Saunders signs to play in Finland

There is one more game left in the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano (LNFA) this season, and Bahamian-American football player Mavin Saunders already knows where he will be playing next after inking a contract with the Finnish club Helsinki Wolverines.

Saunders, who is currently playing for the LG OLED Las Rozas Black Demons in Spain, made the announcement on his Instagram.

“After the season here in Spain, I will be joining the Helsinki Wolverines in Finland. I look forward to helping the team accomplish their goal of winning the Maple Bowl. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to continue playing the game of football. To God be the Glory,” Saunders posted.

The Wolverines play in the Vaahteraliiga (Maple League), which is the highest level of American football played in Finland. The league features six teams. The Bahamian joins the Wolverines, which lost in the championship game to the Kuopio Steelers, 21-0, last year. It was one of the few leagues in the world to continue play in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“It is one of the top leagues on the continent,” Saunders said. “I am looking forward to helping them. That is another team that has been on the brink of winning that league’s championship, so I am trying to be that missing piece and help them in whichever way they need help. If I can help them on offense and special teams, and continue to help football grow in the country, then I will do that. Part of the contract is that you teach the younger guys, too. These guys will look up to us because we played in college. To be able to impart my knowledge on the guys will be great.”

The Wolverines will open the 2021 season on June 12. Saunders will have little to no time to rest but he said he prefers it that way instead of returning home where there is no football being played.

The LNFA was the only league in action in Europe over the past couple months. As a result, their games were live streamed on YouTube and garnered a lot of attention. One of the persons who saw him play, and took a keen interest in him, was Wolverine’s head coach Michael Mattingly. Saunders was committed to playing elsewhere, but after making contact with Mattingly, the two worked on a contract to play in the June to September league.

“A player like Mavin is a hugely great addition to our team,” Mattingly said in a press release. “He’s a former division one (National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I) player with experience in NFL (National Football League) camps, so he’s exactly what we’re looking for. As a long, fast and athletic weapon of attack, he will be a nightmare for the opposing team’s defense. Players like him are rare, so we’re very excited to have Mavin in the Wolverines family.”

The Bimini native also got positive feedback from Wolverines’ Offensive Coordinator Kari Leivoja.

“I’ve always wanted such a big winger for our team. I am really satisfied. Welcome Mavin,” he said.

Saunders said he loves being in Spain and that playing in the league was a good warm-up for his transition to Finland.

“It has been great. I love it here in Spain. The ability to get back playing football after being off for two years has been great. Being back and practicing has been a great experience and I enjoyed it. Obviously, the level has been a good one where I can get back into things before going to Finland, which is a bigger league and one of the top leagues in Europe. Spain was almost like a good warm-up season for that league. I am looking forward to it.”

Saunders and the Black Demons will play in the LNFA final against the Baldona Dracs on Saturday at 7 p.m. local time in Baldona, Spain; 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) here in The Bahamas. They will be playing for the Spanish Bowl.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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