International University American football teams meet for the first time
Earlier this week the Great Britain Student Lions flew out to Helsinki, Finland to prepare for the tomorrow’s match against a team of Finland’s top student American football players. This international friendly will be the first time meeting for the University teams from the two nations.
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GB Lions v. Finnish Lions
The Great Britain team is young, but the University football has a long tradition in the UK. Narrowed down from a field of 360 players, the team of 44 team is led by head coach Wayne Hill who is excited about the match against the Finnish. Britishamericanfootball.org spoke to Coach Hill ahead of the clash:
“Our team is young and committed. The players are looking forward to the opportunity to get to test their own skills as an American football team against the top players in Finland. We know that the Finnish team will be a big physical team that is well-organized.”
“Our main objective is to produce a quality performance and prove organizationally, developmentally and performance wise that we are legitimate option to travel to the World Student Games next year. We are a young team that is committed to development; this isn’t a one year deal for us it is something we are looking to build and hopefully gain the opportunity to enter the next World Student Championships, which is our ultimate goal. We have a lot of high quality talent with a number of guys looking to push towards the Great Britain Adult program in the future.”
For the Finnish student team, this will be there first time playing host. Finland head coach Tuomas Heikkinen and British head coach Hill coached together with the IFAF World Development Team and it is from here where the idea for the match took root.
The Finnish team could does not pull from as large as a talent pool as that of the British, but this does not discourage Heikkinen has an experienced team.
“The turnout of the of the camp was a small, but otherwise very positive experience. This was put together on short notice thanks to good coaches, parents, and above all a bunch of enthusiastic players. Some players will be in attendance for the first time on the preparatory day Friday. Our team’s game plan will be very simple and basic football. I hope the match will be a great experience for the players.”
Heikkinen points out that University football in Finland is still new, and the team’s regular operation as part of the National team program takes time to build. In Uppsala, Sweden last summer, the Finnish students in played in the 2014 FISU University Championship and left ranked fourth, behind China. Great Britain did not compete in the competition but they did make a similar trip last summer to face a team of Swedish university students.
“The whole process from Sweden in terms of trials, practices and preparation has been tweaked slightly but has allowed us to come to Finland with a great squad, a prepared staff and an extremely tight schedule. Sweden enabled us to focus on the primary target or developing players and showcasing the skills of our university players at the next level. This was achieved with the win but also with a number of players moving onto success in the GB Adult program. We have a pretty young team with only 9 players from the Sweden trip so their experience is going to be invaluable in allowing the young guys to develop to showcase their talents at the next level.”
A win on Saturday won’t be easy as weather forecasts are not promising a bright Easter, and conditions will appear moist. Both Hill and Heikkinen declare that their players and coaches have prepared for the worst. Hill;
“Preparing for the weather during a match can become interesting. I know that you Finns are accustomed to the cold, but playing in such weather is something else.”
Finland head coach Heikkinen agrees Hill.
“Regardless of if it rains or snows or there is a cold wind in the air, you just have to hope that it would be as dry as possible and tolerable conditions. But the weather is the same for both.”
The match will take place in Tikkurila Sports Park on Saturday April 4th starting at 2p local time.