Dion van Splenderen on promotion to the Eredivisie with Lightning Leiden. (Photo: Jerry Van Backel).
In the home of American football, the season has already begun. But the new Eredivisionist from Leiden will have to wait another six months. “The situation can’t be compared to America,” says Dian van Splunderen, not only a player, but also a member of the youth affairs board and assistant coach of the youth team at Lightning Leiden. “We’re not there yet. We need to do more in Europe.“
American football is more like rugby than soccer. A conical ball is rarely kicked. It is difficult for an unsuspecting visitor to enter. The game is stalled at every turn and players are constantly being replaced. “It’s kind of like taking over a country,” Van Splunderen says. “You always have four tries. The quarterback decides the play and throws the ball to one of the receivers, so you try to pass the field meter by meter. You score points by walking the ball over the back line.
Watch and listen to Sport071 anchor Jerry Van Backel’s interview with Lightning Leiden’s Dion Van Splunderen below:
On 2 July, Lightning Leiden became champions of the first division and therefore moved to the eredivie. “It was that final that was just a few weeks before we celebrated our 25th anniversary. It’s great that we’re going to the Eredivisie now. We’ve been building it for years. We wanted to have a team that could handle the situation.
Van Splenderen also plays in the first team. “I am Defensive line man Join the team and be the one to kick the ball when needed. A kicker, is called. I entered it myself through a school competition at my secondary school in The Hague. A year later I brought my younger brother too. Then regular football continued. But my brother continued to play American football and asked me to join Lightning Leiden six years ago.
According to van Splunderen, there is more American football talent hanging around in Leiden. And secretly he hopes to be pushed out of his place in the first team by the tournament soon. “I’m 36 too, so that should be fine. But I am going to compete.”
Anyone can play American football, says Van Splunteren. “Boys, girls, men and women. Welcome everyone. We train on Wednesdays and Fridays. Come see and participate. For kids from 6 years old, we have flagball, which is a type of soccer but not tackle. More information on training times and locations can be found here Lightning Leiden website.
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