Between training on an Austrian glacier and inside a ski tunnel in Germany, a guy’s got to have some off-snow fun. Not that skiing isn’t fun, but when it’s your job, an offer to play pickup soccer with several top Norwegian and German nordic skiers is difficult to pass up.
For Andy Newell, the invite came nonchalantly from Norwegian men’s coach Trond Nystad, who previously headed the U.S. Ski Team. With little notice, the 27-year-old Newell didn’t give it much thought. Last Friday evening, he laced up his sneakers and headed to the pitch in Oberhof, Germany.
“I thought it was going to be just an easy pick up soccer game and BBQ type thing,” the U.S. Ski Team (USST) veteran wrote in an email. “But we got there and I realized we were actually playing this semi-pro team on a full field, they gave us uniforms, and there were a couple hundred beer drinking German fans cheering us on.”
One of his teammates, Niklas Dyrhaug of the Norwegian ski team, estimated there were 500 spectators at what he called an “international football match” on Twitter.
With the likes of Germany’s Axel Teichmann, Tim Tscharnke and Jens Filbrich, and Norwegians Eldar Rønning, Sjur Røthe, Finn Haagen Krogh, Sindre Bjørnestad Skar, and Petter Northug’s brother, Tomas, the team was pinned against Grun-Weiss, a small club from the town next door. According to Newell, Petter would have played if not for a lingering leg injury.
Handed an orange jersey, matching socks and black shorts, Newell suited up and assumed a defensive role.
“I was the only one that didn’t have soccer cleats so I played for a little while, but kept subbing in and out with some of the other skiers,” he wrote.
Mostly, he played right defense and followed the lead of his teammates, which communicated in German and Norwegian. The only American on the team, Newell tried to go with the flow despite missing most of what they were saying.
“There was some high level soccer going on,” he added. “It was a full-on sprinting soccer match … and it was pretty fun to be a part of.”
At halftime, their Sport-Jäger squad trailed, 4-0.
“The skiers got our butts kicked,” Newell wrote. “Then I think [the other team] let us come back and score a few goals for the fans.”
In the end, Grun-Wiess won by something like 5-4, and Newell left the field still in awe.
“Little did I know pick up soccer with Axel, Jens, Tim, and the Norge’s = full field, full uniform, scrimmage in front of several hundred ppl,” he tweeted after the Friday night game.
“I play a little bit of soccer with the US team but it is usually pretty laid back, small field stuff,” he wrote in an email. “Nothing like this.”
On Wednesday, Newell and Eric Packer, his teammate on the Stratton Mountain School T2 Team, will leave Oberhof. But first, they’ll get back to skiing.
“We stayed longer [after the USST men’s camp in Ramsau, Austria] to get some more training done in the tunnel and join the Norwegians for a bunch of workouts,” Newell wrote. “We’ve done some good distance training with them so far and [Sunday] morning we had some hard bounding intervals.”
“5 x too hard with not enough rest was the workout de jour,” he tweeted Sunday night. “Thanks to the Norwegian mens distance dude for letting us join in!”
- A closer look at the team photo with players identified
- From Oberhof ski tunnel, courtesy of Eric Packer on SMS blog
- Newell and Packer training with the Norwegian men’s team on the National Nordic Foundation website
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.