Contributed by: Aaron Richard
A number of (non-Aussie) former members of the Danish Australian Football League are currently making headlines in spreading Aussie Rules across Europe. In the Norwegian city of Tromsø, Helsingborg Saints old boy Johan Julin is part of a group founding the world's most northerly club. In Andorra, British expat Doug Pate is running a club. Páll Finnsson, the Icelandic captain of the Denmark Vikings at IC08, this weekend pulled on the boots at the French Championships.
Back in Iceland, Páll's brother Jón Hrói Finnsson has also been trying to get the sport started since returning from his stint playing footy in Denmark. It seems his efforts are paying off, with school clinics underway and a senior side in formation in the town of Ólafsfjörður.
Around 400km away in the Icelandic capital Reykjavík, a group of around a dozen senior players have been kicking the footy on a weekly basis since May, under the leadership of Friðgeir Torfi Ásgeirsson, another Icelander who learnt to play in the DAFL.
As Jón Hrói tells us, "Friðgeir Torfi Ásgeirsson (aka Fritz Fullname on Facebook) took the initiative in Reykjavík and started gathering guys to kick footy in a local park, "Hljómskálagarðurinn". He started in May, and the group is growing fast. The Facebook group now has 44 members, about 30 of whom are Icelandic and living in Iceland. From what I hear there are about ten guys at training every Wednesday at 20:00."
"Friðgeir has made contact with the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland for some advice on how it is best to start a team and/or form a league. I have spoken to the local sports association in Ólafsfjörður about membership and I have also spoken to the committee of a local sports club, about starting a team under their flag to simplify things. If that works out it may give access to some funds."
"Some of the other guys that have tried the sport in Denmark through the years have shown interest in starting again, and I am certain that there must be people that have been foreign exchange students in Australia or that have lived in Australia for other reasons, that could be interested. The problem is finding them and Facebook seems to be a good tool for that!"
Jón Hrói has also been running school clinics in a local school in Ólafsfjörður with great success. "The kids loved it. I have spoken to the head of youth activities at the local authorities, and has promised access to the local football ground at least once a week. I plan to advertise weekly junior training this week, hopefully starting next week. Training will be free of charge and open for anyone that wants to have a go. There are no costs to cover, since we get the ground for free"
"I also plan to have an introduction to Aussie rules for seniors and see how that goes in Ólafsfjörður. Knowing that there is a team to compete with in Reykjavík makes things a lot easier, even if it is about 400km away. We have talked about playing 9 a side like they do in Europe, at least to begin with."
"We have also talked about doing junior clinics in Reykjavik to promote the sport. Remember, that this is a country where almost nobody has ever heard of Australian Rules Football. Most think it is a kind of rugby or confuse it with American Football. It is never shown on TV, and the only chance of seeing it is if you have access to the Eurosport-channel via satellite. So it's a bit of an uphill battle."
"Another hurdle is access to equipment. The guys in Reykjavik have three balls as of last week. They only had two so I gave them one of mine, and I had my brother, Páll Tómas Finnsson buy a few junior balls in Melbourne during the International Cup last year, so I'm a bit better off, at least for the junior development. We need to find contacts in Australia soon and start importing some balls, jumpers etc. so that lack of equipment doesn't get in the way."
"Since we have some development in two different parts of the country, we will probably try forming one league for the whole country at first, rather than local leagues. Most of the sports leagues are organized in this way. If the sport catches on, we may try dividing it up in two or more later, but let's see how it goes with one for now. The ÍSÍ has some kind of an arrangement to even out the members' cost of traveling, so traveling might not be a big problem after all."
The Icelanders have talked about setting the short-term goal of attending this year's EU Cup in Zagreb. In the meantime they remain on the lookout for new players and can be contacted via their Facebook group - Jón Hrói adds they don't have any Australians yet and they'd love to hear from any Aussies in Iceland to come down and help out the locals.
World Footy News