Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lingua Franca By Mika Hilska

We just stole it right upside down - commentary is due later tonight.
Original text is posted here in Finnish - but online translators work decently enough so that is what we think we re-posted here...

Mika Hilska
5 min read

Looking for floorball’s lingua franca
How global can you get without speaking English?

Step by step, floorball is conquering the world. But to finish the task, should the sport make English its official language? Who should do it and who should bear the costs, then?

I just did my daily Internet tour on international floorball news. First on Finnish sites, then the Swedish main ones and a quick look at the International Floorball Federation page that covers the sport in English. Finally, the latest Swiss and German news in German but that was it. Knowing the limits of my language skills, I did not veer to Czech or Latvian sites, not to mention French, Spanish or Russian.

Yet I knew there probably were interesting news breaking and stories unfolding in those languages, too.

A problem.

And still, up here in Finland we have it easy. The internationally most incomprehensible things about elite floorball are written in Finnish that we do not need to worry about. English is these days practically our second native language and every Finnish-speaking Finn must study Swedish at school which even makes many of us learn the basics of it.

But what if Anders from Borås would like to read about Czech floorball? Or if Keith who has just fallen for the sport in Brighton, England, would feel he just must get information about Finland’s best teams? Or if Brad who is promoting floorball in Michigan desperately needs to tell locals how interesting personalities there are in Svenska Superligan?

I believe we all agree that to have your floorball voice heard internationally you should communicate in English.

I recall the founders on Sweden’s Innebandymagazinet producing a test magazine called World Floorball some ten years ago. Everything on it was in English and I may have been one of the contributors myself. Only they were ahead of their time and only the Swedish version prevailed.

Where can we read about floorball in English today?

We have the IFF website, of course, we have FloorballCentral, we have the national federations of the countries that have English as their official languages. And the Swedish FloorballZone offers it stories both in Swedish and English, which is great. In Finnish top floorball, no other than Salibandyliiga champions Happee is the club that has been putting out material in English, too.

The national federations then? A quick look reveals the Swiss federationoffers you a choice of German, French, Italian or English. Doesn’t mean there would actually be news or much else written on those. On the Czech federation’s site I find things in Czech only. (I know what muzy and zenyand brankar mean but that’s about it.) Our Finnish Federation has got a bit of information in English, too. Which does not mean you could follow what’s going on here, though.

The leading floorball news sites are not that international, either. In Sweden, Innebandymagazinet tells it stories in Swedish, in Finland,Pää in Finnish, in Switzerland, in German.

In Finland, we had a bit of a Twitter discussion about the subject, and the editor-in-chief of Pää Jussi Ojala apologizingly admitted it is not very likely they’d be publishing in English in the future, either.

“The cruel fact at the moment is we can just manage the time and effort for our news in Finnish”, Ojala said.

(Rudimentary wrap-up of the conversation in Finnish can be found here.)

The 50+ contributors for Pää are doing a great job that has made the them The Finnish Floorball News Site but only so much can be expected of volunteers who do their thing for love for floorball.

The resources are just not there yet.

Even when we all agree more should be done in English the eventual benefits are too vague and too widely spread to become an incentive for a particular person or commercial organisation to act. Apart from the IFF, of course, that actually is the one doing the daily coverage in English. And even their resources are limited.

Measure what matters, not just what flatters, a slideshow linked by FloorballCentral said, putting it well. Floorball news in English look great and make us feel good but do they bring a particular elite club more spectators who buy a ticket or sell more ads on a national news site?

Not likely. But then, that may not be all there is.

This spring, former Finnish top scorer Lasse Riitesuo became the man that sold out the 4,600 seats of Jyväskylä Ice Hall when people rushed in to see how Happee won everyone’s hearts and the Salibandyliiga title.

Already in November 2011, Lasse Riitesuo wrote this impressive piece (Finnish only, I’m afraid) about how Salibandyliiga could go international and become a major Finnish export product.

Stop thinking locally, use the enormous potential floorball has, absolutely communicate both in Finnish and in English, make the 24,000 Facebook fans 240,000 for starters (As I’m writing this, they are 43,344) and show the global audience the skills and beauty of Finnish top floorball, he wrote.

New, exciting thoughts.

Only at the moment a reality check shows a gap between high-flying visions and the resources that we as floorball have today. Of which practically all go to establishing floorball as one of the major sports leagues nationally.

How can we at the same time make floorball more international and make innebandy, salibandy and unihockey a global sport of floorball in small steps?

It does not look like there’s going to be big money, fancy campaigns or paid media mercenaries to take care of it. What floorball has is power of numbers and social media. With not one who can do a lot, could a lot combined do plenty, reaching great results together?

What is this floorball, then, you may ask. Let Wikipedia sum it up:

Floorball, a type of floor hockey, is an indoor team sport which was developed in the 1970s in Sweden. Floorball is most popular in areas where the sport has developed the longest, such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. The game is played indoors on a wooden or rubber mat floor or just a basketball court, making it a year-round sport at amateur and professional levels. There are professional leagues, such as Finland’s Salibandyliiga and Sweden’s Svenska Superligan.

While there are 55 members of the International Floorball Federation (IFF), the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland have finished in most of the coveted 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at the World Floorball Championships.

In addition to those four countries, floorball is gaining popularity in countries such as Latvia, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States.

The author is a Finnish freelance writer who has followed the rise of floorball since the 1980's.


Mika Hilska

Kuvaileva kirjoittaja. Pohdiskelija, ihmettelijä, faija.
Published May 7, 2014

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Research suggest that eye-injuries are more common in Floorball as compared to Tennis, but less common as compared to Squash (similar to Racquetball).
To minimize this risk of injury Floorballcentral recommend: Use certified protective eye-wear (mandated in many European areas for the youth). Do not lay down on the court. Follow the rules strict on stick height.

Also if you get addicted to this sport - do not blame us!