Football is being played worldwide! If you did not already know this information, I am more than pleased to be your first source. How long has it been worldwide? Umm. . . I’ll let you do that research yourself(google it). NFL Europe began the expansion and since its conclusion the sport has taken on its own culture in different regions including Europe, Asia, Australia, Central America, & South America. I have been lucky enough to experience this culture for myself over the past few years. But my experience alone is only a small sample of the life of football in foreign countries. To give you readers a more comprehensive view of the experience I will be continuously posting about information I am learning from Americans who have their own unique experiences over seas.
Today I will be sharing information gathered from an American I met while playing football in Switzerland. Jacob Wyatt is a 30-year-old from Lansing, Michigan. He is an Eastern Michigan University (Division 1) alumni safety/returner who has played in the countries of Switzerland and Germany.
I asked Jacob to explain to me a few things about his experiences over seas. One aspect I was really interested in was the actual football culture of the teams. “Depending on how many players came some practices were structured like a college while others were not.” In Switzerland his team had three practices a week, while in Germany they only practiced twice a week.On his team in Switzerland Jacob explained that there were only 4 coaches compared to a 10 person coaching staff on his Germany squad. When asked about support staff as in trainers, cheerleader, and all those others involved with football, Jacob confirms that the teams in Europe provide these positions as well. In terms of football culture it seems that Jacob was in very familiar territory even while on the opposite side of the planet.
But we all know it can’t only about the football or no one would be doing it! Jacob, how was the money? Did you get paid a fair salary compared to other American players? “We were paid fairly either bi-weekly or monthly.” Besides a monthly salary, European teams will pay for flight travel to and from the country for American players, as well as living accommodations and certain amenities. “In Switzerland the players shared an apartment and in Germany we shared a Villa.” In Jacob’s case both high-speed internet and a mobile device were provided by the teams.
Similar to moving to a new city, flying across the world to a new city can be a difficult transition for anyone. So I asked Jacob about his flights. He explained that the usual time of his flights were around 9 hours with layovers in London and Amsterdam. “Layover time was from three to 12 hours.” Wow, that layover range could be a slight annoyance! It took Jacob three or four days post flight to physically and mentally adjust to his new time zone. Did the climate change affect you at all? “No” This could have something to do with the fact that teams usually bring imports during playing season which is usually their spring/summer season.
So, you get off the plane after that long flight and layover situation, what kind of reception do you receive at the airport? “A normal reception that you would expect. They greet you get you some food and take you to the place where you are going to live. They normally give you one night to get settled and then show you around the city a little bit.”
New city, new country, endless possibilities right? Did the teams provide any type of transportation for the American players? “In Switzerland we had public transportation and in Germany vehicles were provided” With only two or three practices a week, it’s safe to assume that Americans have a lot of free team while over seas. ” In Switzerland we spent a lot of time with the teammates and other imports almost everyday and/or weekend. In Germany only with other imports.”
Just like anywhere else in the world some people are more and some are less friendly, who would have known that!?! Were there any cultural difficulties for you during your time overseas? Speaking on the language “at times mainly with players when trying to communicate on the field.” Jacob continues by adding that players smoking cigarettes was a common occurrence in Europe as opposed to being pretty much nonexistent in American football culture.
Of course it’s not all business during these overseas seasons and Jacob didn’t mind sharing some memorable moments of his time abroad. “A trip while in Switzerland to Freiburg, Germany. A coach, another import, a few teammates and I took the train over drinking the entire train ride there. Went out to eat started drinking more at the restaurant and started getting wild. Ended up going to multiple bars and club until we ended the night with a local rugby team. We partied and drank with them while the other import had the owner of the Irish pub say in her accent “I like big black cocks!” Then we took the last train back to Basel.” Sounds like a good time to me.
Jacob Wyatt has played in more than one country in Europe and can give a very unique view on the similarities and differences between the teams and countries. So, which team was the best experience for you? “Switzerland Basel Gladiators. The team was a team, there were a lot of team bonding and the players either import or national players tried to spend a lot of time together.” What about best country experience of the two? “Switzerland, just the places that you were able to go and visit easily and for a decent price.”
What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe/overseas for the first time? “Be open-minded about going to new areas and trying new things. And put yourself on a budget so when you leave you will have a little money to get back on your feet when you return to the states or to travel when the season is over.”
I really appreciate Jacob Wyatt taking the time to inform me about his experience overseas and I hope that this anecdotal information can help anyone who is or will be involved with football in foreign countries.