"The entry of flag rugby into the Olympics is progressing smoothly, and we also hope to help China rugby lay out in advance and catch up." Jia Hengxuan, the media director of nfl (Major League Football) in China, made a big discovery when interviewed by Jiefang Daily and Shangguan News recently.
On the same day, Jia Hengxuan was invited to attend the Shanghai City Amateur Football League Finals and the East China Finals of the nfl Waist Flag Rugby Competition held in Xuhui District-this is the fourth year that the nfl and this Shanghai mass sports brand event have become attached to each other, and the two sides have jointly promoted and witnessed the "warming up" of rugby in Shanghai year by year.
It is no coincidence to reveal the inside information of "Waist Flag Rugby Entering the Olympics" on such an occasion. "The development of Shanghai Rugby is ahead of the whole country, and it is very suitable as a new starting point for China Rugby to impact the Olympic Games." Jia Hengxuan said.
"Flag at the waist for the Olympics" has been settled.
As early as last year, a news related to rugby aroused widespread concern in China’s sports world-the World Games held in July 2022 announced that it would cooperate with nfl to establish flag football as a new World Games event. At that time, the most talked about was the possibility of flag football entering the Olympics. After all, in the past 40 years, many sports have finally reached the Olympic stage through the World Games.
Today, the nfl’s news confirms everything. "The International Football Federation is working hard to promote the establishment of the flag football project in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The nfl is fully supporting them. Although the Olympic addition is a huge project, for now, everything is going well." Jia Hengxuan said.
Caption: Jia Hengxuan (right) is giving awards to athletes.
In fact, we have every reason to believe in the determination of Americans to promote flag football into the Olympics. American football has a very high popularity in North America, and the nfl is the most valuable professional sports league in the world, with the highest ratings for many years. For Americans, it is certainly the first choice to push American football into the Olympics, but it is almost impossible.
When considering whether a project can enter the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee has to weigh many factors. "Host intention" is a well-known one, but it can’t be the only consideration. In overseas markets, the audience and influence of American football can’t be compared with its position in North America, and its popularity and development level can’t reach the Olympic threshold. The reason is that the high-intensity confrontation and expensive equipment of football have become one of the reasons why many regions are discouraged from it.
In this way, the flag football, which is in the same strain as American football, has become one of the main events of the Los Angeles Olympic Games-as a non-contact, zero-equipped, small-space football competition form, the flag football has no requirements for the number, age and physical quality of participants, even if it has no sports foundation, it can quickly integrate into the team, and can realize mixed teams of men and women and compete in the same field. The biggest feature of flag football is to cultivate young people’s team spirit and leadership. Rugby requires a lot of team communication and cooperation. Through sports, teenagers can be guided to respect each other, and their self-confidence, courage and perseverance can be enhanced. Therefore, since the birth of flag football, it has quickly captured many fans around the world, and has huge participants in dozens of countries around the world.
Neighbors have taken the lead.
2028 seems far away, but many "neighbors" in Asia have taken action early, and Japan is very representative.
From 1998 to now, flag football has changed from an unknown sport in Japan to a popular sport on Japanese campuses. The data shows that more than one-third of primary schools (6,700 schools) in Japan have carried out flag football. Especially since 2011, flag football has been raised to the level of learning guidance for students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 in Japan. Since the flag football was declared to be the event of the World Games, Japan has taken precautions to promote its talent reserve and selection in its own country from the perspective of Olympic strategy.
In addition to Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and other Asian countries also have good strength in flag football. As an early area to carry out flag football, these countries often win gold and silver in flag football games. I believe that once the project is successful in entering the Olympics, they will gain the first-Mover advantage. Therefore, if China Rugby wants to make a difference in this project, it is urgent.
Shanghai has the best rugby soil.
A good opportunity, a suitable soil, the seeds of love will have the opportunity to become a forest. Jia Hengxuan said that the nfl thinks that Shanghai can become this "starting point" because it has the best rugby soil in the country.
Patrick, an American who has been a rugby coach in China for six years, said frankly, "There is almost no gap between China players and American players." He once led a team to compete with nfl players in Major League Football. He thinks that China is almost the same as American players in terms of personal ability and potential ability, and the only difference is the growth environment, that is, "the soil of football".
Wang Datong can be said to be one of the earliest people to promote American football in Shanghai. He started to contact football at the age of 12, played high school football league in Hawaii, and was still an avid fan of the sport when he was studying at the University of Illinois. Since 2013, he has served as a player and coach in a well-known amateur football club in Shanghai. He told reporters that because American football is a non-Olympic event, there is little top-down support. The main development form of this project in China is the grassroots rugby club, which is organized spontaneously by rugby fans. Shanghai is the most representative American football town. There are not only many clubs, but also a set of scientific management models, which regularly organize training and competitions.
There are many "signs" that can prove this soil. In terms of participation, the number of domestic teams participating in organized amateur adult equipment leagues increased from 8 in 2014 to 64 in 2019, and the number of Shanghai teams accounted for one third of them; Many campuses in Shanghai have introduced rugby projects one after another, and there are countless non-governmental training institutions. As early as 2018, data showed that more than 8,000 primary school students in Shanghai were trained in rugby courses at least once a week. In the Super Bowl every year, nearly 10 million China viewers watch the live broadcast of the event on TV and new media platforms, among which Shanghai fans account for the majority.
The year-round folk games have become the core of revitalizing this football hotspot. In the past two years, the rugby amateur league, which was created by Shanghai Rugby Association (hereinafter referred to as "Shanghai Rugby Association"), has its sub-events and events including: American Rugby Amateur League, Waist Flag Rugby Amateur League, Rugby Amateur League, Touch Rugby League, Junior Rugby League, Magnolia Bowl American Rugby Championship, Shanghai Rugby Ten-a-side Championship, and Ambassador Bowl International Rugby Invitational Tournament …
In recent years, the competition system and stage of Shanghai rugby have been further enhanced and enlarged. Shanghai sports management department brought rugby into the city amateur league, and the government set up a platform to promote and popularize rugby with high-quality resources. As the main body of the competition, the "Football Association" attracted the nfl, the top professional sports league, to participate actively with the authoritative and professional style of running the competition. It can be said that many parties worked together to breed "soil" together.
Take Xuhui District as an example. In the past two years, the rugby atmosphere has been rich. First, with the help of the "East Wind" of the city amateur league, the sport itself is very compatible with the regional style. "As a city with a high degree of internationalization, rugby matches the regional characteristics very well and won the love of the people. At present, there are a large number of white-collar workers and teenagers participating in the district, and they need more rugby amateur events suitable for participation. " Zhang Ying, director of the Sports Bureau of Xuhui District, said that the Shanghai Urban Amateur Football League Finals has become an annual "sports festival" in Xuhui District, which is not only a platform for promoting rugby among the people, but also a stage for improving the level of domestic amateur rugby fans.
Is it feasible to form a national team through social training?
"On the development of flag football, Shanghai has always been a leader in China." The nfl’s judgment is convincing, because since 2003, the nfl has started to hold training camps for flag football coaches and referees in China; In 2008, nfl began to organize university flag football league in Beishangguang, with nearly 40 universities including Tsinghua, Fudan and Guangzhou University participating. In 2015, the nfl held a flag football tournament in China, covering primary schools, junior high schools, senior high schools, universities and public groups, achieving full age coverage.
In the nfl’s view, the biggest difference between football and other sports is the tacit understanding and team cohesion between players, which is the upper limit of the strength of a football team, not the talent of a few players. "We have reached a consensus with the Shanghai Football Association and hope to try to tap football talents through social training." Ding Ye, Secretary-General of Shanghai Rugby Association, revealed that the two sides are already planning to set up a rugby training base in Shanghai. "Our vision is to make full use of Shanghai’s unique rugby soil, select good young people who are talented and enthusiastic about rugby, and after a long period of training and running-in, continue to participate in high-quality competitions, and even go abroad to receive higher-level guidance and learn from international excellent teams, and finally build a truly competitive elite team of flag rugby.
Ding Ye said frankly that the "software equipment" to realize these ideas is relatively mature at present-based on the successful cooperation between Shanghai Football Association and nfl for many years, the latter is willing to provide the best coach resources, and in the key aspects of talent training, the connection between overseas high-level training platforms and leagues, Shanghai Football Association will play a good bridge role. "But beyond the’ software’, the creation of such an elite team still needs the intervention and guidance of the government, giving necessary hardware support such as venues and policies." Ding Wei said.
No matter what the result is, as long as we act immediately, it will be of great significance to take precautions at this moment once the flag football successfully enters the Olympics in the near future. Is it really possible for China’s first national flag rugby team to be born in Shanghai and sprint to the Olympic Games?
Editor-in-Chief: Chen Hua
Author: Yao Qinyi
Text Editor: Yao Qinyi