This weekend, more than 100 teams from all over the world came together in the marshes of central Finland for the yearly swamp soccer world cup. Players fought for the ball in deep bogs.
“Finns are crazy about this event,” said Jussi Kiiskila, one of the leaders of the Hyrynsalmi event. He also said that the number of foreign teams was growing.
The pitch is a patch of swamp that has a white border line around it. The onlookers walk around it on wooden planks.
Since the fields are made by natural forces, each one has its own special qualities.
On some fields, players may have to crawl around in mud up to their waists, while other fields are cleaner.
“We get stuck in the swamps, lose our shoes in the swamps, and so on, but we just try to get the ball to the goal,” said Siri from the team Lahen Stolit, which won the women’s professional category.
In their group were players from the national team, but even the pros have trouble scoring in the mud.
Riina from Lahen Stolit said, “One of the hardest things is when you’re playing defence and you’re really behind the player you should be playing against, and you’re just stuck.”
Kiiskila said that the best cross-country runners in the Nordic countries used ditches as part of their summer training, which is how swamp football got started in 1998.
Siri said, “You have to be in pretty good shape because it’s hard and sometimes you can’t run, you have to crawl.”
Teams from England, the Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Scotland, and Iceland have taken part in Hyrynsalmi so far.
This year, the men’s professional category went to the German team Jugendclub Lindenau, which won the gold title.
Most of the rules in swamp soccer are the same as standard football, but there are only five players on the pitch, plus a custodian, and each half of the game lasts 10 minutes.