American Football is now an international sport, being played in over 85 countries around the globe. In previous articles, I have explained the concept of imports to the sport focusing on American players to further develop the game in foreign countries. But Americans are not the only type of Imports playing internationally. Some of the best American Football players in Europe are born with European nationality and can compete with the best around the world. Finland happens to have an abundance of top level European imports playing here and helping shape the sport. I was fortunate to get an interview with Italian import Andrea Pasquali of the Tampere Saints. Here’s what he had to say about his import experience.
How many years have you played American Football?
This is my sixth year playing American Football.
Where have you played previously?
I began playing American Football in 2011 with the “Aquile Ferrara”. In 2015, I joined the Valencia Firebats in Spain before landing in Tampere with the Saints for the first time that summer. In September, I went on to play with the university of Stirling with the clansmen. I have spent the past two summers in Finland with the Tampere Saints.
WELCOME TO FINLAND
How did you get to Finland?
I arrived in Finland for the first time back in 2015. I was playing in Spain with a guy from the Saints that was there for his school studies. After the season, he said that he really wanted to play with me again, so he convinced the team to bring me back to Finland with them.
How do you like it in Finland?
I love football in Finland. I love the players and I love to see how many people work hard to keep such an environment, something that most of the time is underrated. I really think that this football environment is great if you aim to develop as a player.
How do you like the People in Finland?
A reason that I fell in love with Tampere, are the people I’ve found here. Everyone is really shy at the beginning, but I found that everyone wants to help me, wants to hang out with me. They make me feel part of a community and I think this is utterly amazing.
What is your go to meal in Finland?
My go to meal in Finland? Am I allowed to say Jalloviina?? I swear I just love it, but if we have to speak about food, I’m going to say that is chicken breast and rice. I like to keep my diet simple.
LETS TALK FOOTBALL
Do you spend a lot of time with Finnish teammates or on your own/with other imports?
I love to spend time and hang out with my teammates, but I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of a solace person. Especially during the season, I like to spend my time mainly at the gym, on the field and lastly to go out. I like to honor my duty as an import player and I love doing it in a way that allows me to get a bit better every day.
What level would you compare the football played in Finland to your native Country (Italy)?
If I have to compare the Maple League with a league from my country will be definitely the IFL, that is the top league that my country has to offer. But I think that the maple league is way more competitive than the IFL. Even about promoting this sport, I think that the difference is so big that I cannot compare them.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
My plans after the season are really simple. Finally, on the 7th of July I’ll transfer myself here in Tampere with my beloved girlfriend. The last two years I was studying and playing football at the university of Stirling. Now I am able to transfer my studies to an institute here in Tampere, because as I’ve said before; I loved this place, I love this place and I will always love this place. I feel this will be the right place to study, work and raise a family. I’m not going to hide that I’m a bit scared about this big step but hey, if you don’t risk it you’ll not have it, right?
LAST WORDS OF ADVICE
What advice would you give to someone playing football in a different country for the first time?
If I can give any advice to someone who wants to be an import it is really simple. Do it. Get your best game on and do it. Think about that you will be blessed to live among a different culture than yours, you are blessed to see places that not too many people will have the chance to visit, build nice memories, meet new people and you can do it by doing the best thing in the world. Playing ball and maybe you will experience what happened to me; you’ll find the right place where you want to spend the rest of your days.
Can you explain what American Football means to you?
Resilience. Football taught me that the most important play is really the next play, on the field and in life. Football taught me how to face any kind of adversity and to do it with the will to never go down. I think that football has been the best teacher I could have in my life. God damn I love this game!!!