Football is a veritable North American sport. As such, it not only has the biggest following in the US and Canada but also the biggest – and most successful – league, the NFL. In the rest of the world, its popularity is far lower, though. While there are many who follow the matches of NFL teams outside North America, few of them know that football is yet another North American sport that has gone global with leagues and teams far beyond American soil. And some of them are in countries where you would least expect them to be.
When it comes to sports, Germany is best known for its soccer league – the Bundesliga has millions of fans and followers around the world and it’s home to some of the biggest soccer stars of the moment. Few people know, in turn, of the German Football League (GFL), formerly known as the American-Football-Bundesliga.
The GFL was formed in 1979 with rules based on the NCAA’s. It has a North and South conference with a total of 16 teams (since 2012), two tiers (GFL-1 and GFL-2) and its own final called the German Bowl. Its most successful team is the New Yorker Lions, a team based in Braunschweig, with 12 German Bowl wins under its belt.
Austria is a small country with aspirations to become a big name in American football. The Austrian Football League (AFL) was founded in 1984, also with its rules based on NCAA’s. The league currently has eight teams, with the Vienna Vikings – one of the most dominant football teams in Europe – being the most successful with 14 titles under its belt.
Austria’s current champion is the Swarco Raiders from Tirol that won the last two titles.
Finland is a tiny country with a surface area of just 130,000 square miles and a population of around 5.5 million. And it’s also a football powerhouse in Europe. Its league called the “Maple League” (Vaahteraliiga in Finnish) got its name from the championship trophy Vaahteramalja (“Maple Bowl”) donated to the newly formed football association by the Canadian embassy.
The Maple League has six teams, with the Helsinki Roosters having 17 titles, including six consecutive wins between 1995 and 2000.
Football has its own European governing body – the European Federation of American Football (EFAF) – and its own top-tier continental championship, the BIG6 European Football League (formerly known as the European Football League), covering all the top-tier national competitions in Europe.
Currently, it has six European teams – most of them coming from the GFL-1, including the four-time winner New Yorker Lions. The championship final is called the “Eurobowl” (because of course, it is) held each year since 1986. Last year’s finals took place in Potsdam, Germany, with the GFL team Potsdam Royals winning the trophy.
Embed from Getty Images