For weird­ness, Fin­land is a win­ner

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

HYRYNSALMI, Fin­land — There’s some­thing strange go­ing on in Fin­land. Over the past few decades, as it has all but dis­ap­peared from the global sports stage, this hum­ble Nordic na­tion has sort of lost its sports mind.

More than 2,000 peo­ple ven­tured to the re­mote back­wa­ters of cen­tral Fin­land re­cently for the 20th an­nual Swamp Soc­cer World Cham­pi­onships. If you and your spouse want to com­pete in the Wife Car­ry­ing World Cham­pi­onships, you must come to Fin­land. The Mo­bile Phone Throw­ing World Cham­pi­onships? Fin­land. The World Berry Pick­ing Cham­pi­onship and the Air Gui­tar World Cham­pi­onships? Fin­land and Fin­land.

“We have some weird hob­bies,” said Paivi Kemp­painen, 26, a staff mem­ber at the swamp soc­cer com­pe­ti­tion and master of the un­der­state­ment.

Just look at swamp soc­cer in Hyrynsalmi, a place where Jetta can achieve a small level of celebrity over the years. Jetta is a stuffed badger en­sconced in a bird cage. She acts as a mas­cot of sorts for a team of 12 friends who make the seven-hour drive each year from Vi­hti, near Helsinki, for the com­pe­ti­tion. They bought the doll seven years ago from a junk store at a high­way rest stop, and her fame around the swamp has grown ever since. A cou­ple of years ago, she was in­ter­viewed by a lo­cal news­pa­per.

On Sat­ur­day morn­ing, the men stood around shiv­er­ing in thread­bare thrift-store suits, which they said were their team’s of­fi­cial warm-up duds. A bot­tle of vodka was be­ing passed around (their pre­ferred way, ap­par­ently, of warm­ing up). It was about 10 o’clock. Soon it would be time for their first game of the day. They set Jetta aside and stripped off their out­er­wear, re­veal­ing skimpy blue wrestling sin­glets.

Be­fore they treaded into the mud, they were asked a ques­tion: Why?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.