LIVE STREAM & PREVIEW: Sweden takes on Finland in Annual International Clash

Every year Team Sweden and Team Finland play an international friendly game rotating the game between Sweden and Finland in what may be the oldest international rivalry in American football in the world. This year, the annual “Finnkampen” as they call it in Sweden, will be played in Stockholm this Saturday

If there were ever two countries in the world that would be considered to have a rivalry in American football, this would be the two, by a wide margin. Sweden and Finland have been playing this game if not annually, then on a consistently regular basis since 1992. Sweden leads the series 8-7 but it took many years of catch up football to gain that slight edge. They won last year’s contest 15-10 but back in the 1990s and early 2000s Finland dominated the series having a 7-1 lead at one point.

Team Sweden vs Finland3

The game in 2014 was physical

So if anyone doesn’t think that there is pressure to win this encounter with a rival only an overnight ferry ride away, they would be sadly mistaken. Head coach of the team this year is Johan Sedin (who actually scored a touchdown in the very first game in the series in 1992) and although he doesn’t like to look back on the history of this game, he still wants to win it.

“I know this game means a lot to many players and coaches, and it does to me too. But I got this job two weeks ago so there might not be too many expectations on me or the team to perform at our best. The preparations are minimum. I am 1-1 as a player and 0-1 as a head coach, so it would be nice to be 1-1 as both.”

Sedin does have a pretty good stable of players to choose from though. In all likelihood he will start Anders Hermodsson, quarterback for the league and Champions League champion Carlstad Crusaders but he also has Phillip Juhlin (Kristianstad Predators) and Hampus Kristensson (Limhamn Griffins) to back him up. Both were among the top five in passing in Sweden this season. His running backs include Jonathan Wikstrom (Uppsala 86ers) who led the Swedish league in rushing during the regular season. At wide receiver Sedin has the top five receivers in Sweden at his disposal including Denny John (STU Northside Bulls), Fredrik Isaksson (Tyreso Royal Crowns) and Marcus Johnson (Kristianstad Predators).

His offensive line is anchored by center Sebastian Nilsson (Orebro Black Knights), Swedish offensive lineman of the year and a player other teams had to scheme when facing his team, the Black Knights, in 2015.

Team Sweden vs Finland5

Defensively, Olof Flemstrom from Carlstad leads a veteran crew while his linebacking corps features Div II player Eric Murphy, an American with a Swedish passport who played for the number two team in Sweden, the Orebro Black Knights, this year.

Needless to say Murphy, a native of Washington State whose mother is Swedish, has only rediscovered his roots this year and is thrilled with the opportunity:

“I’m feel honored to be given the opportunity to play for the Swedish National team. Not very many people get the opportunity to play for a national team, so it is definitely something that excites me and gives me something to be proud of. Last year at this time I didn’t even think this was a possibility because I only had my citizenship in the US, but its pretty cool things worked out the way they did.”

The always dangerous Philip Minja from the Tyreso Royal Crowns leads a young but seasoned group of defensive backs for Sweden.

Finland’s head coach, Tuomas Heikkinen will look to quarterback Miro Kadmiry of the Porvoo Butchers to lead his offense. Kadmiry was second in the Finland in passing yardage this past season. Ville Järviö (Vaasa Royals) will start at running back while one of Finland’s top receivers Kimi Linnainmaa  (Helsinki Roosters) will no doubt start at one of the wideout spots.

Team Sweden vs Finland2

Defensive end Okko Outinen who played for the Tyreso Royal Crowns in Sweden will start for Finland. He wreaked havoc in the Swedish top league. Turku Trojans linebacker Sami Toivonen will start at the middle linebacker spot.

The defensive secondary will rely on Ville Roitto of the Helsinki Roosters.

This game’s traditions are very deep and no one knows better than Coach Heikkinen who has been involved in every one but four:

“It is a unique tradition in football within the IFAF. It’s the love/hate sports relationship between Finland and Sweden. It is also the official season’s ending. We’ll have ceremonies on the ferry over to Sweden, the Maple League All Star awards etc etc. The Finnish football community gets together.

And yet it is very different every year. Sometimes both teams are preparing for a big event the following year, sometimes we are rebuilding or even starting over and so on.

This year we are taking a lot of rookies to the game, 12. But also, we only have 10 of last year’s European Championship’s 22 starters, so it’s time for the former backups to step up. Of last year’s EC 45 man roster we have a total of 19 playing in this game. Along with a new offensive coordinator and just one weekend of camp it is very much about evaluating and building for the future along with valuable experience for the young players. This game was was first played from 1992 to 1998, and the series continued 2002 and hasn’t been off since.

We lost only once between 1992 and 2004. They beat us from 2004 to 2010. Since then it’s been all away victories.

Plus, on top of the yearlies, we’ve played Sweden five times in the European Championships, qualification in 1995, final in 1997, semifinal in 2001, semifinal in 2005, and bracket in 2014. Of those we’ve lost one, in 2005.

As a player or coach, I’ve only missed four of all games between us and them. So yes, this is an important game for me and for the team.”

The two women’s teams will also face each other the same day as the European champions Finland square off against Sweden who finished sixth in the European Championships held in Spain last month.

Kickoff: Saturday October 3, Men 1:15 PM (7:15 AM EDT) Women – 11 AM (5 AM EDT)

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.