Each week, AFL Europe in combination with Belushi’s will take a look at one of our star players competing in fixtures across the continent in Player Spotlight.
Not many people who grew up in Australia can say that their first proper Australian football game was in Europe, but with an interesting story to tell, this was the case for Stefan Burgener.
The Auskick program is a rite of passage for many Australians and Stefan was involved in this when younger, sporting his Essendon Bombers gear.
Stefan is a real advocate for AFL in Europe and is a major key to the game’s growth across a record number of European countries in 2019.
Moving to Switzerland over 10 years ago with his family, Stefan was initially involved with soccer and rugby in Winterthur.
“In 2016, after failing to find any active footy clubs in Switzerland, I decided to try to start a team in Winterthur, with the goal of sending a Swiss national team to a Euro Cup.”
While starting a club from scratch on the other side of the world may seem daunting to some, Stefan and a few good mates quickly managed to successfully launch the Winterthur Lions in 2017. Since then, the club have gone on to play in two consecutive Champions League tournaments and join the inaugural AFL Switzerland league this season.
Stefan was also the driving force behind the Swiss national team, fielding a side in the 2017 and 2018 Euro Cup events and providing many of their Swiss-born players with their first ever games of Australian football.
“After we’d started training and attended our first Euro Cup, I never really considered stopping. This is what I had wanted for years and it probably makes it even more exciting for me that I started it myself with a few mates.”
With the new Swiss league now up and running, Stefan continues to be a driving force behind the scenes but relishes the opportunity to be on the field more often. Stefan particularly enjoys representing his country on a national level and being a leader on the field at the annual Euro Cup.
“Kicking and tackling are some of my strengths and I also like to think that my leadership has improved over the last couple of years.”
Stefan and the Swiss Wolves will take on the rest of Europe in Norrtalje at the 2019 Euro Cup later this month.
Liam McAllion – AFL Europe
Special thanks to Belushi’s for helping grow the game in Europe