How We Got Here: AFI on the 2015 Canton IFAF World Championship

Starting Thursday July 9th, American Football International will be on the ground in Canton, Ohio covering the events and the games of the 2015 International Federation of American Football World Championships.

The field includes seven nations; Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the two-time defending champion United States. The IFAF World Championship has been held every four years since its inception in 1999. This is the premier event in the young life of international American football and features some of the greatest American football athletes and coaches from outside the United States. This event is the culmination of years of preparation that include, but go far beyond everything from the qualifying games for the nations, fundraising of the organizers, and the assembly of the roster of coaches and athletes.

These games have been a long time in the making. Let’s take a look back at how we got here.

Over a year ago we published an article announcing the 2015 Stockholm World Championship. The tournament to be hosted in Sweden by the Swedish federation and was to feature a record twelve national teams from six continents, including a team from Africa who were to have debuted at this the IFAF signature event.

Eight nations had already qualified for the event; the returning champions USA, three nations fresh off the 2014 European Championships (Germany, Austria, France), Japan defeated the Philippines and Korea topped Kuwait in IFAF Asia qualifying, Australia from IFAF Oceania, and the host nation Sweden. Qualifying for nations from the IFAF Americas and IFAF Africa were setup for the end the year.

In early December 2014, a team from Morocco, the first ever organized from that country, traveled to Cairo to battle the Egyptians for Africa’s sole spot in the IFAF World Championship. The Moroccans emerged victorious, but it was really the sport which triumphed that day. An international American football match, between two African nations took place in Africa.

All seemed on track until disaster struck just before Christmas. The local organizing committee in Sweden came forward announcing their inability to host the World Championships, and the 2015 Stockholm World Championship was cancelled in Sweden. Controversy still surrounds this event, but IFAF and new organizing committees scrambled to find a new home for the WCs. There was talk of postponement, or worse, cancellation all together.

After reviewing bids from multiple nations, the USA Football bid for championship held in Canton, Ohio was accepted by IFAF in January, but all was not saved. Germany and Austria both withdrew from the tournament citing budget constraints due to the unforeseen change of location. Newly qualified Morocco could not finance a trip to the US, and former host country Sweden no longer qualified for a position among the world’s elite nations. IFAF decided to move forward with an eight nation tournament held in the US for the summer of 2015.

While all this drama was happening, there was excitement building for the IFAF Americas qualifier between Brazil and Panama. The Brazilians defeated the Aguilas in Panama City, Panama and earned their nation’s first berth in the IFAF World Championship. They, along with qualifiers Mexico and Canada, rounded out the eight team field.

The tourney suffered one last blow in April when Football Canada pulled out of the tournament citing numerous reasons that it was unable to field a squad.

Nevertheless, through all the trials and tribulations, USA Football and IFAF have pulled together an international sporting competition on six month’s notice. Housing and accommodation for the national delegations were settled and ticket info was released, national rosters finally were finalized and released.

Just last week it was confirmed that all twelve games will be broadcast live and streamed globally on ESPN3 in the United States, on ESPN International broadband channels where available, and at BigTimeSports.com.

AFI has looked forward to these games for years and is ecstatic to see the tournament return from the brink.

We will be in Canton, Ohio this week covering the action from all angles. If you are too, and you see a tall man with and an American football made out of flags painted all over his clothing, please do come say hello.

We want to know how you got to the IFAF World Championships!

John McKeon
John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.
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