FIRST came meatballs, then Abba . . . now the Swedes are taking Edinburgh’s sports scene by storm with the latest hockey craze.
Floorball – a non-contact version of ice hockey developed in the early 1970s in the Swedish city of Gothenburg – is growing so quickly that the sport’s UK leaders are ploughing funds into buying new equipment for the Capital.
And city side Edinburgh Eagles are seeking to build on the momentum by issuing a call to curious locals to come forward and pick up a stick.
Eagles defender Gavin Woods said: “I think there’s more interest because it’s fast and very intense. And it’s physical – it’s not meant to be but it is.”
The 44-year-old ex-footballer from North Fettes, who has played for around 18 months, said floorball was unusual in being driven forward by large numbers of international players coming to Scotland as students from the sport’s heartlands in Scandinavia and central Europe. He said long university holidays – when many students return to their home countries – meant the summer months could be quiet for regular players based in Edinburgh, which is why Eagles coaches are keen for those who want to give floorball a go to come forward now.
And while admitting good hand-eye coordination and the ability to keep possession of the aerated floorball while moving at speed are crucial, Mr Woods insisted new players could pick up key skills in no time.
“It’s a fantastic game which can get pretty feisty, especially during a tournament,” he said. “Yes, there’s a lot of skill involved – to receive a pass or make a shot – but you do not have to be the best player to really contribute during a match. And while you’ll get players from Sweden or the Czech Republic who’ll be able to do all these tricks with the floorball on the blade of their stick, you don’t have to be able to do any of that to play.
“Floorball is a very affordable and accessible sport – I think that’s one of the reasons why more people are aware of it and are more interested.” And Mr Woods held out the possibility of league glory for city residents who want to take part. “In the 2012-13 season, the Eagles finished mid-table in the Scottish league but when we have a good mix of local players and international students, we can beat anyone,” he said.
Bosses at the Great Britain Floorball and Unihockey Association (GBFUA) agreed that the sport’s growth in Edinburgh was due to greater affordability and accessibility, especially compared to its better-known, ice-based counterpart.
Bev Needham, GBFUA chair, said: “The sport is definitely growing in Edinburgh. The Eagles have had a very good season and we’re receiving email requests for more information all the time. We’re doing lots of development to encourage youngsters from the local area to come forward and get involved. As long we have the right people, there’s nothing to stop the sport’s growth.”
The rules of the game
EACH team in a floorball match can field six players on court, including a goalkeeper.
A match is played over three periods lasting 20 minutes each, with time stopped for penalties, goals, time-outs and any situation where the ball is not in play. Each match has two referees.
Floorball is non-contact and body checking is not allowed.
A floorball weighs just 23 grams and has a 72mm diameter.