My football career to date is best described as pitiful. I played two seasons with East Brunswick Under 14s, and two seasons with Moonee Valley Under 16s. My personal highlight was once scoring a goal, 10 metres out, right in front. In another game, I once made it to three kicks. Although to be fair I was better known around the club as the kid who burst into tears at training after being hip-and-shouldered. My trophy cabinet has three Encouragement Awards, as my coaches always admired my persistence. Not many kids would happily tolerate being left on the bench every weekend. As an acknowledgment of my perseverance, I was allowed to play the last five minutes of the Grand Final, in the forward pocket when our team was down 15 goals.
By my final season at Moonee Valley a combination of factors (i.e. gradual improvement of skills, strength, and absence of more competent team mates) I finally became a regular starter on the halfback flank. I even stopped counting all my kicks and handballs. But by this stage I was 16, had my first job, improved social life, and started evaluating how I was spending my time. Then early one Saturday morning in the middle of winter, as I stood in the mud and rain in ridiculously short shorts, watching another team hammer us by 10-20 goals, I had a good long think. I thought about all the other things I could have been doing instead.
But now I’m back! As of last week, I’m playing football again, this time with the Goteborg Berserkers. I’m told games are played with reduced numbers and rarely 18-a-side, and our home ground is actually a Rugby pitch. But it is still an Aussie Rules football club, in a place where most would expect to find none. And not only do cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö have teams, but so too do smaller towns like Helsingborg, Borås and Karlstad.
Training started this week, with a healthy turnout of 15 people. Contrary to expectations, most of the team are not Australian ex-pats, but are actually Swedish, who have never even been to Australia.
Our coach and founder is Martin Språng. After seeing a glimpse of an AFL match on Swedish TV, Martin started looking up the game online, and from there he started up his own team. (He has written up a complete history on the web site, highlights including the day four people turned up to training, rather then the usual two.) A big portion of the team is made up of Martin’s friends and extended family. Others have joined after seeing recruitment posters (pictured below) throughout Göteborg.
At training Martin comes up with the same catch phrases heard at any other Australian football club training session (e.g. “More Talk”, “Keep it tight”, “Bring it in boys”) but in a Swedish accent. From what I gather, he spends most of his spare time downloading AFL matches off the internet, and watching them all. Before training, everyone sits around talking about the weekend’s AFL results. For the non-Swedish speaker it sounds like incomprehensible Swedish broken up with terms like “Sydney Swans” or “Chris Judd”. It’s pretty surreal.
Our first game is one April 28, vs. the Karlstad Dragons. Karlstad is only a small town (pop. 80,000) in central Sweden, but since Martin’s younger brother Joel moved there, they too now have their own footy team. Just in case Channel 7 and the Herald Sun forget to cover the big match, I’ll make sure a complete report is published here on this blog.