Finland’s Helsinki Roosters getting ready for 2020 season – without imports

With so much of the world still debating on whether to play football or not, Finland’s top team, the Helsinki Roosters are hard at, practicing in full pads, gearing up for kickoff on July 31.

Finland is one of only a handful of European countries scheduling a season and the first to start.

The Finnish American Football Federation announced at the start of June that there would be a football season for the ttop teams in Finland. This Nordic country with a population of 5.5 million, went into lockdown early when the coronavirus hit in early March and seems to have made through the pandemic so far relatively mildly with a total of 7,167 cases recorded and only 327 deaths attributed to the virus.

The country began opening up in May and football teams have been able to practice, almost as usual, since he beginning of June.

Photo: Helsinki Roosters

Roosters head coach Juha Hakala says he and his team are truly excited:

“We have been practicing for just over three weeks in full pads, tackling and blocking as usual more or less. We have to minimize contact between the groups, making sure for example that the offensive line and defensive back groups do not mingle.”

Hakala admits that practice is not quite what it used to be. Much more structure and discipline is needed.

“Keeping contact between the various position groups to a minimum is tough at times and of course ‘indy’ drills have to be extremely structured.”

The Roosters training staff keeps a fully supply of disinfectant on hand at all times and the players have to use it frequently. Equipment staff wipe down all the balls and other equipment before and after practice.

“We are allowed a maximum of 50 players and 10 to each group and with 12 coaches we are able to make it work.”

Disinfectant at the ready Photo: Helsinki Roosters

A key dilemma would seem to be of course team scrimmages when it’s full contact. But Hakala says they have been dealing with that:

“We are running everything pretty much as normal, going 15-25 snaps.”

According to Hakala, the team is not testing the players for COVID-19 and has no plans to start.

The Roosters’ American imports all left for home in March and Hakala says they do not plan to fly them in for a shortened season. Teams are allowed three American/Canadian imports on the roster and two on the field with no limits to the number of European and dual passport players. Still, the Roosters will rely only on their Fnnnish players

“We are only playing a half of a season and even though we could fly our imports back in, we feel comfortable with the team we have here now.”

The Maple League will play a truncated season with only half the number of regular season games, starting at the end of July with Maple Bowl XLI scheduled to be played at Lahti stadium on September 12. Each team will play only five games during the regular season.

The Roosters, defending Finnish champions, open their season in a rematch of the 2019 Maple Bowl as they will face their finals opponent, the Kuopio Steelers.


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