Calanda Broncos HC Geoff Buffum Talks with AFI as Swiss season begins

The Calanda Broncos have been undoubtedly the top team in Nationalliga A, the top American football league in Switzerland, in recent memory.  In the last 14 seasons, the team has won 10 championships, and finished as runners up in those other four seasons.  They are off to another strong start in 2023, as they were victorious in each of their first two games.  They are led by head coach Geoff Buffum, a veteran coach who has been at the helm since 2015. 

AFI was fortunate to catch up with him and discuss his team and the sport in general in Switzerland.  Parts of this interview have been edited for clarity.

AFI: What about your team makes you excited for the 2023 season? 

Buffum: It was assumed by some that our roster would be depleted by teams in other leagues.  We lost just 1 player, while welcoming back a handful of veterans returning to the team after year(s) off.  That, along with the very talented class rising from the U19 into the senior team, this season is something we are all excited about. 

AFI: How does this Broncos team compare to teams you have coached before?

Buffum: It’s impossible to compare based on two games (or 1 & 1/2).  However, it’s clear we have a better team this year than we did last year.  How much better remains to be seen. 

AFI: In recent years what would you say has been the key factor for why the Broncos have been the most successful team in the Swiss league? 

Buffum: Continuity.  Our current board has been in place for 5 years now, our President has been in charge since 2016, and our VP was there when the club was founded in 1991.  We have multiple people in key positions in our club that have been there since this beginning.  This will be my 9th season in a row in Calanda.  In the first 8 seasons we have signed a total of eight American imports.  Six of these eight imports returned to play more than one season with us.  Max Gray will be entering his fourth season with us.  The rest of Switzerland combined has not had six import players play multiple seasons with the same club in the same time span. 

AFI: How have you seen the sport of American football develop in Switzerland since you arrived? 

Buffum: Slowly, but surely.  Above all, the level of play in the U19 league has improved dramatically as other teams have improved themselves.  In the last six youth tackle football seasons, we have won 4 golds and 1 silver, but there are a few clubs also doing very good work at the youth level.  Several young Swiss players are playing in US colleges and high schools, including our own Alex Raich who is a scholarship player for the University of Kansas in the Big XII.  The impact of these young talents on the senior level is slowly coming. 

AFI: What do envision the future of the Broncos looking like in the next 5-10 years? 

Buffum: It’s very hard to predict at the moment.  The landscape of football in Europe has been most interesting in the past decade.  First with the EFAF/IFAF splinter that set everything back for the last half of the 2010’s and now the emergence of the ELF.  The ELF has certainly brought about some very necessary changes and has shown how a league can be and should be presented and marketed.  However, some are not convinced of the long-term feasibility of the project.  With that said, we are excited to play a new 3,000-seat stadium that will open in Chur for the 2025 season and are currently focused on developing our home-grown players so that we are positioned to succeed in whatever opportunities the next years bring.

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.