Four players from Finland set to showcase skills at Canadian Football League Combine

The Finnish Federation of American Football, SAJL, has picked and is sending four players to to the National CFL Combine in Toronto March battle for a spot on a Canadian Football League roster.

According to Roope Noronen, President of SAJL, this is the first order of business in what is hoped to be a long-standing relationship:

“This first year of cooperation with CFL everything came up fast, but we are happy to have four players attending the combine. I am sure that with the information out now and clear goals for the players, we will have more players coming up in future years.”

The four players – WR Kimi Linnainmaa (Helsinki Roosters), DL Okko Outinen (Helsinki Roosters), OL Artui Tennberg (Porvoon Butchers) and LB Roni Salonen (Braunschweig New Yorker Lions in Germany) – will travel to Toronto to find out how they measure up against other European players as well as top players from Canadian university and junior football ranks.  Linnainmaa, Outinen and Tennberg were all members of the Finnish national team that captured bronze in the 2018 European Championships. Salonen has been the top linebacker for one of Europe’s best teams, the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions for the past two years.

This is the first step following meetings between CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and Noronen as well as Jari Salonen, CEO of the Finnish federation. Tuomas Heikkinen, head coach of the Finnish men’s national team, Martin Soderberg, acting President of the Swedish federation, Lars Carlsen, Athletic Director of the Danish American Football Federation and Jorgen Benestad-Johansen, Sports Manager of the Norwegian American Football Federation.

The National CFL Combine presented by New Era is the first step in a long-term cooperation between AFVD and CFL. It is being held this year at Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport and Varsity Stadium bubble where players will undergo medical examinations, performance, strength and speed tests, on-field football drills and team interviews over the two day combine in front of general managers, coaches and scouts from all teams.

The Canadian Football League reached historic agreements with a number of European federations last month  which also included discussions on creating better pathways for more young Canadian players to continue playing in Europe once their university or junior football careers have ended  and for aspiring European football players to gain an education and  opportunities to play football in the Canadian university system.

In addition to the Nordic countries, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie met with the leaders of federations from Germany, France and Austria in a pioneering effort to raise awareness of the Canadian Football League and expand borders for football players.

Germany announced they would be sending six players to the Combine in Toronto while the French federation has said they have four players selected to attend the event.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.