7 Nations Speak at IFAF World Championships Technical Meeting in Canton, Ohio

This past Saturday the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) and USA Football hosted representatives from seven national teams competing in the 2015 IFAF World Championship in Canton, Ohio.

The tournament, played every four years since 1999, makes its United States debut July 9-18 in Canton. The U.S. has competed in the previous two world championships (2007, 2011), earning the gold medal both times.

The national team delegations toured practice fields, meeting rooms and training facilities at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, which will host all seven competing nations in its residence halls across a sprawling 136-acre campus. The group then toured Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium adjacent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where each of the world championship tournament’s games will be played.

All of the delegates from the seven attending nations, USA, Mexico, Japan, Korea, France, Australia, and Brazil, found the facilities in excellent condition and are excited about putting them to work.

AFI had a chance to ask the delegates some questions about this summer’s WCs during a lunch at the Pro Football Hall of Fame after the tour.

Brazil is a first time attendee at the IFAF World Championships, what does this tournament for the Brasil Oncas and American football in Brasil?

Brian Guzman, Offensive Coordinator, Brazil

This is an exciting opportunity. Our national team players are coming from 17 teams across our country. We have players that are 3,500 kilometers apart (more than 2,100 miles), which brings a little logistical problem when it comes to scheduling camps, but we’re making it work. Coming to the United States to play – Canton, Ohio, in particular – where pro football got its start, and to play next-door to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s just very, very exciting for us. I’m happy I’m part of it.

France is the only nation from Europe attending the championship? Do you feel any added pressure representing the development of American football in Europe?

Charles Pavrot, Chef de Mission, France

No, we’re not feeling additional pressure. We’re here to compete and will try our best. We want to show that football in France is played at a good level. That is our main focus.

What does it mean for the Mexico to be playing in Canton, Ohio. What are the expectations of the Mexican federation?

Raul Rivera Sanchez, Head Coach, Mexico

It’s like being in the nest – the home – of American football. This is such a significant and special place in the world of sports. There’s so much history here.

To win a medal – that is our objective.

Little is known in the U.S. (and to this writer) about American football in Korea? How can these WCs help bring greater worldwide awareness of the growth of the sport in Korea?

Eric Jung, Chef de Mission, South Korea

South Korea has been playing football since the 1950s. Unfortunately, with the war, the sport didn’t have the opportunity to grow properly. Thankfully, they got the chance to get proper training from the Japanese and because of them, we were able to grow. That is a big part of the reason why we’re here.

But, for me, it is important that we develop ourselves from now on and begin developing and grow independently and this championship will allow us to gain international knowledge facing other opponents that we haven’t faced in previous years (South Korea will compete in its third IFAF World Championship in July, previously playing in 2003 and 2007).

I truly believe that this World Championship will allow the South Korean national team to gain knowledge – incredible knowledge – and to become better. Our players and coaches are extremely excited.

There is great expense for Australia to travel and participate as a group in these WCs. What does this say about the commitment and organization of the players and administrators?

Elissa Manera, Chef de Mission, Australia

The honor of representing one’s country far outweighs the price for that. The commitment of the players is huge and Australia is very committed to our national team program. We want to do as well as we can do.

We are started to see more players from the Japanese league trying out for leagues outside of Japan, (NFL, CFL, European clubs) Is this a testament to the growth of the sport in the Japan? How does this help the national team?

Shinzo Yamada, Chef de Mission, Japan

Having our players play professionally outside of Japan is good for Japanese football and our national team. You’re correct in saying that the game is growing in our country. With the internet and so many ways to access information, younger players are following our pro players who are playing outside of Japan.

Takashi Kurihara had a tryout with the Ravens and a lot of kids look up to him. That helps, especially with the younger kids. He’ll be on our national team.

As host and ‘father’ nation of the sport, does USA Football feel additional responsibility to hold a well-organized event?

Russ Yurk, Director of Events, USA Football

We’re excited to host the participating countries here in Canton. We’re going to do our very best to put on a world-class tournament and make sure that it’s a memorable experience for the athletes and everyone involved.

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.