The European Championships will take place from August 1 - 7.

European Championships 2010

This August Sweden and Denmark will host eight national teams in the first ever European Championship of Australian Football. Nic Townsend discovers how an obscure sport is slowly gaining popularity.

It’s over 150 years old, attracts over a hundred thousand spectators to a single game and its players are national celebrities. Yet outside of its home country Australian Football, aka “Aussie Rules”, is virtually unknown. Numerous individuals all over Europe, who share nothing but an obsession with this unique game, have been working hard to rectify this, and the European Championship next month will be a significant milestone in their efforts.

“Being able to attract so many teams just proves how quickly the sport is growing,” says Jörg Pareigis, President of AFL Sweden, “Just about all these players have taken time off work and paid their own way to get here, just to play footy.”

The inaugural 16-a-side 2010 European Championships in Australian Football will be held in Denmark and Sweden from August 1 - 9.  

Sixteen (16) matches will ultimately determine the European Champion until the next European Championships in 2013.  The participants are Europe’s best locally developed (non-Australian) international teams representing 8 different nations:

Pool A

  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Great Britain
  • Iceland

Pool B

  • Croatia
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Sweden

Unlike previous European tournaments, such as the EU Cup, teams cannot include Australians and must be comprised of locals. Matches will also be 16-a-side, significantly closer to the 18-a-side played in Australia. “Apart from the International Cup (which is held in Melbourne every three years) this will be the biggest international Australian Football tournament in the world,” says Pareigis.

The common assumption is that Australian Football abroad has been confined to expat communities but events like the European Championship will show how much further the sport has developed. “Australians are often integral to most clubs,” says Pareigis, “but what many people fail to appreciate is how many non-Australians now play it too.”

In most of the competing countries football is less than ten years old. It wasn’t played in Croatia until 2005, in Finland it started in 2004, and Iceland didn't even have their first training session until May last year.

Each of the competing nations has their own unique, often humble history.

Croatia

“We train four times a week, and three times in the gym...we train like professionals”, says Josip Kravar of the Crotian Knights’ preparations, “We have twenty really solid well-condition players, who are willing to take on anybody.  We are not favourites but teams in our pool will know the Knights as brave and good players like Croatians are.”  More...

Denmark

The Danish Australian Football League (DAFL), currently the biggest outside of the English speaking world, started with a sole Australian placing an advertisement in a Copenhagen newspaper over twenty years ago. Now the DAFL can boast over eight clubs, 250 players and 100 juniors. 

“I will be disappointed if we don't get to the final and at least give Ireland an even match,” says Danish coach Jim Campion.   More...

Finland

“Thankfully, there is a number of Finns who enjoy the game so much that money becomes a small issue,” says Grant Siermans, manager of the Finland Icebreakers.

“We are a young nation in terms of years playing the game and we will have many who will just have one games experience in 16 a side.” Grant explains.  More...

Germany

This strong sense of team camaraderie is a reoccurring theme throughout the continent and seems inherent in the game. “What appeals to the players most is the strong team feeling footy has,” says Germany’s Benno Bock, “No other sport in Germany can match up with the team camaraderie and newcomers feel that from the first session.”

“I think Germany is definitely the underdog of the tournament,” says Malte Schudlich, President of Australian Football League Germany (AFLG) and founder of the Frankfurt Redbacks.   More...

Great Britain

“This will give our players the chance to compete against the best that Europe has to offer,” says Bulldogs coach Mark Pitura, “A number of our players only play 9-a-side games on Rugby pitches so it will be very interesting to see how they cope with 16-a-side footy.” More...

Iceland

As a strange hybrid of rugby, soccer, basketball and Gaelic football, Aussie Rules can be a difficult game to explain to novices, yet it obviously has some universal appeal. “The game is fast paced, physical and fun,” says Friðgeir “Fritz” Ásgeirsson, founder of the Iceland Ravens, “This sport is very much suited for the Icelandic psyche. It’s tough, physical and relentless, just like Iceland.”

However the greatest testament to the appeal of the game is the lengths many of these players will go to in order to compete. According to Ásgeirsson, the standard criteria for selection for the Iceland team has been: “Can you afford the flight?” and “Do you have the time?” Very few teams attract much sponsorship, and will rely on the players themselves being able to organise and finance the trip.   More...

Ireland

For most teams, being able to compete is an achievement in itself, and regardless of who becomes the first Champion of Europe, Sweden and Denmark are set to host a spectacular gathering of like-minded individuals, curious onlookers and a celebration of a unique game. As Ireland’s Ciaran O’Hara says, “We hope we’re good winners, gracious losers and good guests to our Danish and Swedish friends.” More...

Sweden

For almost every player it is the combination of pace, athleticism and physicality that makes the game so special. “I love the speed of the game and the tough contests you're faced with,” says Johan Lantz, captain of the Swedish Elks and Helsingborg Saints, “I also love the way you sacrifice yourself to protect and help your team mates…that a team's key players can't be as significant and shine without the full support of his team mates working together.”

“Australian Football is and will remain a minority sport in Sweden,” says AFL Sweden president Jörg Pareigis “but we are convinced that this tournament will be a great show case and will help the sport develop even further.”  More...


The European Championship will be held in Copenhagen and Malmö, from August 1 until August 7. For more information see www.ec2010.info.

Who do you think will win the 2010 European Championships?

Adam, 20-07-10 23:28:
We (Norway) played Finland in a warm up game on Saturday and I was extremely impressed with their skill, dteremination, strength and fitness. So you other favourite teams better not take them lightly.

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