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HERStory: Interview with Our Ladies in the States

Various leagues of football here in Finland have kicked off already for the season, but before switching the full focus to domestic fields, let’s have a look at a bunch of wonderful Finnish women representing Finnish football skills and mindset in the US. I had discussions with Nana Olavuo, who’s no rookie on the US fields, and who plays for Kansas City Glory in the WNFC (Women's National Football Conference) league this season. I also talked with Anni Alanko, Janika Nikander and Essi Saastamoinen, who play for DC Divas in the WFA (Women's Football Alliance) league.


Photo: Tero Turunen, Edit: Erika Nylund

At the time of the interviews, KC Glory had a record of 2-2, while the DC Divas were 0-1. After the interview both teams won their games, and while writing this their records are now 3-2 and 1-1. Both teams have decent standings at this point, and opportunity for a success this season.



I asked each player how the gameplay in the States is different from Finland, and everyone noted the game being much more physical and faster in the States. Nikander adds that the offenses of WFA teams are more versatile, and since they don’t have the same knowledge of opponents in the States as they have of Finland, it’s not easy to predict what the other team has in their pocket. The DC Divas players also learned during their season opener that the quarter is 15 minutes in the WFA, instead of the 12 minutes they’re used to. That’s something that a player would probably like to know beforehand.


Nana Olavuo in Kansas City Glory All-White Uniform

When asking what the KC Glory team and organization has received or learned from Olavuo, she says she’s been helping out with linebacker coaching here and there, and also general discussions about the football culture differences. When asking the same question from the DC Divas, Alanko and Saastamoinen praise the coaching level of Finland, and how valuable the national team technique camps are. Nikander adds that the Finns have also been demanding of the coaching staff, asking enough to get the bottom reason on why things are done the way they are done. And of course, despite practicing seriously and with full focus, they might occasionally teach their teammates some random Finnish words and just be a goofball on the field.


Getting those Ws

What does KC Glory have to do in order to get those Ws?

Our defense has been working well so far, but our offense has been starting a little slow” , Olavuo replies and tells about their QB, who has not been able to practice a lot with the team during the offseason due injuries, “but they’re little things and their connection between QB and receivers have improved. We just have to correct some small issues like getting the blocks correct and get the passing game going and we’re good”, she continues.


What about DC Divas and opening their winning record?

We have gone through the errors a lot with our coaching staff” , Saastamoinen says. “There’s some work to be done on the basics, like on the defensive side, to get rid of the blocks quickly and get those tackles low enough to have the impact”.

Alanko talks about the offensive side, stating that the o-line plays well but there are details in the passing game that need to be corrected and finessed.

Janika Nikander Signing DC Divas Contract, photo: Donnell Goode

Main issue was that our defense didn’t do enough to let our offense take over the field” ,Nikander says. “We gave too many too big plays away to the opponent and our offense didn’t get the game time they required”.

Freetime and Future 

Alanko, Nikander and Saastamoinen spend their time in the States as flatmates, and I ask about their housing situation and freetime. Everything has been going well with a couple of relocations within the region. Saastamoinen brings up Finnish contacts in the DC, like their visit to the Embassy and an invitation to visit a local Finnish family. “We got to visit a College level team practice here too, and I have to see that all the facilities and resources are a lot different than what we have been used to”, Alanko says. DC Divas are also very busy with different kinds of visits and events in the community and representing themselves. “It’s clear that the amount of sponsorship is on a different level around hereNikander says “So the team puts in a lot of work to get people knowing who we are”.


The WNFC season is past halfway through already, so it’s interesting to find out what Olavuo has planned to do after the season is over. “I have to come back to Finland by the end of the June anyway” she says. “There are some plans but nothing official yet”. So we have to wait and see what the future holds for this young superstar.


Maple Bowl Picks

Since the name of this media is American Football in Finland, and the Maple league seasons are on their way by the time this is published, I asked the girls their picks for Maple Bowl champs. On the women’s side Olavuo and Saastamoinen say Turku Trojans, because “despite having some changes in the roster, with Saastamoinen playing in the States, for example, their core crew remains the same, and their win over Wolverines last weekend proved they still got it”, Olavuo states.

Nikander says that Wolverines will take home the women’s trophy “Obviously we’ll take it back after a few years’ break”.

Alanko disagrees “Since I am from Wasa and they’re fresh and new team in the Maple League level, of course I say that Royals take home the trophy”.


For men’s Maple Bowl Saastamoinen says it’s a matchup between Kuopio Steelers and Helsinki Roosters Since the game is played in Helsinki, it would be great to have a local team represented there. I’m not going to bet on the winner here now, though”, she says. Nikander has tough time deciding between Seinäjoki Crocodiles, Helsinki Roosters and Porvoo Butchers, but ends up with going for Roosters vs Butchers Maple Bowl “Because Butchers are on the rise now, but I don’t think they’re going to win it” she ponders. Alanko roots also for Roosters vs Butchers final “It would be different”. Olavuo goes for Butchers winning the Maple Bowl “Their core has remained quite the same with Brandon Gwinner as QB and they getting Zach Wright back, too. I was thinking about Crocodiles, too, but since they have to start a new QB now, it’s a little wait and see situation with them”.


Olavuo and Kansas City Glory have their next game May 18th against Houston Mambas, and DC Divas face Baltimore Nighthawks, also May 18th. As the Maple League seasons start here, we wish the best of luck also to our ladies in the States, hoping to catch up with them on domestic fields after their seasons abroad have ended.


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