EU Cup preview - Catalonia, France and Finland
Thursday, August 23 2007 @ 03:16 pm ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
Eleven teams are currently scheduled to take to the pitch for this year's EU Cup, with a diverse range of team backgrounds. Although this year's cup will include a quota of non-Australians in the squads, there is great variation between the local content of teams - some based heavily around Australians, some consisting entirely of locals. The selection processes relfect the difference stages of development the clubs display - some teams have active local leagues and a formal selection process, some have to work pretty hard to get fifteen guys together for the tournament.
Pere Casan tells the Catalan selection has already been training and playing together. "We already had a couple of preparation games during the first half of 2007 so our national coach, the ex-president of the DAFL in the early 90s Doug Pate, could see us all in action and choose the 15-man roster. We will hopefully meet all every weekend from now to the EU Cup for technical, tactical and physical 2-3 hour training sessions.
Our coach (Doug Pate) chose who he considered the best national (all Catalan) players to represent Catalonia at the EU Cup after the LFAC season finished. The he chose a 20-man roster from which he will decide the 15-man final roster in 2 weeks, plus 3 emergencies in case someone gets injured before the trip. We are all Catalan born and raised players. The only non-local is the coach.
"In 2005 there were 2 clubs in Valls, one in Tarragona, one in Lleida and one in Barcelona. Then we decided to reduce that list into 2 clubs last year, although next year we are going to expand again into 4 more clubs, maybe 5 or 6 depending on the circumstances. Again, 2 clubs in Valls, one more hopefully in Tarragona, one in Barcelona, one in Andorra and who knows if this year the club in Perpignan will join us finally.
"We are playing against mostly expats, so we don't think we stand a chance to reach any kind of success. We would be happy if we end up like last time, between 7th and 10th.
"I would watch out for our best players:
Micky Rodriguez - a tennis instructor, he lived in Australia for nearly a year where he learned about footy, he plays ruck rover.
Pere Moliner - despite his age, he still is one of our best players; in the rover position with a glove in his left boot, he also tackles fiercely coming from an American football background
José Madico - a tall ruckman with high athletic abilities, he was Best on Ground in the LFAC 2007 GF, medal awarded by decision of Brian Clarke and Philip Porublev who were on the stands watching the game; he has a devastating, long, accurate kick and also marks the ball pretty well.
Casan adds, "as you can see, our stars are in the midfield. By the way, I am an utility player but my coach wants me to play mainly in the Full Back position so I doubt I will be able to score many goals. I really hoped to play Full Forward like last time, but oh well!"
The Finns are training "as normal", twice a week with some swimming added to the regime, some local games and a couple of hit outs with Sweden, plus private training the boys undertake. Barker tells us "we have 28 people wanting to go to Germany. Let's see what happens from here, I believe more feet on the paddock the more experience Finland will gain. We have 3 Aussies, 1 Kiwi, 2 Irish, 1 Columbian and 21 Finnish requesting to wear the Finnish national colours with pride.
"Finland has experienced growth at an unpredicted pace. We have dedicated lads in Halikko doing a stellar job, all kicked off by Kimmo Heikkila and Jani Saarinen. Plus we added an exciting website to direct interested players to the right area and let fans know what we are doing. The media are very much behind us in Finland and are following progress to the International Cup.
"We enter the EU Cup to gain experience for our new guys who wish to make it to the IC cup 08. A good look in at the level required. We have a few Finns who will mix it at this level, we ask them to raise to the challenge and demonstrate leadership. Finnish footy is for the Finns after all and we are relatively new.
"We have speed on tap, with the likes of our two Jukkas, Petri and Fredi, and a hard hitting coast guard who can't wait to introduce himself. I think our CEAFL fairest and best Mr Heikki Tanner may put on a show. You will see some Finnish "SISU" displayed (tenacity in English). The tournament may be the last for some time for the likes of myself and Dave King who look likely to return to Perth. This will hopefully stir passion on the day. I personally look forward to every minute beside my lads out there.
"The Finland AFL met this week with a large local sport TV station who wish to have AFL on a regular time slot in Finland. We have placed the challenge to the AFL who are currently looking into the possibilities. This will certainly help our recruitment and the larger common goal of establishing AFL in yet another nation.
"The Finland Icebreakers wish to extend their gratitute to Finnlines who are set to come to our party as a major sponsor and have supported the national Finnish team for this event and possibly more. Kiitos Paljon Finnlines from all at the Finland Icebreakers."
Marc Jund from the Strasbourg Kangaroos explains the French haven't undertaken any national team training outside the usual sessions among the Strasbourg and Paris players - they wanted to have a training camp in August but it was cancelled due to not enough takers. Similarly, selection is a matter of getting players on the park, with 10 from Strasbourg set to go and 5 others from Paris and elsewhere. As Jund tells us "In Strasbourg, we have two Spanish players this year. They will play with France at the EU Cup. After 2005 EU Cup from London, there were new clubs in France: Senlis, Cergy & Perpignan. But now it's back to what it was two years ago: Strasbourg and Paris only."
The French are hopeful of calling on two French expats - Gaétan Blondé (Swedish AFL) and Alphonse Tranne, who recently played in a BARFL premiership side with the West London Wildcats.