American Football in Europe? Damn right! Since the early days of NFL Europe, Americans have been crossing that large area of water (no clue what ocean and I don’t care) to play the greatest sport invented, American Football. Now as a European resident from the states I have made it my pleasure to explore the ins and outs of this dynamic from real people instead of my own common sense. In this article I will give a recount of information gathered from a football colleague I met through my travels abroad. Craig Maynard is an experienced football player who has a proven track record in Europe. He is currently playing for the Jyväskylä Jaguaarit in Division 1 of the Finnish American Football league. Here’s what I learned:
Perfect: How long have you been playing football?
Craig: Since 9th grade, 16 years
Perfect: What other sports did you play in high school?
Perfect: Do you think you could have gotten as far playing Baseball as you have playing Football?
Perfect: What football positions do you play?
Craig: Quarterback, Safety, & Wide Receiver
Perfect: Which of these positions do you prefer to play?
Craig: I am a Quarterback
Perfect: How many years have you played football in Europe?
Craig: 6 seasons
Perfect: How many teams have you played for in Europe?
THE GAME OF FOOTBALL
Perfect: What level of football would you say is being played in Europe relative to the United States?
Craig: Lower level Division III
Perfect: How often do teams practice in Europe?
Craig: 3 times a week in every country I’ve played
Perfect: What time of the day did these teams practice?
Craig: Evening, because most of the local players have to work
Perfect: How are the practices structured?
Craig: Decently structured, imports have influence & input
Perfect: What kind of reception did you receive at the airport upon your arrival?
Craig: Pictures with team jersey and teammates greetings me.
Perfect: Did you have traveler’s insurance?
Craig: Yes, and the team also insured me as well
Perfect: Did you have any trouble converting currency upon arrival and departure?
Craig: No trouble just terrible rates
Perfect: Did the team pay for you separately for food, or were meals included in your salary?
Craig: Meals are usually included in your salary, but in Finland we received a daily meal
Perfect: What was your pay schedule?
Craig: I’m usually paid Bi-weekly or Monthly
Perfect: Were you paid upon arrival or after a certain period of time?
Craig: Arrival or I’m out!
Perfect: Did you have access to public transportation or was a vehicle provided by the team?
Craig: Travel ticket was given monthly for train, bus, subway, etc.
Perfect: Did the time zone change effect you physically or mentally?
Craig: Jet Lag might get you for a week, but the thing in Finland is the all day & night light !(Finnish summers have sunlight until 10pm)
Perfect: Did the climate change have any effect on you physically or mentally?
Craig: Not really
Perfect: Is the language barrier an issue with you and your teammates or coaches?
Craig: English seems to be universal
“Adapt, Accept, and Embrace the culture and enjoy the opportunity.”
Perfect: Do you spend a lot of time with teammates or on your own with other imports?
Craig: Both I like to explore on my own but build relationships and hang with teammates.
Perfect: How were you treated by the locals who were not associated with the football team?
Craig: Fairly nice, an occasional run in with a few racist or ignorant people but never got to being physical
Perfect: What cultural differences are apparent that make things difficult for you in a foreign country?
Craig: Nothing really, food is an issue because I’m picky
LIFE LESSONS LEARNED
Perfect:Do you leave teams on good terms?
Craig: Always and I’m always offered to return for the next season
Perfect: Which country was your best experience?
Craig: Austria Vienna is a great place and always on Forbes top places to live in the World and “Most livable places.” The nightlife, people, quality competition, and salary (2000 euros monthly) was always great. Played 3 good seasons in Austria.
Perfect: Could you tell me an interesting story of your experience in Europe?
Craig: After playing against the Swarco Raiders I was asked to sign many autographs, for my wristbands, socks, and gave them to kids or women… I signed all and ended up selling my Under Armour Tropic Pink Highlight Cam Newton cleats for 200 euros to a guy and signed them for him and his wife, it was our last game of the season so all good !
Perfect: What advice would you give to someone playing football in Europe or overseas for the first time?
Craig: Adapt, Accept, and Embrace the culture and enjoy the opportunity. Get to know your teammates; I have what I consider to be family now in every country I have played in !
I’d like to thank Craig Maynard for taking the time to give valuable insight about his travels and experiences.