The American version of football is catching on in the land of the Vikings.
Before we dive into this, hands-up, my knowledge of American football is limited at best. I watch the Super Bowl most years, but I'm more interested in the occasion than the game itself.
As a ten year old the game briefly gripped me as the now-defunct London Monarchs beat the Barcelona Dragons to win the “World Bowl” at Wembley Stadium. Oh, and my brother owned a San Francisco 49ers shirt. Beyond that, it's all a bit of a mystery to me.
There's a definite growth in the popularity of American football in the UK these days, as evidenced by the sell-out NFL regular-season games at Wembley, and persistent rumours of a future London-based NFL franchise.
Lately I've noticed a groundswell of interest in the game here in Norway too. So when the Oslo Vikings Instagram account alerted me to their game in Trondheim this weekend, I took the chance to investigate.
Nidaros Domers v Oslo Vikings
The game was hosted at Dødens Dal on the Gløshaugen campus of NTNU. I was quite surprised to see a fair few people watching the game, maybe 100 sat on the slopes either side of the pitch. The pitch itself was makeshift, with rugby posts and football markings clearly visible.
Although I couldn't stay for long, I watched long enough to see three Vikings touchdowns. Even without knowing much about the game, I could see they were much the better side and ended up winning 34-13 for their first win of the season.
Most of the players appeared to be Norwegian with mostly American coaching staff, although I'm sure it's a bit more complicated than that.
The sport is big enough to sustain a national league, involving teams such as Eidsvoll 1814s, Bergen Storm and the Vålerenga Trolls, part of the same sports club as the Vålerenga football team. The Oslo Vikings seem to be one of the biggest clubs with a regular home support at their Frogner Stadion base and an active youth setup alongside the senior side. Here in Trondheim, there's also a more informal league system for mainly student teams.
Why do Norwegians play the sport?
I put the question to a friend of mine, Thomas Emil Dagsvik, who plays for NTNU student team Janus Pandemics.
“Well, the reason I started playing in the first place was due to the intense recruiting by the older guys back when I was in first grade. I believe the sport has gotten so much traction in the latter years due to the glorified image being painted in the media and by American TV shows. It is no secret that Norway has gradually adopted American traditions and culture over the years, as the web grows bigger and the world grows smaller.”
“The sport is considered very “manly”, and thus I reckon many testosterone-filled young men feel drawn to it. I, myself, was drawn to the sport as it is one of the few sports that allow you to tackle someone in full-strength without being in (too much) risk of getting severely hurt.”
“I suppose it satisfies some inner, cave-man, hunter-instinct. Furthermore, you have the whole camaraderie aspect of it all. It's no doubt one of the closest things to fraternities that we have here at NTNU. We have a lot of fun together.”
“One thing that I think is really cool with American football, is that it requires so much tactics. It's in one sense chess, just more violent. I don't think you'd find such intricate strategic aspects in a lot of other sports. As a man who loves strategic board games, I find that really fun!”