Sunday, March 19, 2006

It’s about football

That’s right, American football. So if you’re one of those – like so many I meet here – whose eyes glaze over in a funk of boredom at the mention of the sport, than you can safely skip this post.

Warsaw’s local American football team, the Warsaw Eagles, will be playing their first match six days from today. I know most of my p3ers out there know about this, because as a player/coach on the team, I’ve been crowing about next weekend’s tournament at the past few meetups, and one of our members will hopefully be writing about it in an upcoming local publication.

For me, coaching this team (that’s been my main role) has been one of the most rewarding expat experiences I’ve had in my near five years here. I’m the only American on the team. The ONLY one. That includes the head coach, who is British. That gives me an interesting perspective.

Growing up, I had football all around me. Autumn weekends were chock-full of college and pro American football games to watch and listen to on the radio, and my father was there to explain the basics for me. Heck, my mom was too. Players on the University of Michigan’s team or on the Detroit Lions were local heroes. In the States, it is nothing for a group of kids to have a pick-up game in somebody’s back yard after school – everybody knows how to play because everybody else knows. This is culturally-transferred knowledge.

And so it was easy for me to learn to love American football. I started at age 10.

It’s much different for the men (from 18-30ish) and kids (14-17) that I play with and coach here in Poland. These guys never had anyone to explain American football’s rules to them. There is absolutely zero American football culture here – you can hardly find a TV channel that carries the Super Bowl, much less regular season games. Getting involved in soccer is much easier, there are plenty of teams and games to watch, it’s all over, and professional football players are revered.

Still, despite no one around them understanding or even remotely interested in American football – once they find this game, they play.

What this experience has taught me is that there are elements to American football which can not be replaced by participation in any other sport. There is no logical reason for 40 guys to show up on a Sunday morning in an empty soccer field with two feet of snow on it to practice a game unknown to all of their friends and family, with no hope of monetary reward or even being respected for their abilities, except for pure love of the game. American football, for the right kind of man, is intoxicating. These men have drunk, and they know that there is no better taste than that of a tackle or a touchdown.

And that encourages me. What I said earlier about soccer notwithstanding, Poland is relatively dry of participation or interest in sports in general. Sometimes I see a big farm-fed Polish kid walking down the street and want to scream: “That boy’s a left tackle!” – because he will surely never play soccer, and probably won’t play rugby. But American football gives kids like him the chance to be valuable members of a team. American football has something to offer Poland.

American football will never be as popular here as the European sort – at least in my lifetime. But that’s ok with me. I see how in countries like Britain and especially Germany, where soccer is kin to religion, American football enjoys a significant following.

And that’s a situation that could happen here within my lifetime. I think Polish kids are absolutely starving for sports – for an American like me, the lack of emphasis on athletics is shocking and depressing. Maybe so few kids play because kicking a soccer ball just isn’t as satisfying as hitting the man across from you. Too many Polish kids these days have pent-up aggression that they take out in the wrong ways. American football can also act as a positive conduit for a young man’s rebelliousness.

So that’s one way in which this expat has found he can contribute something to this country, which has given him plenty in its own way.

As far as what I said earlier about American football becoming as popular here as it is in Germany, we’ve still got a long way to go – but next weekend’s international tournament is a start. If you want to do something a little bit different this weekend, come on out and cheer us on.

Warsaw Eagles website

Polish American Football Association website

Go Eagles!

March 25/26, 2006, WARSAW

Academy of Physical Education – Warsaw, 34 Marymoncka St., rugby field

main event of which will be the first ever in Poland International American Football Tournament

Teams taking part in the tournament: Søllerod Gold Diggers (Denmark), Pardubice Stallions (Czech Republic), 1.KFA Wielkopolska (Poland) and Warsaw Eagles (Poland)


Saturday, March 25th

9.00 – 11.00 1) Søllerod Gold Diggers - Warsaw Eagles
11.00 – 13.00 2) 1.KFA Wielkopolska - Pardubice Stallions
13.00 – 13.20 Official Opening
13.20 – 15.20 3) Pardubice Stallions - Søllerod Gold Diggers
15.20 – 17.20 4) Warsaw Eagles – 1.KFA Wielkopolska

Sunday, March 26th

9.00 - 11.00 5) Søllerod Gold Diggers - 1.KFA Wielkopolska
11.00 - 13.00 6) Warsaw Eagles - Pardubice Stallions
13.00 - 13.20 Tournament Summary

During the American Football Days in Poland a mini-tournament of Flag Football – contact-free version of American Football - will also be organised.

Furthermore, all the spectators are welcome to join numerous football workshops.



At 3/29/2006 10:28:00 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Who won ?

At 3/30/2006 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Gustav said...


Warsaw Eagles 6 - Pardubice Stallions 0

KFA Wielkopolska 0 - Sollerod Gold Diggers 35


KFA Wielkopolska 0 - Pardubice Stallions 6 (OT)

Warsaw Eagles 6 - Sollerod Gold Diggers 6 (Danes don't want to play overtime because they have to drive 16 hours to get home for work, so Warsaw wins by forfeit)

I'm awful proud of the (my) offensive line. Two games and zero sacks. In the first game we ran for 165 yards, in the second, I'm sure for at least over 100 (I don't have the stats yet). Too many penalties in the red zone - we should have scored more. But for our first two games it's not bad at all.


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