July 14, 2018 / 3:39 PM / 4 months ago

In waist-deep mud, soccer played in slow motion at swamp World Cup

HELSINKI (Reuters) - As soccer enthusiasts around the globe gear up for the World Cup’s grand finale in Russia, the champions of a far muddier version of the game were crowned at a swamp in northern Finland on Saturday.

Players of SPA Pirkot and AC Suherot make their way to the swamp field before their ladies' hobby league game at the Swamp Soccer World Championships tournament in Hyrynsalmi, Finland July 13, 2018. Picture taken July 13, 2018. Lehtikuva/Kimmo Rauatmaa/via REUTERS

In the 19th Swamp Soccer World Championships in the small town of Hyrynsalmi, the Russian team Lakes Profi won their second consecutive title by beating Finland’s Horstin Honkays in the final in a penalty shootout.

“Sometimes it’s mud up to the groin, while in some parts of the pitch it’s less soggy,” organizer Kimmo Kyhala told Reuters.

“This is very tough sport. A slim body and long legs are advantages,” he said. “A good player must be like a moose in the swamp.”

Some 2,000 players representing 165 teams took part in the tournament, most of them from Finland, Russia, Sweden and Germany.

A swamp soccer match involves two 10-minute halves and both teams have six players on the pitch.

After the games, players caked in mud washed up at a sauna and a swamp pond before heading to a nearby swamp rock festival.

“This is a very relaxed event. Top category teams are more ambitious while some teams might be colleagues from work who come over to have some fun,” Kyhala said.

Kyhala said Russia was interested in holding the games this year in conjunction with the World Cup, but Hyrynsalmi stuck to the tradition.

The game originates from Finnish skiers’ strength training, which included running in swamps.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Helen Popper

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