While the rules may be similar, the terrain is not, for there are no well-manicured fields for these soccer players - In fact the muddier and slicker the terrain, the better it is, for here they like to get down and dirty, as they battle it out for the World Cup Championships. Welcome to Swamp Soccer!
Swamp Soccer was started by a team of cross-country skiers in Finland, who used the football matches in knee-deep mud as a way to strengthen their leg muscles. The first organized swamp soccer championships were held in 1997 with 13 teams, all from Finland. The game soon gained popularity all over the world and today, there are over 200 swamp soccer teams, some of who come to compete in the three-day championships held in June each year.
The game is similar to normal soccer with a few modifications, which include shorter play time (only 13 minutes per half). While only 6 players (including the goalie) from each team are allowed on the field at any given time, the team can have up to 12 players on its roster and make unlimited player changes. Also, the penalty area is five meters deep and corner kicks, penalties and throw-ins are made with drop kicks.
Though no shoe changing is allowed, teams can dress up sporting a theme like 'spiderman' or 'rambo', as long as they are all consistent. The teams can be all men, all women, or a mix of both.
Since the swamp is so soft, players have to use unconventional winning tactics. For one, the ball does not roll very far before it sinks, so the only way to get the ball far is either kick it or hit it with the head. Also, unlike professional soccer, anyone can enter the competition, and while it helps to be fit, it isn't a requirement - although having fun sure is!
This year the World Championship took place in late June, in the Scottish town of Strachur, Argyll. Fourty-four teams with names like 'The Jeff Stelling Appreciation Society' and 'Rambo First Mud' participated in the three-day event.
For the second consecutive year, the overall men's trophy and cash prize of $1,000 USD, went to Team Rambo, who now call themselves F.C. Full Gunge. The team's captain said that after three days of grueling matches, they were thrilled to emerge as the winners once again. As to how long it will take them to get the mud off? - One can only guess!