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The History of American Football in Europe

American football has been played on European soil for more than 20 years. In 1972, four NATO-based teams played the first American football tournament in Europe near their bases on the western coast of Italy. By 1976, individual teams began sprouting throughout the continent. The first known American football club was established in Austria -- The First Austrian American Football Club (FAAFC) -- on June 11, 1976. Later that same year, an Italian team from Verona played a game against a U.S. Army team in Italy.

At approximately the same time, American football began to spread northward to Germany. The Frankfurt Lions held their first game in 1977, and in 1979, the first German League was established. The American Football Verband Deutschland (German American Football Federation) was organized in 1980 setting off a chain of similar organizations throughout the continent. The first international games between two federation teams took place in 1981 when teams representing the Italian and German federations played one game in Frankfurt and a second game in Cologne before 4,500 and 13,000 spectators respectively.

Five countries formed the American European Football Federation (AEFF) on July 31, 1982. Finland, Italy, Germany, Austria, and France organized the first European Championship in 1983 in Castel Giorgio, Italy. The Italian team defeated the Finnish team, 18-6, to become the first European champions. Two years later in 1985, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Great Britain joined the league, prompting the AEFF to change its name to simply the European Football League (EFL).

Eleven years later the EFL has evolved into the European Federation of American Football (EFAF) with 14 national American football federations in Europe: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, and the Ukraine. Overall, there are more than 45,000 players throughout Europe participating at more than 800 clubs. Germany lays claim to the largest federation, the American Football Verband Deutschland (AFVD) with better than 230 clubs and 23,000 players.

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