The top Swedish team in American football, the Crusaders, certainly act like an NFL team as they have gone through a dizzying array of coaches en route to reaching the semifinals of the IFAF Champions League. Carlstad hired NAIA Hall of Fame coach Duke Iversen to see them through the Champions League and into the Swedish season, but the former Western Colorado State University mentor lasted just two games. Although both were wins, Iversen’s approach to the game didn’t sit well with the club and by mutual agreement, the two parted ways on May 11. Malik Jackson, the Crusaders’ defensive coordinator took over the head coaching duties. Matt Adkins, who was head coach last season, agreed to return temporarily as the team’s offensive coordinator. Adkins is currently the wide receivers coach at Southern Oregon University, an NAIA school.
The Crusaders made a winner out of Jackson in his debut as head coach as they routed the Limhamm Griffins 41-14 on May 11. Crusaders quarterback Anders Hermodsson threw for two touchdowns and rushed for a pair as Carlstad used a bruising game to overwhelm the Griffins. A week later, Carlstad faced the Helsinki Roosters for the right to advance to the semifinals of the Champions League. The Roosters won the Champions League last year and returned most of their team. However, Carlstad’s ground game was simply too much. The Crusaders rushed for 241 yards, while Hermodsson passed for another 203. Carlstad was up 35-0 at the half as Hermodsson rushed for a pair of touchdowns and then two more. He hit a third TD pass in the third quarter.
Like any NFL team, however, the on-field product is one of off-field preparations and for Carlstad, which has had six head coaches in as many years, the appearance is at least of an unstable club. General Manager Robert Sundberg, however, said appearances are deceiving.
“We want to be Sweden's team when we play in Europe,” Sundberg said. “Our goal is to come up at a much higher level than at present with the help of businesses and the municipality.” He said he hopes the Crusaders’ success in Europe will open the door for foreign sponsors as well.

Far from NFL Europe
No one who watches the IFAF Champions League or the Swedish Elitserien of American Football will confuse it with either the now-defunct NFL Europe or the World League of American Football. American players dominated the rosters of those leagues and many teams in the IFAF pantheon rely on U.S. players. Not Carlstad. The Crusaders spend their money on American coaches who can teach technique to a core of home-grown players, such as Hermodsson. So far, the strategy has paid off as Carlstad has won five straight Swedish titles.
“With the Champions League, we can come out and showcase our association and also the town of Karlstad in Europe,” Sundberg said. “It means many good things, including recruitment purposes. We cannot offer the same financial compensation as in Germany, for example, but we are on a high level in Europe and that means a lot to us.”
To get the final, however, must be trickier than anyone thought as the Crusaders must find the money to send 40 players and 10 coaches to finals in Belgrade, Serbia. Carlstad took in 1.8 million crowns in revenue last year and it will cost the team almost 200,000 SEK to get to Serbia.
“We believe it is well worth the money,” said Sundberg. “It's not as if you can get in a van and just pull away when we have so many going. Belgrade was not the best option from our point of view, it had become cheaper by a playoff, for example, in Barcelona or London.”
Carlstad faces French champions Thonon Black Panthers, with the London Blitz or Belgrade SBB Vukovi waiting in a possible final. The Black Panthers are the two-time defending French champions and also won the EFAF Cup 2013 tournament which Carlstad won in 2003.
“They are a good team that had a little harder season in the French league than before. Anything that can tell us is that their league is out in May and it's finals in June,” said Sundberg.
The London Blitz is one of the few holdovers from NFL Europe and features a team sprinkled with players from Africa, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States.
Fans interested in following the Crusaders’ march to a possible European championship can follow the games at

By Chipp Reid