On a crisp Tuesday night last November, your humble correspondent sat on out on his back steps with a tumbler of bourbon and a smart phone, furiously researching whether he qualified for an Irish passport. The answer, he quickly learned, was a definitive no (IT’S NOT LIKE THERE’S A VILLAGE NAMED AFTER ME IN COUNTY TIPPERARY OR ANYTHING, YOU COLD FENIAN BASTARDS). Spirits dashed, he continued his quest to identify the perfect Plan B country, just in case America gets weird or something (crazy talk, right?).
The answer soon became clear: Finland.
What’s so great about Finland, you ask? Buddy, lemme tell ya:
- Best education system in the world
- The most metal bands per capita on earth
- homoerotic postage stamps
- butt also this
- Land of 10,000 Lakes? Pal, Finland’s got 187,888. (If you want to know what the Finnish word for “lake” is, talk to this guy)
- cool swear words
And on top of all that, Finland is the home of Swamp Soccer. Finnish cross country skiers work on strength and conditioning in the summer months by running in foot-sucking swamp mud, and in 1998 the town of Hyrynsalmi in central Finland decided it to combine this practice with the most popular sport on earth. Jyrki Väänänen (nicknamed “The Swamp Baron”) organized a championship tournament consisting of 13 teams playing a version of soccer along the following rules:
- The game is played in two halves of 12 minutes
- Corner kicks, penalties and throw-ins are made by dropping the ball on to a chosen foot
- There is no pesky off-side rule
- There are 6 players on the field, with no limit on the size of squads
- The players can be substituted as often as they want
In action, it looks something like this:
The Championship in Finland was grown in popularity, hosting over 200 teams and 3,000 players, playing 1,000 games in 6 different series. It’s even got its own hype video:
A correspondent from the New York Times attended the recently completed 2017 Championship , and walked away needing some smelling salts.
People striding on seemingly firm ground would disappear suddenly into the soft earth, as if descending a stairway. Some tottered on their hands and knees, like babies. Others stood still, until they were waist-deep in muck. The scores were generally low. Many of the players were drunk.
It’s hard to imagine an uglier version of the Beautiful Game.
I mean, that sounds like a typical Saturday night here in The Daves I Know territory, but you do you, NYT correspondent guy. Meanwhile, I’m going to start working on my squats and deadlifts so that when and if I ever do emigrate to Finland, I’ll be ready to hit the
pitch, errrr bog.