As an avid obstacle course racer I quite enjoy getting covered in mud, so when I was first asked to play in the Swamp Soccer World Championships I was both excited and perplexed. People play soccer in a swamp? And there’s a World Championship for this obscure sport?
Well it turns out the Swamp Soccer World championships is actually a real event and thousands of people flock to Hyrynsalmi, Finland every year for their shot at the Championship title.
The origin of the Swamp Soccer World Championship (at least how it was told to me) came from Finnish Nordic (Cross Country) Skiers who train in the summer by running through swamps. Wanting to add more excitement to their training they began to play soccer in the swamps and soon after they created the Swamp Soccer World Championship.
At this year’s event I was told by word of mouth that there were about 3000 participants representing seven countries: Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Germany, Britain, and Poland, with the majority of the participants coming from Finland.
The event takes place over two days (Friday and Saturday) in a tournament style format that offers both competitive and recreational divisions. Each team is guaranteed four round robin games with the top teams advancing to the next round.
The rules for Swamp Soccer are essentially the exact same as regular Soccer with a few exceptions:
- Players are allowed to pick up and kick the ball for all throw-ins, corner kicks, and free kicks
- Game duration: two 12 minute half’s (24 minutes total)
- Substitution is done on the fly
- Smaller fields with 5 players and 1 goalie per side
- It’s played in a swamp!
The Swamp Soccer fields are not created equally as some fields may have drier sections where players are able to run easily, whereas other fields are completely wet and running/walking is near impossible! Whether running through the mud or not, trying to navigate ankle deep, knee deep, or even waist deep mud is exhausting. Common techniques used to move through the mud include crawling and rolling. I believe crawling to be the most effective as it allows players to move the ball forward by keeping the ball underneath them and using their knees, or by nudging it forward with their head. Be warned though if crawling and using your knees you may be pushed/wrestled on to your side so the other team can get the ball (I’m not sure if this is completely legal, but I saw it happen many times and the ref’s never called anything).
Goalies can have a very hard time moving to stop shots at the goal so you may expect high scoring games. However this is not the case, my team for example didn’t score any goals in our four games and only ever lost by 1 goal or we tied 0-0. Moving the ball from one side of the field to the other is slow and exhausting. Advancing the ball down the field is difficult because kicking a soccer ball in a swamp is more difficult than you’d think especially when the ball doesn’t roll. Therefore the only way the ball travels far is in the air, and getting a good kick in a swamp to make the ball airborne is tough!
Everyone is out to have a good time in a fun and welcoming environment. Games are well fought and competitive but not overly serious with the occasional mud throwing fight ensuing while the play is on the other side of the field.
After the Swamp
A small pond serves as a rinsing area for players to jump in and clean off. Showers are also hooked up along the edge of the pond for those not brave enough to jump in the cold water. After cleaning off with the cold water, participants are able to hop into one of the three saunas (co-Ed, male, and female) present at the venue.
Beers are commonly enjoyed on the sidelines and in between games and of course some teams are more focused on their beer drinking score then the soccer.
In the evening for those who wish to keep the party going can go to the Swamp Rock. The Swamp Rock is located at a nearby ski resort (Ukkohalla) and provides live music and drinks, keeping the partiers entertained well into the night.
Running, rolling, and crawling through a swamp chasing a soccer ball is way more challenging then I imagined. Combined with a great group of people creates for an awesome experience and I’m looking forward to coming back in the future and hopefully I can bring a team of Canadians with me.
Thanks to FC Haarahipat for allowing me to join your team and for the awesome time.
Click the following link to go to the official Swamp Soccer World Championship website http://suopotkupallo.fi/in-english/
Adam Kuhn lives in Calgary Alberta, where he works as a Geologist in corporate Calgary. Playing high level hockey and football in high school Adam has always loved competitive sports. Upon entering University, sports and exercise fell to the wayside as a life of partying ensued. Spartan Racing has gotten Adam off the couch (and booze) and has revitalized his life. A relatively new face in the OCR scene Adam’s competitive nature is back as he pushes his body to its limits as he competes in the Elite Heats, testing himself against the best of the best. Follow him on Instagram @adamkuhn20 and checkout his personal blog readysweatrun.com for more on his adventures.
cover photo credit: Quirky China News / Rex Features