This weekend in Russia either France or Croatia takes home the gold in the 2018 World Cup. This means that the football superstars Ronaldo and Messi would now have time to travel to Hyrynsalmi, Finland for the Nokian Tyres Swamp Soccer World Championships. But how would the great athletes do in the swamp? Swamp soccer requires good physical condition and relentlessness, but the field is very unlike the sleek grass of the football stadiums.
Wading in the swamp for ten minutes at a time – how would Messi handle it?
As a sport, swamp soccer is aptly named: you play football in the mushy swamp. However, the only similarities with conventional football are the ball, shape of the field and the goals at each end.
For the Nokian Tyres Swamp Soccer World Championships, there are twenty 35x60m pitches, each with their own unique characteristics in terms of the sogginess of the terrain. A team comprises a goalie and five players who push themselves in the swamp for two ten minute halves. Each team plays four to six matches over the weekend, and the five series total nearly 1,000 matches.
The sport requires great physical condition, as moving thigh-deep in the swamp is no walk in the park. Falling down is part of the sport but diving certainly is not: when you fall down, you get up and keep playing. In order to succeed in swamp soccer, a team must be able to withstand extreme conditions and have the will to win, great team spirit and, most importantly, a sense of humour. But how would the great footballers Messi and Ronaldo fare?
“A slim body and long legs are advantages in swamp soccer. The best players are like a moose in the swamp: springy with thin legs. Messi and Ronaldo definitely have the strength but, looking at the pictures, their physique is not totally ideal for them to become champions in swamp soccer,” said Kimmo Kyhälä, the organiser of Nokian Tyres Swamp Soccer World Championships and Managing Director of Ski Resort Ukkohalla in Hyrynsalmi.
International participants flog to the swamp
The Swamp Soccer World Championships take place at the legendary Vuorisuo bog in Finland on 13 and 14 July 2018. 165 teams have signed up for this year’s World Championships. With more than 2,000 players expected, the event has grown slightly larger from last year. The physically very demanding sport brings swamp soccer enthusiasts particularly from Russia, Sweden and Germany to Finland, the land of a thousand bogs. In addition, international teams feature players representing more than ten different nationalities.
The first National Swamp Soccer Championships took place in Hyrynsalmi, Finland in 1998. In the following year, the event had grown into the European Championships, and as of the year 2000, it has been a World Championship event.
Although the teams are serious about winning the championship, Nokian Tyres Swamp Soccer World Championships is, overall, a relaxed and fun event. Nokian Tyres has been the main partner and title sponsor of the event for more than a decade. The company has a strong connection with the sport as extreme conditions, the will to win, and dedication to the cause are characteristic of both Nokian Tyres and swamp soccer enthusiasts.