American Football touches down in Sweden

American Football fever has hit Sweden as fans excitedly anticipate the championship final battle between the Stockholm Mean Machines and Arlanda Jets.

American Football touches down in Sweden

Speed, strength and skill, three words that come easily to mind when contemplating American Football. However, in a game which requires fully grown men to directly collide with each other at full tilt, it is also a brutal sport, well known for its high injury rate.

But this hasn’t put off the Swedes, a nation driven by outdoor pursuits and always game to try a new adrenaline rush. American Football has discovered a new home in Sweden, with 44 active teams currently registered with the International Federation of American Football (IFAF).

“American Football started becoming popular in Sweden in the late 80s and early 90s,” comments IFAF President, Tommy Wiking (himself a Swede). “But the defining moment was in 1988 when the first live game was shown on Swedish National TV, between the Vikings and the Bears”.

From that point, American Football has been steadily growing in popularity in Scandinavia, with ViasatSport now hosting a dedicated NFL programme fronted by football expert Robert Sundberg.

“It’s the ultimate sport game,” gushes Wiking. “Once understood, it is very intriguing and gets you really hooked”.

Indeed American Football is a sport that is hard to master. Players have to be strong, fast, and have a high level of general fitness.

Despite their somewhat oafish, excessively padded appearance, participants must be fluent in the six basic skills of football (kicking, catching, passing, running, blocking and tackling), as well as adept in the subtleties of strategic play.

“It’s a fast paced game, even if it might not feel like it straight away,” says Robert Johansson, Head Coach of the Stockholm Mean Machines. “There’s always lots happening all over the field, not just where the ball is. It’s sometimes more like a game of chess than football”.

If the seeming complexity of the game puts you off, not to worry, asserts Johansson:

“It is a hard game to learn and has a high entry level, but you don’t have to learn everything at once. Just know your position and what you need to do and you can start playing”.

However, if the thought of being rag-dolled across a muddy field doesn’t appeal, then Sweden offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the game as a spectator. This weekend sees the culmination of the season with the kick-off of the Swedish American Football Championship final.

The Stockholm Mean Machines secured their place in the final last weekend after beating the Limhamn Griffins 31-22. They will battle it out for the Championship title with the Arlanda Jets on Sunday, September 21st at 4pm.

The game will be hosted at Zinkensdamn IP and tickets can be bought at the gate for 150 kronor or in advance from Ticnet for 100 kronor (link below).

See also: Photo Gallery


Meet Germany’s American Football stars

Germany's American Football team narrowly beat Austria on Saturday to win the European title for a third year in a row. The players who led the side to victory are our Germans of the Week.

Meet Germany's American Football stars
The German national team celebrate their 30:27 victory over Austria in the European championships on Saturday. Photo: DPA

On the eve of the 2014 World Cup, it might seem in soccer-mad Germany like "the beautiful game" is the only sport there is.

But ever since US troops occupied West Germany in the aftermath of World War II, bringing their beloved "gridiron" football with them, America's favourite sport has quietly become more and more popular in the country.

Since the first official German American Football club, the Frankfurt Lions, formed in 1977, the sport has spawned a national association (the AFVD) a full national league, a ladies' league, several junior leagues and hosts of regional and local clubs, who have competed for a place in the annual "German Bowl" since 1979.

And the German national team, which played its first games in 1981, has been European champions for six times. They defended the title against Austria in front of around 27,000 people in Vienna's Ernst Happel stadium on Saturday.

While German Football League (GFL) teams often employ players on secondment from American leagues and the national team is not closed to players of other nationalities, many of the 2014 squad's top players were German-born.

Marco Ehrenfried, Germany's quarterback in Saturday's final, is one such player. Starting his career in the junior team of his local club, the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, 21-year-old Ehrenfried joined the Rhein-Neckar Bandits as soon as he was old enough in 2012, scoring 39 touchdowns in 15 games in the 2013 season.

Ehrenfried's pinpoint pass to Wide Receiver Niklas Römer brought the side a key touchdown in Saturday's final. But in the 2014 season Ehrenfried will return to the Schwäbisch Hall, while also studying history and sport to become a teacher.

The 26-year-old Römer, meanwhile, was named Germany's Most Valuable Player twice in the 2011 World Cup after he made key scoring catches in both of Germany's winning games, against France and Australia. Originally from Cologne, he plays for club team the Braunschweig "New Yorker" Lions.

Römer courted controversy in 2013 when he posted edited pictures on Instagram of him running past opposing Dresden players shown in flames, with the caption "Dresden is going down like '45", according to Bild newspaper. The comments were seen as mocking victims of allied bombing raids on the eastern German city in 1945.

German Linebacker Kerim Homri made his name as a key defensive player for the Braunschweig Lions, where he has been on the roster since 2008. The 24-year-old ranks among the GFL's top ten tacklers – and in the league's top five German-born tacklers. He was awarded the AFVD's Player of The Year award in 2011 after making 130 tackles that season.

But other members of the German squad are nationals of both Germany and the USA.

Running Back and general all-rounder Danny Washington started his career aged 15 with the Darmstadt Diamonds. The 28-year-old, who has joint US/German citizenship, now plays in multiple positions for the Rhein-Neckar Bandits, a side coached by his father, former NFL player Marvin Washington.

And Joe "JoJo" Joyner, a 30-year-old Wide Receiver for Germany, who also has joint American and German citizenship, started off his career playing college football for Guilford College, North Carolina, before joining GFL side the Franken Knights in 2010.

Germany's close relationship with the USA has clearly paid off for the German side, with three consecutive wins in the European championships and three World Cups as the top placed European team.

And, to an extent, it runs both ways: a few German players have been plucked from their GFL teams (viewed as semi-professional at best by the US American Football establishment) and drafted into the NFL, including 28-year-old Markus Kuhn from Weinheim in southwest Germany, who was recruited by 2011 Super Bowl winners the New York Giants in 2012.

SEE ALSO: Football fans plan World Cup 'sick leave'