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Stockholm Explodes onto the European Scene

  • Wednesday, August 18 2004 @ 11:16 pm ACST
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Europe From having only one side in the whole country (the Helsingborg Saints) to having local leagues in Stockholm and Skåne, an outpost in Göteborg and hosting international competition, the past two years have been a time of spectacular growth for the Australian game in Sweden.

Former Melburnian and long-term Stockholm resident Philip Porublev was in Munich for the 2003 Oktoberfest Cup when he caught up with Munich Roos stalwart Julien Kann. Talking with Kann, Porublev came upon the decision that if footy was going to happen in Stockholm it had to happen now.

Porublev recalls "We'd tried a couple of times before, and through the Southern Cross Club in Stockholm we'd organised the occasional kick-to-kick between expats, sometimes getting up to about 20 blokes down, but efforts to get a formal club together hadn't so far been successful. Seeing how the Germans had managed, I thought "Why not?" - but if it was going to happen it had to happen now."

The Stockholmers had their first meeting on December the 10th last year, picking up Australian and Swedish contacts through the Southern Cross Club and the Dancing Dingo Australian Pub. About ten people were in attendance, and they decided to start training indoors over the long Swedish winter.

Then finally, in late April the Stockholmers made their first appearance against an outside club, taking on the Southern Saints - representative side of the DAFL's Skåne conference - and gave them a 10-goal thumping.

"To be fair, they (the Saints) were missing a lot of good players, but it was a great first-up effort for us". This was also the weekend when the Swedish Elks, featuring a mixture of players from Göteborg, Skåne and Stockholm defeated the expat-heavy North London Lions - a great result for footy in the whole nation.

And the Stockholmers had given themselves a unique mascot - The Dynamite, named after one of the world's most famous Swedish inventions. "We have it on pretty good authority that we're the only Dynamite team in the world" laughs Porublev. They also have their own original jumpers - in the Stockholm (and Swedish) colours of blue and gold.

"Obviously though, we're looking to become a league based around Stockholm, and not just a one-team city. We've already got a three-team local league, featuring North, South and Central Stockholm - with our grand final coming up in a few weeks on September 12th".

"The first year is always very positive, everyone's enthusiastic and upbeat - the second year's the test. If you're solid after your second season you'll probably succeed. Once we've consolidated though, we want to start seeding teams around the area, we've got blokes interested in Eskilstuna to the west and Uppsala to the north, plus we want to keep pushing hard to build more teams within Stockholm itself - with a city this big there's room for more, maybe 4-5 sides within the next five years. So ultimately we'd love to see maybe a 6-8 team league covering the Stockholm region in future."

"As for Sweden as a whole - we're aiming to have a good strong team at 2008 and start playing some more internationals, maybe have Denmark vs Sweden in Stockholm next year. 2005's probably too soon, we want to put our time and effort into development for the present moment, but having the 2008 cup to aim for is a big drawcard. Already we've got heaps of new Swedish guys who've only just starting playing footy in the last couple of months who are saying - I want to be there".

"Also, ultimately we'd love to be able to employ a development officer, even part-time, to work in schools and stuff like that. Once we've got a solid senior comp for it to feed into, a juniors setup becomes a priority."

When asked what he has in mind for Swedish footy within Europe his response is optimistic. "Obviously our no. 1 priority is consolidating the Stockholm league. Terry Lundqvist is working really hard down in Skåne doing the same for them. Then the guys in Göteborg are working to get something happening there, they've struggled a bit for numbers this year, but they're sticking with it. So we've all got a lot on our plates already. But I don't see why in future there couldn't be a lot more involvement between clubs and leagues."

"It might be that within a few years you could see a European Cup, like in soccer. Even if it was in two divisions, with the developed nations like Denmark, England and Ireland in one pool and the newer nations in another - it'd be great. There hasn't been as much contact between leagues as we'd probably like, but that comes down to everyone needing to spend so much time keeping their own leagues and clubs running. Maybe in future though there'll be an opportunity to put together a European council and have a coordinated approach to development, I mean, for us a place like Finland or Norway are always possibilities to help with expansion. I don't know how we'd do it, but it's always a possibility."

In closing, he makes an offer that a lot of Aussies might be interested in - "We'd love to have a sister organisation in Australia - as we're working towards building the Stockholm league, we'd ideally like to find a partner league in Australia, maybe the VAFA or someone like that...."