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Watch: Swamp soccer worlds bring curious foreigners to Kainuu

The World Swamp soccer championships are underway in Hyrnysalmi, Kainuu. Some 5,000 players will form 500 teams competing to become the global leaders in a sport that is a distant cousin of regular, grass-based football.

Video: Mies rämpii suopotkupallon MM-kisoissa 2012
Kaksipäiväisessä tapahtumassa suolla juoksee ja rämpii 5 000 pelaajaa ja 500 joukkuetta.

Teams have travelled from Russia, Germany, Sweden and Spain for the tournament, which participants take very seriously indeed. The game they will play is a true sport, but not quite football.

The ball can come to a complete stop in certain parts of the pitch, as the ground is so sodden and boggy. That makes the sport physically demanding as well as slightly ridiculous.

Tactics are also crucial, with a good range of body sizes and shapes crucial to a team’s success.

”In the wettest spots, lighter players make more progress than heavy and sturdy ones,” says Tiina Ruotsalainen, marketing chief of the Swamp Soccer organisation.

No swamp soccer pitches in Spain

The event, held this year for the 13th time, has come on in leaps and bounds. The catering is more varied, the marketing is more professional and spectator facilities have improved.  

The international progress of the sport is largely down to the bush telegraph  and a few dedicated missionaries. Madrid resident Mikko Kallio is one of them, as the team manager of the Toros Rojos team from Spain and the multinational Mundo Latino side.

”Three years ago I came with a team from Spain,” says Kallio. ”Now there are two teams, one from South America and one from Spain. Next year we will bring four teams. There are teams coming from Mexico and Colombia.”

”All the foreigners that come here to the swamp, are so eager right from the start,” says Kallio. ”They don’t have these conditions in their home countries. There are no swamps. No swamp soccer pitches.”

That doesn't bother the international reinforcements in Finland for the occasion.

"If you lose it doesn’t matter, the most important is to enjoy and meet people, and know the Finnish culture," says Ivan Fernandez of the Toros Rojos team.

"Our main goal is to enjoy what it means to play in the swamp, so I think we are going to get dirty here," adds Pablo Montiel, competing for Team Mundo Latino.

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