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 Belgian import Arkadi Meerschout of the Hämeenlinna Huskies. Here’s what he had to say about his import experience.
How many years have you played American Football?
That’s my fifth season
Where have you played previously?
WELCOME TO FINLAND
How did you get to Finland?
I was playing high level soccer for ever but in the last team I played it didn’t work. I was known as a rough player and I friend of mine was aware of my situation, so he asked me to join his young team and that’s where it all begun!
How do you like it in Finland?
I enjoy the peacefulness that reigns here in Finland. And I must say even if we had only some bribes of the Finnish summer, I can’t wait for July and August to be there!
How do you like the People in Finland?
People here are – I won’t say quiet, because everyone knows that after two or three drinks Finnish people start being funny – but they are never nervous, they just do their thing without minding what others do. And they are who they are, without minding what others might think about it! I really love that.
FOOTBALL IN FINLAND
Do you spend a lot of time with Finnish teammates or on your own/with other imports?
Obviously, as we are living 24/7 together with the imports and the Finnish people work; I don’t spend that much time with my Finnish teammates. Nevertheless, when comes the time to play football, celebrate, or enjoy a beer everybody is there and on the same page; Finnish players and imports, and nationalities don’t really matter! Our team has something special I must say.
What level would you compare the football played in Finland to your native Country (Belgium)?
Nothing to compare with. Unfortunately, in Belgium, efforts are putting to increase the level of some teams, but not the popularity of the game, neither the conditions we play it. And in my opinion, that’s the foundations for the grown of this game. Here in Finland, the Maple League is a very competitive and attractive championship, in every sense of it.
What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in your country (Belgium) compared to Finland?
Most are game promotion and professionalism. And those are strongly bonded in both ways. That’s how the level increases year after year. The practices and schedule it is different too, you have to set your physical condition to another level, and practicing is way more technical, tactical.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
Go to Indochina with my girlfriend right after the season just enjoying some rest, being away of any practice field or gym for some weeks. But I already know there is some crossfit places over there…
Has anything particularly interesting happened during your experience so far?
I have to admit that if not for Ana, our roommates wouldn’t be here, the imports house would be literally burning right know. Or at least collapses slowly piece by piece. She is taking care of the house like no one, and she is so funny! A crazy lovely Finnish tough farmer woman, that’s how I would describe her. And everybody loves her!
What advice would you give to someone playing football in a different country for the first time?
You have two life as an import, the one on the field and the other off the field. Don’t mix them up!
Can you sum up what American Football means to you?
Me against myself.