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Flag Football World Championships

By Mark Solway | August 27th, 2006

This last week, the NFL held the Flag Football World Championships (FFWC) in Cologne, Germany. Ten teams from around the world were represented by young athletes between the ages of 12 and 14, who competed for the world title. I had the opportunity to do up a couple of articles on the event for various different outlets, and it was suggested to me that maybe I should post those articles in a blog so that he THN community could learn a bit more about it. So here are a couple of articles, and I will have another one today. Former Redskin Ray Brown was the guest of honor for the FFWC and I spoke to him last night about the event, his future, and of course the Redskins, so I’ll have one or two articles on that and maybe a podcast over the next day or so. Flag Football World Championships Monday, August 21st The seventh annual NFL Flag Football World Championship (F.F.W.C) will kick off in Cologne, Germany this week. Ten teams from Canada, the United States, Germany, Holland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain, China and Thailand will all vie for the title of World Champion. The tournament will be held at the Leichtathletik Stadion in Cologne from August 22nd until August 26th. The NFL, along with Reebok, EA and Gatorade proudly sponsor this prestigious coed tournament, which encourages girls and boys to participate in a fun and safe sport. Canada will be represented by the Ecole River Heights team from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They earned their berth by winning the Reebok NFL/CFL Flag Football Championship as part of the Super Bowl XL festivities in Windsor, Ontario in February. The team is coached by Shawn Gretchen who introduced the program when he started teaching at the school seven years ago. They hold open tryouts each fall to select the team’ Gretchen told NFL Canada, “Our team has been practicing three-four times a week to prepare for the tournament. They are thrilled to have the opportunity to represent their school, Winnipeg and now the country.” The players range in age from twelve to fourteen, and there are six players per squad. Christoff Hasselfield looks after quarterback duties for the team; Ben Allen, Colton Farago, and Vinnie Cannata all double as both running backs and wide receivers. Ainsley Johnston-Weiss also plays receiver, and Emily Zarychta looks after center. Each team has five players on the field, two of which must be females. Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije was born about one hundred and fifty miles east of Ecole River Heights in Brandon, Manitoba. Idonije didn’t have a unique program to participate in like the Reebok NFL/CFL Flag League, and as such, didn’t even start playing football until his senior year of high school. The 25-year old defensive end had a message for the young Canadians, \x93I just want to say good luck to the Canadian team.” Idonije added that, “If you work as hard as you can and stay together, you’ll be successful.\x94 The F.F.W.C is one of the highlights of the NFL’s international calendar and obviously offers the crowning glory of the NFL Flag Football season. The young athletes that qualified for their country represent more than 800 teams that competed around the world for the honor. Apart from the games, the athletes will get a trip to a local theme park, and visit local attractions. NFL Canada spoke to Kerry Carter of the Washington Redskins about the journey that these flag footballers were about to be embark on. Carter hopes that all of the kids remember the importance of truly enjoying themselves while they are in Germany. “The game is a gift and can teach us so much about ourselves and about life, that we must take advantage of every opportunity we get to step out on to that field,” he told NFL Canada. As for advice on how to be successful at these championships, Carter offered, “Take nothing for granted, give it every thing you’ve got and leave the field knowing that you gave your best effort and have no regrets. To succeed in anything in life, you must believe in you, because you are truly more powerful than you know.” The Canadian kids should believe in themselves. They enter the tournament on an impressive 17-game winning streak. They will be trying to improve on Canada’s fourth place result last year by Tomken Road School (from Mississauga, Ontario). Regardless of the tournament results, all these young athletes are winners thanks to this wonderful NFL program. They get to travel half way around the world, meet new friends from different countries, and experience many other cultures. The football games are just a bonus. Qualifying Teams Canada – Ecole River Heights, Winnipeg, Manitoba China – Pei Zhen Middle School, Guangzhou Japan – Fujitsu Junior Frontiers, Kawasaki Korea – Suri Middle School, Seoul Mexico – Las Aguilas, Monterrey Germany – Schuldorf Bergstrasse Hillsiders, Seeheim Jugenheim Netherlands – Da Vinci College Leonardo, Leiden Spain – IES Pere Vives Vich, Igualada Thailand – Chaopraya Wittayakom School, Bangkok USA – DAC Panthers, Queens, NY A website has been set up at http://www.nfl-flag.com with all kinds of great facts and information. The site will be having a daily blog, and will be updating with news, photos, quotes, results, statistics and more. Other websites: http://www.flagfootball.ca http://www.nflcflfutures.com/ Canada Through to the Semi-Finals Friday, August 25th Canada advanced to the final four of the Flag Football World Championships at the Leichtathletik Stadion in Cologne after beating host Germany. They will join Spain, Japan and Thailand in the semi-finals on Saturday at 12:45 pm. Canada’s task in the quarter finals was made slightly easier by an unfortunate injury. Home team Schuldorf Bergstrasse Hillsiders from Seeheim Jugenheim were without their star receiver Lukas Kleinsorge. It’s doubtful though, that any one player could have stopped the young Canadian athletes from posting their decisive 45-18 victory. Canada’s coach Shawn Gretchen promised a lot of scoring before the tournament opened, and he and his team have definitely delivered. In tournament play so far, the Canadians have scored 238 points in just five games – that’s just less than 48 points per game. The team from Ecole River Heights in Winnipeg, Manitoba reached the quarter final against Germany on the strength of an impressive 4-0 round robin record. They capped off a perfect preliminary play record earlier Friday with a 38-28 victory over Mexico. Those wins and the Germany win, give Canada an impressive twenty-two consecutive victories in FFWC and tournament qualification play. Gretchen and his young team will go up against the Fujitsu Junior Frontiers for the right to play in the world championship final. The Japanese finished round robin play at 2-2 but their two losses were by a combined nine points. Canada outlasted the Frontiers 54-46, and the tough Thai team beat Japan by just one point to give them two very tough day one losses. The young team from Kawasaki found their groove Friday though, winning both of their games to get to the semi-final. They beat China in thir last game of the preliminaries before completely dismantling the Netherlands 61-36 in their quarter final match. \x93Japan gave us a tough game last time and we only just came away with the win, so we know it won’t be easy,” said the Canadian coach. On the other side of the draw, the IES Pere Vives Vich from Spain secured their place in the final four with a very exciting 30-27 quarter final victory over the Chinese. Spain were the only members of Group B to make it through to the final day, as Canada, Thailand, and Japan all qualified from a strong Group A. Spain would seem to be the underdogs despite having only lost one game. Their loss came at the hands of Korea whom Thailand beat soundly 48-15 to earn their berth in this game. The stage may be being set for a great re-match of the FFWC opener between Canada and Thailand. In the first match, Canada scored the game tying touchdown in torrential rain at the very end of the game. They then kicked the extra point to win 60-59 and secure their closest victory of the tournament. The young team from Bangkok would surely love a shot at redemption, especially in the tournament final. Spain and Japan have no interest in seeing the re-match. Canada’s coach knows they can’t look past the Japanese at all, \x93Now we face the biggest and most important one or hopefully two games of our lives.\x94 There’s likely only one thing better than participating in the FFWC for these young athletes, and that’s being crowned champion. On Saturday afternoon at the Leichtathletik Stadion in Cologne – Canada, Thailand, Japan, and Spain will all try to add the world title to their already unforgettable…

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