Swamp Soccer - in the heart of townHeld at the beginning of July, this annual event is the dirtiest football competition in Sweden
Every year at the beginning of July, Storuman hosts the dirtiest football competition in Sweden, the national Swamp Soccer championships. With up to 29 teams competing for the title, the event begins on a Friday evening and the final is played the following night.
It is a popular tournament, combining music, entertainment, food and drink and several other contests that are organised to coincide. These include Swamp Jump (Long Jump) and Swamp Sprint – which has to be the toughest 400m race in the world. The competition is rounded off with a banquet and entertainment at Hotell Toppen.
The first Swamp Soccer contest was arranged in 2004 in the Norrheden bog, just south of Storuman. Gunnarn Football Club were the first champions while the “Tired Old Ladies”, took the first women’s honour.
Arranging the event in a natural bog, without access to electricity, little or no parking facilities and open to the elements proved to be hard work – especially as all competitors and volunteers were based in Storuman. But over the years the organisers gained an understanding on how make the perfect peat bog football pitch.
What to do you do? Either the people come to the bog, or the bog comes to the people
For the 2009 tournament, the event was moved to a town central location next to the camping site. Large, deep pits were dug and filled with truckloads of peat from the bog. They were then soaked with water pumped from the lake.
“It was Sweden’s first man-made bog,” explains Peder Wiklund, one of the event’s main organisers at the time. “It needed 125 truckloads of peat to create a 50cm layer. Only then would it be really sticky and difficult to run on.”
He continues: “None of this would have been possible without the voluntary co-operation of local businesses and financial grants. The value of the work that was donated was about 500,000 SEK. It was a great success – our very own Swamp Arena, in the centre of town.”
With the pitches being within walking distance from the town centre, many team players choose to stay at the next door camping site, which provides showers and a sauna. You can see from the pictures these are very necessary!
Swamp Soccer 2019
The competition starts as normal on Friday and ends with the finals the next night. There will also be another dirty contest – Swamp Volleyball at the same time.
Food and drinks will be on sale at the arena throughout the competition which ends with the gala dinner at Hotell Toppen.
Swamp Soccer fact file
The game was started in Finland by skiers who wanted a fun way to train during summer. It quickly became a sport with the first world championships being held in Hyrynsalmi in 1998. The largest number of teams present at any one championships has topped 300 with over 10 different countries being represented. Playing Swamp Soccer is not something you forget as is both fantastic fun and incredibly dirty at the same time. Each team consists of five players and one goalkeeper and there is no limit on the number of substitutes that can be used. Matches consist of two 10-minute halves, which may not seem long but the sticky, wet ground quickly sucks the energy out of the fittest of athletes. For some, 10 minutes can seem like an eternity.
Most of the rules are similar to regular football, however some make the game just a little different. You are not, for example, allowed to play naked from feet to waist……..can you guess the very practical why? Here’s a few more.
- Fun clothing is allowed – but must clearly show which team is represented.
- Players must not bare their upper body – or lower body.
- Studded shoes are not allowed.
- You must have shoes, you cannot simply tape up your feet.
- There is no offside.
- Corners and free kicks may go straight in to the goal and balls are kicked from the hand.
- Penalties – balls are kicked from the hand.
- Throw-ins can either be thrown in or kicked from the hand. Throw-ins may not go directly into the goal.
- The referee can expel a team that behaves improperly or in an unsporting manner.
- There are three referee cards – yellow, red and VERY red.
- Tackles are allowed but judged according to opponent’s size. Tackling a smaller member of the opposition is considered cowardly.
- Running alongside the pitch to gain a few metres is not allowed.
The most important rule is to have fun. Teams not having fun are not allowed
Register a team or just turn up on July 5 and 6 to watch and join the party!
Text and photo: Roland Nilsson