ONLY the brave dares 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 with the ultimate goal of putting the sport in the Winter Olympics.
“I’m here to plant the seeds and see where it goes,” said the 34-year-old Waaler, who came to Manila on a business trip and has done some modeling stints in the Philippines and Asia.
He’s here to kick off his information campaign for bandy on the grassroots level.
Bandy, a team discipline that combines the fundamentals of ice hockey and soccer, is played on a rink the size of a football field. It’s popular in wintry Scandanavia, Eastern Europe, Russia and 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,’’ Waaler said.
There’s also a big Filipino community in Oslo that he started to get involved with, hoping these Filipino-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 Olympics.
“There’s a wide range of countries that plays it. Hopefully, one day we’ll be there [at the winter Games],’’ he said. “We cannot do this quickly and nothing should be forced.’’
‘’If you look at the statistics, hockey is the No. 1 winter sport and bandy is No. 2, then cross-country skiing, our national sport has been part of the winter Olympics and it only comes in thirrd, therefore bandy should be in the winter Olympics,” Waaler said.
“On behalf of Mr. Knut Sorensen, manager of National Team Norway and member of Federation of International Bandy Olympic Committee, we appeal for popular support in the Philippines for bandy’s application to become an Olympic Winter Sport in Beijing 2022.’’
The 2016 Bandy World Championship was held in Ulyanovsk Oblast, Russia, from February1 to 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,’’ Waaler said.