Box lacrosse is still a little bit of the odd one out when it comes to the European scene. There’s men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, youth lacrosse (yes, it’s getting there) but box is still shrouded in a little mystery.
ISAR, Lax in the Box, Boxmania, the Mayor’s Cup and of course, the Ales Hrebesky Memorial Cup. These five tournaments are spread throughout the year and offer boxla players their fix of boarding, crosschecks and picked corners. But that’s also about it when it comes to box lacrosse in Europe.
There is the European Lacrosse League, which is a dedicated box competition, but it only has four teams and most of the players are Czech (although there are US and Canadian players).
With the WILC fast approaching, a number of countries have gotten the box bug and are looking to make the jump across the pond to Six Nations this summer to test themselves against the big powers (Canada, USA, Iroquois Nationals) and amongst each other.
Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany are the mainstays in European boxla, but other countries are on the rise. The first edition of a national box tournament saw its fruition in the Netherlands last year and teams such as Finland, Sweden and Turkey are also looking to get into the box game.
Q&A with Francois Labbé, Boxmania organizer
We talked european box lacrosse with Francois Labbé, one of the main organizers of Boxmania. Topics ranged from the tournament to customized beers and the bigger picture of box in Europe.
How long has Boxmania been around and how did it start?
This past event was the sixth edition of Boxmania. Originally, we tried to set up a field tournament in June but due to the number of tournaments at this time, we didn’t have much success. Then we decided to focus on box lacrosse as we train indoors at an inline hockey facility and at the time nothing was proposed for box in Western Europe, apart from AHM.
Most of the players in Lille, France, were interested by box and it took off after that. The first Boxmania event saw only three teams competing, but it grew from there.
How many teams participated at Boxmania this year?
This year, it was the first time we had the ten teams we wanted to have. It was great as we got new teams coming from Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland. We managed to gather around 150 players for two days and at least 5 games per team.
How would you rate the level of lacrosse at Boxmania?
The level is increasing year after year. We still have teams who are discovering boxla, but teams who come back for each edition are improving.
The level started growing when we decided to call Czech/Slovak referees to come, it helped a lot. Then one of the refs came with his Czech team the year after, showing how boxla has to be played and other teams had to rise their level.
Who was the standout team this year?
The big team is, for four years running, Pardubice (Czech Republic). They are starting to face more and more difficulties to win games, but they still show that they know how to play.
The big surprise of the tournament was the Swiss team. For most of the players it was their first box tournament and they played well.
Any plans to attract any national teams next time around?
Yes and no. National teams are more than welcome but we think that Boxmania has to remain a “club tournament” to let it be open to the maximum number of players and to spread box lacrosse in Western Europe.
So right now, there is no real plan but the tournament is attractive enough for national teams I think.
Is there anything special you do at the tournament?
Our customized beers have been a tradition from the start. We replace the stickers on bottles with the poster of the tournament. It can be a good souvenir for players.
Would you say boxla is growing in Europe? It’s established in the Czech Republic, but how about Western Europe?
Yes, definitely. The biggest issue is access to facilities, but more and more players want to be involved in boxla. It is more entertaining to watch than field, so that makes it easier to show.
In the Czech Republic, box has been well established for many years and when you see their u11 teams, you can say that they will be the dominant nation in Europe for the next couple of years. In Western Europe, interest in box is growing and we all have to build opportunities to play box.
What we should do is to build a box league in Western Europe like the ELL. Of course, the level might be different but we need to play more to get better and to grow the game bigger.
[mks_separator style=”solid” height=”2″]
Make sure to stay tuned for future European Box Lacrosse updates and to check out our comprehensive previews for all of the national teams heading to the WILC!
Photo Credit: Myriam Leprince