Europe’s American football community will be keeping a close eye on Innsbruck’s Tivoli Stadium Saturday, June 29 when the current Austrian and CEFL Champion, the Swarco Raiders, will host the Dacia Vienna Vikings, Austrian Bowl record holders and five time European Champions, for the 2019 ECTC championship title.
The European Club Team Competition has reached its final and most important event in its very first year of existence. Organized by IFAF Europe, the ECTC started with a total of 13 teams from 11 different countries – Austria, France, Sweden, Serbia, Finland, Turkey, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Poland – and has now been whittled down to two.
Vienna’s road to the ECTC Final saw them defeat the Badalona Dracs from Barcelona, Spain 38-8. They had soundly defeated Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks in the opening game of the tournament. With that victory, the Vikings won the ECTC Central Division.
The Vikings were to have faced the Helsinki Roosters, winners of the Northern European Football League crown, to decide the ECTC final, but Helsinki was unable to play in the final leaving the Vikings with a walkover.
Swarco needed a late-game rally to defeat the Calanda Broncos 46-42 in CEFL Bowl XIV to capture their third straight title and qualify for the ECTC final. They had previously defeated France’s Thonon Black Panthers who they dominated 41-7. They then manhandled the Milano Seamen from Italy, 50-23.
Dacia Vikings Head Coach Chris Calaycay, Swarco Raiders HC Shuan Fatah and IFAF Europe Director Gregor Murth presented their views prior to this important match-up.
Dr. Gregor Murth, Director IFAF Europe:
“I expect a wide open game and I can only recommend to every football fan to come and watch this game. In 2019 there will finally be a real European championship of football clubs from all over Europe. I am particularly pleased that the finals can be played at the Innsbruck Tivoli. This is a top setting for one of the biggest football games in Europe. This event will certainly set new standards “,
Murth also stresses the level of American football in Austria:
“Both teams have prevailed against various state champions, and It shows the leading position Austrian top teams have in Europe. I expect a fantastic game, high level plays and I can only advise every fan to watch this game.”
Dacia Vienna Vikings Head Coach Chris Calaycay:
… on the importance of this international play:
“First of all, for myself I am very proud that we are in this final game. I’ve been in European bowl games ten times in my career. That is quite an accomplishment of our program, our players and the long and successful international tradition we have here with the Vikings. Our team is very excited to get back at this point. We’ve been out of the international play for a couple of years, and to have the opportunity to play at Tivoli to see who the number one team is is very special. That’s what you work for: to play in a championship. We are really proud going into this game and we want to make sure we do everything we can to come out on top!”
… on the Swarco Raiders Tyrol:
“Generally, we know our opponent, who they are and the tendencies in what they do. It is a matter of us going out executing our game plan and focusing on us. It is tough to beat the Raiders at their home stadium; they have great players and they have been playing a consistent system for so long. So, they do what they do, and they do it really well. One of the key factors in their game is number 12. Sean Shelton runs the show; he is the leader out there. If a team has a quarterback for four years, it sets up for some tough things to do from our defensive side. But having said that, we’ve faced him a lot – so we kind of know what he does and how he can be stopped.”
… on odds, pressure and being considered the underdog:
“I think nobody expects us to win this game. We had an Austrian Bowl against the Raiders last year which was decided in the last seconds of the game only by a field goal. Facing them twice this regular AFL season, they beat us both times. So, it is three losses in a row, and now we play at their house. So, I don’t think anybody is counting on us to win. But frankly, that is fine with us. We will go out there, play Vikings football and we’ll see who wins the championship.”
… on keys to winning the game:
“I just want us to go out there and be ourselves! Be Vikings! Play together! Execute together! The guys need to be fired up and play good football. Often these types of games are decided in four, five game-changing plays. These are the plays we need to create. And that is my main focus on: That we create good stuff on defense, on offense and on special teams, so that we dictate the game. That is a real important factor. We have been working hard these last weeks to prepare for this match-up. We are excited for the game and we are ready to go for the championship on Saturday.”
Swarco Raiders Head Coach Shuan Fatah:
… on preparing for the ECTC final:
“It is very important now that you do not change anything, but that we do what we’ve been doing so far in the season. New things would only cause confusion. As far as possible you have to keep the course of the season. The danger is that you already shut down and say the season is over. But we know what time it is and we really want to get that title. We’re getting ready for the final, just like any other game. “
… on the rivalry between the Vikings and the Raiders:
“That’s a hate & love relationship, I would say. First of all, the Vikings are an opponent who have been with me for years as one of the toughest teams to play. It’s always good to have someone that’s constantly challenging you. On the other hand, they are to me an unloved opponent because you want to beat them so badly. We have played tough games against the Vikings in the last 10 years and also lost some to them. But on the other hand, there were glorious moments. We definitely have a lot of respect for the work they do. But our will is huge to beat them. “
… on his team being the favorite in the game:
“The final results of the two games against the Vikings this year do not really reflect the level of football that was played between the two teams. This game on Saturday is therefore wide open to me. Of course, they want to push us the favorite role, but at the end of the day, we know that the Vikings perform very well in big games. That’s why we have to bring our A game. What’s in the past does not count anymore. Now it’s up to us to deliver our best performance.”