• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Bandy: How Sweden's little known sport is winning fans
Swedish Somalis playing bandy in the town of Borlänge. Photo: Pontus Lindahl/TT

Bandy: How Sweden's little known sport is winning fans

AFP/The Local · 29 Feb 2016, 15:49

Published: 29 Feb 2016 15:49 GMT+01:00

It's a sort of field hockey on ice that's been played in Scandinavia for decades, but now the game of bandy is pressing to win a broader fan base – and international recognition.
 
A distant second favourite to the popular global winter sport ice hockey – of which it is thought to be an early ancestor – the high-tempo game involves two teams of 11 players on ice skates using hockey sticks to try to hit a ball into goals on a frozen pitch the size of a football field.
 
The sport – which is believed to have its origins in the the Middle Ages and gained brief popularity in England a hundred years ago – is mainly played in the Nordics. The first national bandy league was started in Sweden in 1902. The game is also popular in the Russian hinterland, where it is commonly known just as 'Russian hockey'. 
 
At the 2016 annual Bandy World Cup held earlier this month in provincial Russia, teams from as far a field as the United States, China, Germany and even, surprisingly, war-torn Somalia took part.
 
The team from Somalia is made of up of refugees from the country living in Sweden. It started as an integration project, initiated by team manager Patrik Andersson in 2014. He said he and his friends were out on a pub crawl when they began discussing how to work together on the challenges faced by Borlänge, an old industrial town 200 kilometres west of Stockholm.
 
Speaking to the AFP news agency last year, he said he thought creating bridges between coexisting cultures "would make Borlänge a good city to live in".
 
However the team was knocked out in 2015 as well as in this year's tournament, which was eventually won by the hosts – and favourites – Russia.
 
 

Members of Somalia's bandy team, who live in Sweden. Photo: Pontus Lindahl/TT
 
Nevertheless Russian President Vladimir Putin – who often takes to the ice to play highly choreographed hockey games with his buddies before the state media – shone a rare spotlight on the sport by hosting the winning Russian team at his residence near Moscow.
 
"I'll give it a go. I've already learnt how to stand up on ice skates," joked Putin after one of the players asked him to try out bandy.
 
Veterans of the sport say that while its popularity may still be limited outside of the Nordics and Russia, there is plenty about the game that can get the fans excited.
 
"It's still unfamiliar with the public in many countries around the world but I'm positive that they will love it just after they have a chance to watch the action," Russian bandy great Mikhail Sveshnikov told AFP.
 
"It's a fast-paced and high scoring game and it's very hard not to fall in love with it."
 

President Vladimir Putin being given a bandy stick by Russian national player Yevgeny Ivanushkin in February. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/TT
 
But the game still seems to have a long way to go before the crowds come flocking.
 
On a recent evening only a handful of places were taken at a stadium just outside Moscow as local team Zorky took on Rodina from Kirov in central Russia.
 
"Unfortunately young people don't come to watch this game. I can't understand why," Zorky fan Maxim Bobrov told AFP.
 
Bobrov said that while bandy is more popular in its stronghold in the vast eastern region of Siberia it struggles to compete with other sports elsewhere.
Story continues below…
 
"Maybe its because they don't have any alternative. But here we also have football and ice hockey."
 
That, however, has not stopped those in charge of the game here setting their sights high.
 
World bandy governing body (FIB) chief Boris Skrynnik said he is convinced the game can gain international popularity – and is currently pushing for it to be included at the Winter Olympics.
 
"I believe that bandy has the best chances among all of the winter sports to be included into the Olympic Games programme," Skrynnik told AFP.
 
With major Winter Olympic powerhouses such as Russia, the US, and China boasting teams, as well as Sweden and other Scandinavian nations, he says that should give the sport as good a chance as any of making it into the Beijing games in 2022.
 
"I don't see any serious obstacles that can prevent our game from becoming an Olympic sport."

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Coeliac disease not caused by early weaning: Swedish study
Carin Andrén Aronsson now plans to investigate why Sweden has such high levels of coeliac disease. Photo: Polarbrod

Mothers who stop breastfeeding early are not to blame for their children developing gluten intolerance, a new Swedish study has found.

Zlatan look-a-like storms pitch as Man U take on champions
A grinning Zlatan pushed the man away with the palm of his hand. Photo: YouTube

Zlatan fever has hit the UK, with a look-a-like storming the pitch on Saturday only to be palmed off by the grinning Swedish football star.

Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
'Egor Putilov' had access to all areas of the Swedish parliament: Photo: Riksdag

A Russian-born political secretary for the Sweden Democrats has resigned after making six million kronor ($0.7m) in a property deal with a St Petersburg businessman.

Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Bruce Springsteen tells SVT talk show host that Trump is an 'embarrassment' to the US. Photo: SVT/Youtube

Rock legend Bruce Springsteen has described Donald Trump as an embarrassment to the United States, in an interview on Sweden's Skavlan talk show.

'World class' developer told to leave Sweden over admin slip
Software developer Tayyab Shabab. Photo: Private

Tayyab Shabab has a house, a job and pays tax in Sweden, but he has now been told he must leave within three weeks.

Police release men held over bomb threat on refugee home
Police officers outside the building. Photo: Robert Nyholm/TT

UPDATED: Two men arrested after a bomb threat was made against a home for refugees in Boden, northern Sweden, have been allowed to leave custody.

Embassy: No-go zones 'do not exist in Sweden'
Police on the Serbian-Hungarian border. Photo: Sofia Eriksson/TT

Sweden's embassy in Budapest has sharply rebuked Hungary after an official leaflet claimed that Stockholm and other European cities had become "no-go areas".

The Local List
Ten reasons why it's awesome being knocked up in Sweden
Being pregnant in Sweden can be pretty great. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

US writer Lisa Ferland shares her top reasons why she thinks Sweden is wonderful for expecting mums.

The Local Recipe
Welcome in the autumn with this Swedish tiger cake
Tiger cake and coffee, the perfect combination. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Fika: the best part of the day. Make this tiger cake and you'll keep everyone very happy.

Four arrested over Gothenburg riots
File photo of a Swedish police officer. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Four people have been arrested in connection with riots in a Gothenburg suburb this week.

Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
Blog updates

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
Gallery
People-watching: September 9th-11th
The Local Voices
Shakib, 23, works and pays taxes — but will Sweden let him stay?
National
Watch this Swede roll his kayak without spilling his beer. Respect.
Gallery
People-watching: September 7th
The Local Voices
'Swedes are polarized on refugees - it's the welcome mat or the exit door'
National
WATCH: Yes, this Swedish rising star really is Abba legend's grandson
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,966
jobs available