religious sides, of all colour and creeds. If you’ve got the legs, come and play, it’s an open invite, that’s what we’re about”, explains founder and manager Gerry, “I’m a recovering alcoholic and so I try to give back to a lot of young footballers through counselling back home to help them avoid that path. To stand here at the age of 64 and say I’m taking part today is something I couldn’t have foreseen but it’s brilliant.” A speech he gives later in the day around the power of football is met with a huge roar of approval.

Names such as Punisher and The Bastard adorn the backs of Icelandic shirts. I spot Dunfermline’s keeper taking a surreptitious pre-match draw on a vape. Goals are cheered as if they had been banged into the top corner at Hampden, joints bandaged up like Tutankhamun in his tomb, just about holding for one last shot at glory. As teams are eliminated and the number of visible hobbles increase the methods of hydration change from store-brand isotonics and H20 to the sound of tssshing bottle caps and cans being cracked open.

The Northern Ireland side would eventually finish third, their young mascot hoisted upon their shoulders as they went up to claim their medals; when the competition is over it is the camaraderie that endures and as players prepare for a night of celebration, shirts are donated to a group of enthusiastic young spectators with signatures requested with a vigour that I’m unsure even an appearance from Lionel Messi could top.

The day ends as it started, in chorus, a rousing rendition of an Icelandic folk song signifies it’s time to move to the social club where a collection for Scotland’s Cerebral Palsy National Team raises over £1000.

I ask Marc why he does it, “I’ve been asked a lot of times. My big hit is seeing the guys’ faces. Guys in their fifties and sixties and the smiles on their faces from playing football. Next year we’re hoping to play somewhere bigger and teams from Portugal, Denmark and Norway have all got in touch wanting to take part.”

“Everybody gets to keep fit, stay healthy and then we try help others along the way too. Who knows where the Lava Cup will take us next but that in itself is pretty special.”



Chris Marshall

Writer | Piehopper | Scottish Women’s Football Hype Man.