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