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 French import Pierre Courageux of the Helsinki Roosters. Here’s what he had to say about his import experience.
How many years have you played American Football?
I started playing football at the end of the year 2005, so it’s been 12 years now.
What’s your football journey?
I started playing football with a small local team in my hometown (the Mariners). There, I had the opportunity to play for the biggest team in the west part of France the year after, they were offered me to an opportunity to join the student athletes program which is pretty rare in France.
The next step was when I moved to Canada to play. I first attended to a CEGEP which is similar to a prep school, then I joined The McGill Redmen (Canada) for a season before coming back to France in 2013. I wanted to keep learning, and only one team had the coaching staff for it, the Thonon Black Panthers. During that season I joined the French national Team for the European championship in Austria. After winning the French national championship with the black panthers in 2014, I was contacted by few teams to play outside of France. The Seinäjoki Crocodiles were one of the teams who offered me a chance to play, but I wasn’t able to play for the Crocodiles that year. Since then, we kept contact so in 2016 they asked me again and this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. After playing with the Crocodiles, I joined the Roosters in Helsinki.
LIFE IN FINLAND
How do you like it in Finland?
I LOVE FINLAND! Every time I say that to a Finn they stare at me like WTF aha. But this country changed me as a man. It’s a quiet life. I do admit that Helsinki is a better town than Seinäjoki, but my previous year was amazing too. So many things to do beside football and training, I love to travel and the northern Europe is a beautiful place. The weather is messed up, but I’m almost used to it now, in one day you can have rain, sun, snow, sun and storm… Even if Finns may seem rude at first, they are nice and always there to help you, a very open minded and nice people. I’ve met passionate people, smiling children, glad to learn how to play football, crazy fans who travel hours to cheers for us, sleepless coaches, and dedicated players and friends.
What is your go to meal in Finland?
Do you spend a lot of time with Finnish teammates or on your own/with other imports?
I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with Finnish players because they’re now friends, and I’m living with 3 other players, so I can say we spend time together. Because we have a lot of free time, I’m trying to move and discover the country as much as possible too, mostly on my own.
FOOTBALL IN FINLAND
What level would you compare the football played in Finland to your native Country (France)?
Few teams from France 1st division would be able to compete in the Maple League.
What do you see as some of the biggest differences between football in your country compared to Finland?
The main difference is about how teams and federations are managed. As an example , the Roosters organization is a real football program, with youth teams, a womens team, and a mens team. All of them are successful, which means outside the fact of the level of the players, the coaching staff, the board, and the volunteers are doing a great job to help the Roosters succeed. The part of private sponsorship into teams is a big difference too, while in France many teams receive money from the government. Money helps to build a better organization. Finally, the SAJL decided to promote football by putting it on TV and it helps a lot.
What are your plans after the season concludes?
I don’t know yet, I’m focusing on the season, I may want to stay in Finland a bit, but I could not picture myself in the upcoming years doing anything other than playing or teaching the sport that is allowing me to live out my dream.
Could you tell me an interesting story of your experience?
I could tell many stories about Finnish people and how much they love alcohol…
What advice would you give to someone playing football in a different country for the first time?
You obviously need to be open minded. You may face different languages and cultures who may seem rude at first, but spend time with your teammates, enjoy every moment of your experience, football is an amazing sport that is full of good moments.
Can you sum up what American Football means to you?
I cannot really describe how much this game helped me to become the man I am today. With its joys, its sorrows, its moments of ecstasy, its successes, but also its failures. I learn so much playing and teaching football, this passion burning deep down inside me.