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Wednesday, December 19 2018 @ 10:29 pm ACDT

Finland domestic comp ready to break the ice in 2007

Europe

Since the end of last year, footy in Finland has seen the Finland Lions make two trips to Prague, play a three-game series against the Stockholm Dynamite and hold a match Finland vs The World, with an all-Finnish team taking on Irish and Aussies from the Finnish footy scene and only going down by twenty points.

Now the crew are putting together plans for a local league featuring teams from Helsinki, Espoo, Turku and possibly Vantaa (all fairly close together on Finland's southern coast), with the goal of having enough Finns playing regularly in the league to push for a Finnish team (tentatively nicknamed the "Ice Breakers") at the 2008 International Cup.

After winning the Central European AFL championships in Prague this year, the Finnish footy diehards received two major write-ups in local newspapers, accompanied by major editorials about Aussie rules or "Aussie no rules", as one reporter said. Finnish AFL president Izzy Barker tells us "The reporter promised in the article to follow our progress (this article was part 1) to the International cup and help us try to recruit, the reporter himself wants to join our team".

"We have found some university students in the town of Turku who want to start another Finnish team, we have some Aussies living in Turku who can coach and assist in any matters, they have been waiting for this chance."

Footy in Finland has until now been restricted to the players in and around Helsinki, but the roots have been placed in Espoo and Vantaa (cities lying either side of the capital) and Turku on the southwestern coast. The game schedule will be dependent on the work schedule of players in the teams, but Barker says the local comp will be 9-a-side "minimum". "We will try to field as many on the field at every game depending on the oval size. There is one oval large enough for a full size field in Helsinki and we like to play 12-a-side on that larger field".

"We had 23 players turn up to the last event, Finland vs the World, the world being some Irish and some damn talented young Aussies we had over as exchange students. "The World" won by around 20 points from memory, but there was only 2 goals in it at three quarter time. A fully Finnish team came so close against quality opposition."

Turku is one of the Finnish ports (Helsinki being the other) of the cruisliner route connecting Stockholm and Finland. These cruseliners (such as Silja Line or Viking Line) are equipped with everything from bars to saunas and make for a great footy trip. Taking advantage of this, there has been talk of a combined Finnish side also competing in the Stockholm AFF next year. Barker says "we want to have a change of scenery from time to time. It will be made up of players who have the time and cash to travel. Plus the guys who require more experience."

Beyond getting the FAFL off the ground, the International Cup looms as a goal. "That's the dream, sponsors and more player mass is critical. We are hoping that our recent article's in the main Finnish newspaper will help to attract the players. Next is money and around 35,000 Euro we are talking, time is also against us."

When quizzed on Finland's chances at the IC against the more experienced opposition, Barker is upbeat. "I can't see the experience killing these boys spirit and I would love to show a couple of them off. They are Finns and we all know how Finns react when the chips are down".

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