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‘Strongest’ PH floorball team ready for world stage

Floorball in the Philippines has seen some growth over the past few years. And the country saw what the sport has to offer during our hosting of both the Asia-Oceania Floorball Cup and 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019.

Its national sports association  – the Philippine Floorball Association – looked to build on the momentum when it had planned to enter both the men’s and the women’s team in the qualifiers for its respective World Championships. However, the same NSA decided to withdraw due to the rising COVID-19 cases last year; and its consequences on travel restrictions and face-to-face training protocols.

It is because some of its players are based in other countries like Singapore, Norway, and Sweden. And pulling them together, at that time especially, was a tall order.

“We were sad that they postponed it in the first case because the COVID-19 was increasing around the world,” team captain Lucas Oijvall recalled. “And then, floorball is not mandatory so we expect that it might be postponed and they could just cancel it, with other things in focus.”

The same reason, however, pushed the men’s championships to this year as well, going together with the women’s side. And with the withdrawal of Australia and Japan, the International Floorball Federation has approved the participation of our national team – our first-ever spot in the Worlds.

The 33-year-old forward said, “The first reaction was, ‘Oh, this is so cool.’ And of course, we will go for it, so of course, we said yes, But then, there was other stuff that was taking our time and has been in our minds as well.

“First of all, it is kind of short a time and we did not have the maximum preparation. But we have good contact from this August until now. So, we had to do some web-based theory practice and do our own programs in our home clubs. It could have been worse or it could have been better.”

The initial excitement turned into deep thinking, but the PFA acted on it quickly as there should be no time wasted as the tournament starts in a few months – December, to be specific.

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“I guess it is because that the IFF knew that we have a lot of players based here (Nordic countries) and we could actually manage it because it will be easy despite the COVID-19 and other stuff.”

Oijvall also said that from that point they also started a training camp. “We had a training camp this July in the southern part of Sweden – both men and women – and we actually had a guy who drove to Sweden from Switzerland to join the camp. So, he travelled 1000 kilometers by car.

“When it was approved and it was final that we have a spot in the World Championships, so it was this September that we actually started the preparation. Then, we had a camp in Uppsala this October because it was a break from all the tournaments we are playing in; and all the guys, even those living in Norway or in Finland had a chance and an opportunity to join the camp.”

With most of the players plying their trade at the professional level in the sports’ hotbeds, it was a matter of time that the team will work together.

The FBC Nykoping standout said, “We always tried to improve, to develop. From the first time, I joined the national team in Biñan – the mix of players was kind of good because there are players here from Sweden, and there are players who came from Singapore, and we had local-based players; since then we made a huge leap. I think the level the level is a little higher now, that is because we have players who are playing regularly all season long, and who have been practicing for 10-out-of-12-months in a year for floorball. So I think, the team has made a huge leap, so far.”

Nonetheless, for Oijvall, there is still the difference between seeing it in practice and doing it inside the competition arena.

“I guess we have a strong team now, and all the pieces should fall together. But if we take our team, that’s the strongest team the Philippines ever out up for the starting line so far.

He continued, “There are players here who have been playing since they are three or four years old, so it is very funny. And then, we have the older guys like me. So I think it is a good mixture.”

However, still, the 33-year-old captain believes that this best-ever national men’s side will try to show that they can compete and that they belong on the world stage. “I guess you will see that we will do everything to defend our flag, show some puso, and we will try to be the best team from the Asian side,” Oijvall said. “That’s our main goal. We want to show that Singapore and Thailand have to bring their best if they want to stay on top. We want to show them that we can be number 1. So we’ll do our best to do that first task. And then, the next goal will be to be the best team outside of Europe.”

“But it is easy to say that, when you are at home on your sofa,” the skipper quipped. “But in the competition, we will see because as we mentioned before it is different practice and actual tournament.”

The squad will have their very first Worlds match against fellow late entry Estonia on December 4 at 12:00 NN (6:00 PM, Philippine time) at the Helsinki Ice Hall 2. They will then take on regional rivals Singapore on December 5 also at 12:00 NN (6:00 PM, PH time) on the same rink. Then they wrap up the group stage against Canada on the following day at 1:00 PM (7:00 PM).

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Knockout stages follow in the succeeding days.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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