In 2011, Daniel Petrolo and a few other players tried to start a team in Odense in Denmark. This is when the story of the club starts.
Due to the lack of players interested in joining the club, the project was even more difficult to build from nothing. Some of the players moved. So from 6 at the beginning the numbers were reduced to 3 and the club couldn’t really stay alive even though there was strong motivation from the main stakeholders. “The Odense Lions project was stopped before it really started” said Morten Merhøj.
In early 2013, Morten Merhøj moved to Odense to study. He used to play footy in Farum in Denmark from the age of 13 thanks to junior programs run there. He has been involved heavily in footy including representing Denmark at the last International Cup.
He decided to continue playing Australian Football in Odense so he tried to get in touch with potential players and learnt that the project was in stand-by. Daniel Petrolo and Morten Merhøj decided to trigger the project again with a more concrete approach.
The first step to develop the game and promote it to players was to get a field to train on. To do so, the club needed to be registered and well structured; they have been given a soccer ground with good facilities to train on.
They could then spread the world around. Morten recruited players from his university, resulting in a first training session attended by 11 players. Daniel involved his brother Peter Petrolo in the project who became a key player of the club. Three French players from Toulouse Hawks studying in Odense for the semester also contributed to the restart of the club.
The group formed with Morten, Daniel, his brother Peter and the 3 French players was very strong and built a good foundation for the club. Their high motivation ensured the training sessions to have increased attendance and to show the game to many new players.
As the 2013 DAFL season already started and the Odense Lions club couldn’t play in the competition yet, they made a deal with Randers Dockers, allowing players to join them during the season which gave them the opportunity to start playing and gaining field experience. Then the DAFL gave the Odense Lions the permission to host the Danish 9-a side Championship (taking place during one day) as a step for their development. The Odense Lions lost their 3 games and kicked their first goal in the second game “but every Lion needs to learn how to walk before it can run and kill”.
The goals set by the Odense Lions for the 2013 season have been achieved: having a sustainable group to count on, playing their first games and to be part of the DAFL competition for the next season.
“The next chapter in the story of the rebirth of the Lions is to try and get more committed players” to make the squad grow for their first season. The footballs and jumpers received from the AFL Europe Start-up Club Program and the indoor area they have for the winter will allow the club to train during the winter coming and keep improving the skills and the team development.
Congratulations to the Odense Lions for their encouraging story and all the best for their next season to come.