Finnish Lions defeat Croats, Czechs, Austrians and French for the CEAFL Cup
Wednesday, October 04 2006 @ 03:29 pm ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
The Central European AFL Championships were held in Prague last month, with the Finland Lions defeating the Croatian Giants in the final. The tournament was played under handicap rules where teams with more locals received score bonuses and featured squads of mixed Australians and Europeans. The five squads competing were from the newer up-and-coming European footy nations, all except for France still at the one-club stage but aiming to be able to compete against the more established leagues in future.
The following report courtesy of the Czech Lions.
Teams from Austria, Croatia, Finland, France and host nation, Czech Republic, contested the round-robin style tournament. Finland and Croatia finished equal first, each with 12 points from a possible 16, deservedly winning the chance to fight it out against each other in the Grand Final.
Under the lights, the game started very close, with only a few points separating the teams at half time. In the second half, it was the Finnish Lions who found top gear and pulled away with a dazzling display of teamwork and skill to run out winners in their first CEAFL Championship.
In an interview after the final, Israel "Izzy" Barker, Goal Kicker of the tournament and President of the Finnish Lions, was jubilant: "WOW, is how I would I start to talk about this victory. The Lions train on a gravel field in the heart of Helsinki with a group of guys who first spotted a footy this year! We have worked hard, training two nights a week all summer leading up to this event, strongly concentrating on our handball game and a very basic, high percentage brand of football. We went to Prague hoping to gain more game experience... little did we think we would end up with the Cup!!"
However, the Croatian Giants, with wins over Austria and the Czech Republic earlier in the day, together with earlier tournament victories in Vienna and Zagreb in its debut season, proudly took the Tri-Nations Cup. It is worth mentioning that of the 15 players who donned the red & white chequered jersey in Prague, 10 were born in Croatia.
France, in spite of the challenges in introducing Australian footy on home soil, enthusiastically took part in this tournament. Felicitously, because the players had great pleasure, they learnt from the experience, and proudly obtained their first positive results in an international tournament.
France played in the opening match - an amazing draw against the Czech Republic, and took a close but precious win against Austria, but suffered two losses against the strength of Finland and the free flowing running game of Croatia.
Speaking after the presentations, Alexis Schimpf of Kangourous Fran?ais was grateful and looks forward to a future of Australian football in France: "Beyond the final scores of the games, we will remember notably the enjoyment we had in playing in this tournament. We salute the good organisation, the sweet atmosphere around the field and afterwards into the night. This event was simply great! Congratulations to the champions, Finland. And thanks to every team present, to Ashley and the organisational staff, referees, and to the spectators. We wish to come again next year after our progress (and more players), we are thrilled to play this fabulous sport with you."
Austria came into the tournament with a squad of both new and experienced players, but was unable to open its international account, despite playing well organised and positive football. Tireless veteran Ben Chick commented that things are on the improve in Austrian football, with their first international win being just one goal away in this tournament.
Hosts the Czech Lions, though disappointed not to lift the Cup on home soil, were thrilled with the outcome of the tournament, with all teams displaying positive football, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for this unique and exciting sport. Australian football is only at its beginning in the participating countries, and this event showed there is already clear progress.
Tournament organiser Ashley Ball said "hosting the tournament presented a new challenge for Aussie Rules in the Czech Republic. But we met the challenge and we are extremely satisfied with the results. We know it's difficult for all nations to travel, but we are over the moon that the participating teams came with enthusiastic squads ready to play footy, but above all, to have fun! That's what footy is all about, after all. It is also possible now, that all these budding Aussie Rules nations can set their sights on the 2008 International Cup."
France 52 drew Czech Republic 52
Croatia 105 d Austria 48
Czech Republic 59 d Finland 52
France 59 d Austria 53
Croatia 56 d Czech Republic 45
Finland 99 d France 24
Czech Republic 87 d Austria 54
Finland 52 d Croatia 34
Finland 81 d Austria 38
Croatia 77 d France 41
FINAL Finland 90 d Croatia 45
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