Raiffeisen Vikings Vienna
So you think American football is only played in America? - TVR's Vienna Circle: Sep. 2012
So you think American football is only played in America? Think again. Established in 1983, the Raiffeisen Vikings Vienna have around 750 active members. There’s the A team, second best in Europe and seven-time winner of the European Football League, and the B-team, five-time winner of the Silver Bowl. There are three divisions of youth teams plus a Ladies Team, winner of the 2012 Ladies Cup.
Most social, though, is the Vikings Flag Football team, which offers a low-contact version of the sport, with men and women playing together. And the third tier of the Vikings family is cheerleading. Founded in the early 1990s, the Purple Cheerleaders and Dancers were the first squad in Austria and have won, between 2000 and 2012, 33 out of a possible 34 championship titles.
It takes dedication to become what President Karl Wurm called “the biggest and best football organisation in Europe.” Youth teams practice three times a week, and the top teams train up to seven times weekly. “We take this seriously,” said Wurm. “We compete. We want to be the best. Every time we go into a tournament, we want to win.” Although there are expats on the teams, there are strict rules on import players. Lukas Leitner, A-team manager, explained match day protocol: Of the 11 players on the field, only two may have previously competed professionally. Applying to players from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Japan, the rule, said Leitner, “gives Austrians the chance to learn how to play.”
When cheerleaders perform, the Vikings mascot Nellie, a giant purple elephant, makes an appearance, and for every touchdown scored, Arly on his Harley rides around the stadium at Hohe Warte. Vikings fans are one big, enthusiastic family, and around 50 per cent of the 4,000-6,000 regular spectators are women, something Wurm said is “very important for the team.” The camaraderie is reported to be so remarkable that U.S. import players say they’ve seen nothing like it. Some say that a day out with the Vikings is “the best clubbing in town!”
The new season for the Vikings’ A and B teams will commence in March 2013. Dates are yet to be announced, but there is plenty to watch in the meantime. The Youth Season kicks off in September: Micros (6 – 9), Minis (10 – 12), Schüler (13 – 14) and Jugend (15 – 16) will play Swarco Raiders Tirol on 22 September. Schwechat will play host to the first Austrian International Open Cheerleading championships on 24 November, with over 1,000 expected participants.
Try-outs for football and cheerleading are at Ravelin, the Vikings’ football centre on 28 Sept. at 17:00. They are looking primarily for young athletes aged 10 to 22, trying for 35 to 50 spots across all the teams.
See also “Vienna Goes American” in TVR, June 2010.
The Raiffeisen Vikings
10., Ravelinstr., entrance in Bleriotgasse
0699 19 25 01 75