The NFL offseason undeniably drags for those infinitely passionate about the sport. How many think beyond what and who is considered stateside? Sure, there are New York Football Giants fans all over the globe, but what about areas that are a bit more obscure to the NFL logo, televised games and game day gear? There lies some unpolished love for the game in areas like the Netherlands, South Africa and Egypt, for starters.
Fans out across the Atlantic are almost starved for more football as a whole than we are here in the continental Americas right now. We have a 24-hour newsfeed in the NFL Network and similar outlets to nourish our hungry beasts within. Europe, predominantly, chooses to live any version of the sport they can as said sustenance. Many begin their gridiron tenure at the level of casual observer — some watching an NFL Super Bowl for the first time, thereby having a “seed planted." More of the desire to be a part of football comes from actually, well, being a part of it — touching the pigskin and being an actual teammate and having the experience of playing at some level.
Countless connections are also made through the United States military branches. As American soldiers are stationed all over Europe, Africa and Asia, the likes of American football and how much of an actual catalyst it is to a real brotherhood/ bond are pretty astounding. Most of these men are still in contact with one another today and continue to reminisce about “those days” — like old NFL teammates that reconvene for franchise dinners.
As NFL Europe was sadly phased out (in 2007), the game continues to go on — on many levels, all taken seriously. Areas like Maastricht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam (Netherlands) are football driven and still have Championship title games, many of the players/coaches continue to do this all on the side in free time while holding full time professional jobs (doctors, lawyers, writers, physical therapists, architects, martial artists). The more we delve into the stories and lives of the men that have lived (and are still currently living) some of their life on the turf, the more interesting things get.
Mr. Corné Heijnen is a former player-turned coach and now a beat writer for the Rotterdam Trojans (amateur) American Football in the Netherlands. He also takes care of their website, Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as Rotterdam game reports on the website of the National Dutch Football League website. He is currently coaching a junior team (high school age), and assisting with the adult team (19 and up). Again, he does all of this in his spare time. This weekend, as a coach, his team is in the National Championship game (and we await some good news!). He follows American sports and since that seed was planted, he has become much like one of us stateside diehards, wanting more.
“In those years, starting in 1987, I was fortunate enough to play with and be coached by some wonderful men. Dutch Nationals with World League, NFL Europe, and NCAA experience. I got the chance to go to clinics by the likes of 'cowboy' Jack Bicknell and other US coaches. As you all can see, although American Football to us Dutchies is not a natural sport, but there are enough of us infected by its bug, and working hard to promote the sport here in Europe,” he said.
There are so many more facets to this side of football that is off American soil: how football was single-handedly brought to Egypt, sports reporters across the way that are learning and just as addicted (and knowledgeable) in American sports, how huge flag football is over there, player and coaching stories of football in Europe from its inception, how Michael Strahan’s brother, Chris Strahan is deeply involved in much of this… Curiosity piqued?
Oh, and by the way, the Rotterdam Trojans won the National Championship, 55-6.
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