Green slopes, cows, Lederhosen and Dirndl dresses: so many things are stereotypical of the Alps. Football wouldn’t have sprung to mind at all! Yet, a group of locals from Montafon, Austria, see things differently. According to them, the football played in France is easy – anyone can do it – so they take it one step further. Level areas the size of football pitches are rarely found in the Alps and, when you do find one, it’s usually being used for something else. This is why Extreme Alpine Soccer was invented.
“Anyone can play on flat pitches,” says Alois Gantner, the coach of the ‘Supa Burschis’ team. “In Montafon, we only play on the steepest slopes we can find.” Alongside the sport’s inventors, Franz Mair and Peppi Knünz, coach of the ‘Gipfelstürmer’ team, he is one of Extreme Alpine Soccer’s mainstays. Mair and Knünz first had the idea for the sport during the 2014 Football World Cup. “We were watching the games and found them very boring,” says Mair. “Then, Peppi said to me that he thought the way they play wasn’t hard enough and that they should try running up and down our mountains. Then they’d be out of breath! They wouldn’t be able to – but we can, as can our boys!” Soon afterwards, they had found enough players to make up two teams, with everyone mucking in to prepare the pitch.
Extreme Alpine Soccer players need a lot of strength and stamina in order to cope with the high physical demands of playing in the mountains. The vehicle that takes them to the games must also bring particular qualities to the table… it must be large and spacious enough for both equipment and players to fit comfortably. It must also be able to navigate through tight, twisting mountain passes and, in an emergency, it must also be able to cross meadows, too – the Sprinter is perfect for this. The quality of the roads doesn’t matter … you can count on the Sprinter to get the teams to the game!