As usual, European lacrosse roster legitimacy is a big topic of conversation at an international event. As more and more countries start playing (24 in Europe for this EC alone!), and international lacrosse improves and grows, this makes sense. To set the scene…
Things are ramping up in Budapest as the bulk of the 24 European national teams have checked in at St. Stevens University in Gödölö, Hungary. The swelter of the Hungarian summer hangs heavy on your t-shirt, and baby powder is definitely an essential, but the vibe has a very similar tone to a wedding or a reunion.
It really is a wonderful thing; to see good friends you haven’t seen in a while, all brought together for the same lacrosse-filled reason. Each on a different European Lacrosse Roster!
Some teams are just checking in and having their first practices at the facilities, while others have graduated on to having full scrimmages. Most notably, England and Ireland squared off for a slightly abbreviated game. Ireland came out tough and the score was even at two at the first intermission, but the initial strong showing from the Irish wasn’t as consistent as it needed to be. England is very capable and possesses a very deep bench, and won the extremely unofficial game by a good margin.
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Other notable meetings would include the home team, Hungary, matched up with the Russians, as well as the newly revitalized Danish team scrimmaging with Poland, as well as Germany. The German/Danish scrimmage was wisely called off early in an effort to save some Danish legs for the actual tournament, but as chance would have it, the Israeli guys were starting to trickle in one by one to the field and they were able to give the German squad some additional scrimmage time, so everyone got some much needed run.
Everyone here has speculative guesses as to how everyone will place 1-24. That’s natural. Of course when you’re at a tournament the one thing everyone can talk about is, in fact, the tournament itself. While there is a healthy dialogue, and I’m learning more and more about these national programs, the one aspect that seems to consistently mar the topic of conversation is:
“Let’s see who they’re bringing over…”
European Lacrosse Roster Legitimacy – #EC16
This, of course, is in reference to any team ‘loading up’ on North American talent via ancestry, or even by acquiring non-passport holding ‘heritage players’. Truth be told I thought I knew how the whole thing worked until I got here, but every new explanation I hear is different from the other hundred I’ve heard previously. There does seem to be a serious push for mostly European players to play in the European Championships. This also makes sense when it comes to growing talent at home.
I would simply like to state for the record that from what I’ve seen, it’s a lot more innocent and a lot more honest than one might think. Having talked to so many players and teams, I have a wider view now, and while it’s pretty easy to accuse team A of stacking their roster when they’re beating you by x amount of goals… when you get a little more qualitative information on that team, there is a heightened legitimacy to 90% of guys that you might have previously written off as “an American” or imported player.
And this is where it gets potentially murky. Some of these guys might actually be citizens of the United States of America. However, I’m encountering more and more guys who ARE American, but there is some extra circumstance that truly legitimizes their spot on the roster. I’ve encountered an American who learned to play lacrosse in Russia, an Englishman teaching in Poland, a Slovakian playing in Scotland, a German who’s studying in Tokyo, a professional hockey goalie from California on the Hungarian team because that’s where his hockey team is based, as well as a litany of other bizarre situations that are stranger than fiction.
According to the rules (or what I gather to be the rules), these guys are all considered legit.
A constant within this topic of conversation has been the Israeli roster, and the next sentence is usually “Let’s see who they’re bringing over…” in a manner that almost questions the legitimacy of their lineup without even seeing it. I’ve been keeping an eye on the program since their instant success in 2014 at the World Games in Denver, because my eyebrow was raised along with the rest of our small community.
I am now, and have been, of the opinion that Israel’s roster is just as legitimate as any other roster at the Euros this week and I’m sure it will be the same case in Manchester in 2018 and for all the games to come. The involvement of players in Israel, building local youth programs, as well as developing a competitive men’s summer league, which has hosted a number of players from all over the world, puts the Israeli national team’s legitimacy issue to rest as far as I’m concerned.
While I’m not sure what the requirements are for a European Lacrosse Roster precisely, I know that there is a big push for anyone considering the national team to contribute back to the community in Israel. There is an aspect of community service and charity that I can appreciate, and there was even the case for a couple players in Denver that had to leave the country and return to Israel to serve their IDF commitments. To me, these are Israeli players 100%. They just happen to be really, really good.
I won’t harp on Israel any longer, or any other team for that matter.
While European lacrosse roster legitimacy is the topic of the article, it is also the purpose of the article to rest all your pretty heads that there are a lot less cases of “loading up”, and a lot more cases of crazy circumstances with expatriates living all over the world. Guys move to a new country and want to keep playing the game they love. When given the chance to represent their country, whether it is their country of birth or the one they’ve chosen to live in, they should be able to make the most of it. If they’re growing the game in a serious way, let them play.
I do believe that this has been a serious issue in the past. I do believe that rules have been changed and edited to legitimize these rosters to truly reflect the skill levels of these countries as they develop their teams organically at home and showcase their skills abroad. It’s an ever-changing process, and it’s never been better. As long as it continues, each European Lacrosse Roster will only get better, and more “European.”
Now, as far as giving out some “A” ratings to some teams that aren’t even on the radar for this conversation, I can say that the Swedish guys practice and speak in Swedish 100% of the time in team situations. The Germans have been famous for reducing their number of imports and they communicate almost exclusively in German as well. I can’t understand any of it, but that only adds to the luster.
Finland, Norway, the Czechs, and a number of other teams have really never relied on imports at all. And just because I haven’t listed a country doesn’t mean this isn’t true for them as well, this is just what’s on my jet-lagged scatterbrain at the moment.
One conversation I was involved in brought the brilliant point to light that just because a team does have some Americans, we’re getting to the point where that doesn’t really matter. I can’t remember for the life of me who said this, but it was BRILLIANT. Basically, just because you have ten American guys on your team doesn’t mean I’m going to bet 1,000 Forints on you to win.
Here’s the real honest rub: strong national team that plays together regularly and grow organically (again, together) in their country will beat a thrown together squad of guys who don’t know each other’s names. I won’t be releasing my 1-24 picks until after I’ve seen more, but team chemistry and strength of program is a big factor in my predictions.
How many “Americans” a European Lacrosse Roster has… the question is not even on my radar.
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