American Football International

Henri Väänänen: Escaping the Finnish winter in Spain

As the Fuengirola Potros get ready to for their second game of the LNFA season they will be led by Finnish import quarterback Henri Väänänen. The 6’4 quarterback is a product of the impressive Helsinki Roosters program in Finland’s capital. This season he will be leading his squad in a different climate.

The Fuengirola Potros lost their first game of the season back on Dec 13th to the Las Rozas Black Demons 41-8. So Väänänen and the Potros squad will be looking to bounce back this Saturday against the 1-0 Osos Rivas of Madrid. Väänänen on why he chose to join Fuengirola:

“We had similar ideas of what the offense could be, as well as to how we could accomplish those things. Also for me, I wanted to go somewhere where I would have the most impact. The Potros being a young, mostly Spanish, team felt like a great chance for me to help the team, and the local players develop. Having been in a great situation in Helsinki, and having got to experience so much because of football, I really want to do my best and help give back.”

Henri Väänänen escaping Las Rozas Black Demons defender Photo: Lola Morales

This isn’t Väänänen’s first time leading a team in a foreign country. The former Helsinki Rooster played the 2018 season with the Ostrava Steelers in the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, the Helsinki native wasn’t able to finish the Czech season due to an injury. However, during his time in Ostrava, Väänänen showcased an exciting brand of football, using his strong arm to connect on deep balls, and running the ball often using his size to truck defenders for extra yards.

“I loved the Czech Republic! Beautiful country, great people. Despite the football season not going the way I wanted  it too, I loved my time there. I made some lifelong friends in the Czech.”

The 6’4 Väänänen first started playing football at the age of 15. Given his size the coaches started him out on the offensive line. After a while, Väänänen made his intentions clear… he wanted the rock:

“I was a little bigger back then and they actually tried putting me on the line. I came back for my second practice and said I wanted to play QB, or “I would never come back again.”

The decision proved to be the right one as Väänänen has become one of the best quarterback’s in his home country, earning a spot of the Finnish national team since 2015. Väänänen on what it was like being selected to represent his country:

“I still remember when I got the call, and the invitation, to my first national team camp in 2016 I believe. I wasn’t expecting it, and it felt almost surreal. It’s always an honor to represent your country, and I am very, very excited for the upcoming final stages of the European championships! We have a great team we feel really good about.”

Henri Väänänen was a member of the championship winning Helsinki Roosters in 2019 Photo: Salla Lahti

After playing a year of high school football in Texas and for a few different clubs in Finland, Väänänen joined the Roosters in 2016 and was a part of four straight national championships. This past summer, Väänänen played five games with Helsinki during the Covid-19 pandemic shortened season, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for another. Väänänen on his favorite moment as a Rooster:

“There are so many it’s hard to single out one. It would be easy to say the Championships, one of the many wins, or even my first win as a starting QB in the Maple League. But personally my favorite thing about the Roosters is that they’ve enabled me to live out my dreams in football.”

Väänänen is excited to lead the Fuengirola Potros into battle this winter. The championship quarterback is planning on helping his Spanish team develop and leave Fuengirola better than he found it.  He plans on competing in Spain, Finland, and to represent in country again in the European Championships this fall. Look for Väänänen and the Potros to be making plays this Saturday if the pandemic doesn’t put a halt to the schedule.

“I honestly haven’t looked beyond this year yet. But for this year my plans are to play a good season here in Spain, and help the Potros succeed on and off the field. After that I’m possibly looking at the Finnish season, and the European championships in the fall to cap of the year. The European Championships to finish out the year is a big one, and its something I’m really looking forward to.”

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