Iceland Ravens in action.

Iceland Ravens ready to compete

By Nick Townsend

“Can you afford the flight?” and “Do you have the time?” According to Friðgeir “Fritz” Ásgeirsson, this has been the standard criteria for selection for the Iceland Aussie Rules Football team. But the growth in the sport has been so rapid that when the Iceland Ravens travel to Sweden and Denmark next month for the inaugural European Championships, they’ll have no trouble fielding a full squad.

“We have been fortunate that all our best players have found the time and money to be able to participate,” says Ásgeirsson, “It’s the first big tournament for our team and only a very few have played the sport for more than six months.”

Friðgeir Ásgeirsson first discovered Australian Football when he studied in Denmark, and was recruited by an Australian neighbour. Having taken an instant liking to the game, in May last year, along with some other Icelanders who had played in Denmark, he started the country’s first club. “I had done some preparation by going out jogging the months before our first training session to get myself into shape,” recalls Ásgeirsson, “And then I held our first training in a public park here in Reykjavik.”

The first training session attracted eight people and continued to grow rapidly despite their being virtually no Australians living in Iceland. Last October, less than six months after their first training session, Iceland was able to send a team to the EU Cup in Croatia. “It was quite a task to convince 15 guys to travel all the way to Croatia to participate in a sport that they had just learnt about and doing so in the middle of the worst economic crisis that Iceland has ever experienced.”

In less than 18 months time, Iceland will not only be competing in their second major international tournament, but have also managed to establish three clubs playing in a 9-a-side league. “I predict even more growth in Iceland. I predict six teams in five years time,” says Ásgeirsson, “We get new players every month and the media publicity has been great.”

As a small island with cold, wet weather, and a landscape characterised by mountains and ice glaciers, there are few countries in the world more different to Australia than Iceland. Yet Ásgeirsson’s success would suggest this is fertile breeding ground for Aussie Rules. “The attraction to non-Australians is the same as for Australians. The game is fast paced, physical and fun,” says Ásgeirsson, “This sport is very much suited for the Icelandic psyche. It’s tough, physical and relentless, just like Icelanders and Iceland.”

Visit the website for the European Championships in Australian Football 2010.

Greg Collins, 01-08-10 01:48:
Go the Icelandic Ravens!!!! Just like the Adelaide Crows!!!
Greg Collins, 01-08-10 01:50:
Play aggressively at the ball and don't worry about the man and you will be alright

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