Norwegian aims to popularize winter sport in Manila
Only few dare to travel thousands of kilometers away just to build the foundation of a sport totally unheard of in a tropical country.
Christian Waaler, the team captain of the Norwegian national bandy team, recently set out on this mission to introduce the world’s no. 2 winter sport in the Philippines.
“I’m here to plant the seeds and see where it goes,” said the 34-year-old Waaler, who came to Manila on his own recently with the sole purpose of kicking off his information campaign on the grassroots level.
Bandy, a team discipline almost similar to ice hockey and played on a rink the size of a soccer field, is popular in wintry Scandanavia, Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan and has also gained following in China, Japan, Mongolia and India.
“I saw how bandy got people together and the influence it had on children,’’ said Waaler.
There’s also a big Filipino community in Oslo that he started to get involved with, hoping these Fil-Norwegian children would pick up sticks and skate on the bandy halls.
Waaler, a 6-foot-1 midfielder and television personality back in Oslo, has also cast a vision that bandy will one day be a regular fixture in the winter Olympics.
“There’s a wide range of countries that plays it. Hopefully, one day we’ll be there (at the winter Games),’’ he said. “But we cannot do this quickly and nothing should be forced.”
The 2016 Bandy World Championship was held in Ulyanovsk Oblast, Russia from Feb. 1-7 with the host country defeating Finland, 6-1, in the finals. Sweden placed third and Kazakhstan fourth with Waaler’s Norway winding up fifth among eight countries in Group A.
Group B has 10 countries, including Somalia where the climate is hotter than the Philippines almost year-round.
“I would love to do some charity work here. Teach children the technique, bring some skates on the ice skating rink for a start,”said Waaler.
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