The biggest advantage for the development of touch footy in the Asian region is road trips! By this I mean tournaments that invite overseas teams to participate. The tournaments that we have been invited to in the past have been in Seoul (Sept) and Shanghai (Nov). Other popular tournaments in the region that we have heard about are in Hong Kong (March/April), a women’s tournament in Cebu, Philippines (Sept) and the Asian Championships (May/June).
In September last year, I organized a trip to Seoul for the Tokyo Warriors. We were one of four Japanese teams entered in the tournament, while the other teams came from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and, of course, Korea.
In the lead-up to the tournament, it was very hot – it’s not hard to forget the heat we experienced last summer! We only had eight players (two substitutions) committed to the trip, while all the other teams had their maximum quota of 12. We were a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough players to combat the heat, so we decided to call up a player from the organizers’ player pool. Apparently all tournaments have a pool of individual players who turn up on the day ready to join a team right then and there. Now we were set to head into the tournament with nine players – three less than all the other teams, but we were OK with that.
There was a mixed and a men’s competition in the tournament. We were in the men’s competition, which had three pools of five teams. The teams with the best win/loss records would be ranked from one to 15, with only the top eight teams playing off for the title.
In our pool, we played three Korean teams and a Japanese team. The first team that we were up against was a rugby team, which we had never come up against in a competitive touch match before. Their style was quite different to what we were used to, so it took a while for us to hit our rhythm. Despite the win, I thought that we were fortunate to come away with the win.
The other games went smoothly and we were able to win all the remaining pool matches by a decent margin, giving us the top seeding after pool play as we hadn’t lost a game and had the best for and against out of any other team. That put us in the quarterfinals against the Shanghai Dragons, a game which we managed to win 3-0, before meeting a Japanese team in the semifinals. We had never lost to this team before and this game was no exception. That said, they really pushed us hard because they were defending champions in 2008 and 2009 and were keen to keep on defending their title. We came away with the win and so we were off to the final in out first overseas tournament.
To be in the final for the first overseas tournament that we were involved in was quite special. We were also happy with the draw we received, as we played 7 games in total and never played the same team twice, which is something that happens quite frequently in Japan. The team in the final that we were up against was from Hong Kong. We knew nothing about them as throughout the day they had been playing at similar times to us.
It turned out that the HK Thunder were quite a quick team and loved to see out their sets of six by running the three-man drive at us at full pace. They scored first, even if there was a bit of controversy about it and early in the second half, we found ourselves 2-0 down. The Warriors are a gritty team, so we fought back to make it 2-2 with only a few minutes left of regulation time. Even though we had our chances, it wasn’t to be as the Thunder scored with less than 30 seconds on the clock. We threw the ball around with what little time we had left, and almost scored a try that would have taken the game into overtime, but unfortunately the final pass didn’t go to hand and so we had to be content with the runners-up title.
Despite the last minute loss in the final, all the lads and their respective WAGs had a great time and recommend this type of trip to anyone. If you are keen to know more about international tournaments, contact us here.
Futbol is slowly gaining popularity in several countries in Asia, it might be a long road but I think the public are now getting interested with the game. Hopefully there will be more tournaments, inviting teams from other countries.