Flag football teams to compete at The World Games for first time; eye on 2028 Olympics?
Sixteen of the world’s best flag football teams will compete for gold for the first time when The World Games 2022 begin in Birmingham, Alabama next month.
The World Games returns to the United States for the first time since 1981 and for the first time features flag football as an official event, with the tournament set to be played July 10-14. This marks a major milestone for the global growth of the popular football format, which is the cornerstone of the NFL's youth participation strategy.
Flag football joins the sports program alongside 33 other disciplines at the Olympic-style, multi-sport event, following its inclusion by the International World Games Association (IWGA) in 2020. Flag Football @TWG2022 Presented by the NFL, in partnership with the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), will feature eight men's and eight women's teams from around the world. Games will be hosted at Birmingham's historic Legion Field, creating an unrivaled backdrop to showcase the very best of the dynamic, non-contact sport.
"The World Games is a tremendous platform to showcase flag football as an exciting, competitive, dynamic game that can be played by everyone regardless of age or gender," said Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations. "Flag is one of the fastest growing sports globally and The World Games will no doubt accelerate that growth as the Flag championships inspire that football is for all."
As reigning world champions, the United States men's and women's teams have both pre-qualified for the tournament. The U.S. National Flag Football Teams are assembled and managed by USA Football, the sport's national governing body and a member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The remaining 14 teams earned their place through IFAF's international qualifying process. The following nations will participate in this year's games:
- Men: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Panama, United States
- Women: Austria, Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panama, United States
"We are thrilled to have flag football join the official sports program at The World Games for the first time," said Pierre Trochet, President of IFAF. "This is a milestone in the sport's development and a fantastic opportunity to showcase flag as a truly world-class, international sport.
"We believe flag football - our fast paced, exciting, and inclusive format - is perfectly suited to this multi-sport platform. Our highly skilled men's and women's athletes will undoubtedly deliver a truly historic moment in Birmingham next month, one that ignites and inspires the next generation of players and fans, and we are delighted to work together with The World Games and NFL to make it happen."
The World Games 2022 Birmingham will take place from July 7-17. The Flag Football competition kicks off with preliminary matches July 10-11 and playoffs starting July 12. The tournament concludes with the finals on July 14, when the first-ever flag football medals of The World Games will be awarded. NFL Network will broadcast an enhanced package of the men's and women's gold medal games on July 21 with Rhett Lewis and NFL Legends Michael Robinson and Maurice Jones-Drew on the call. Bobby Taylor and Tony Richardson will be on site for the flag football competitions as honorary Legends Captains.
"When we talk about the future of the game of football, it is, no question, flag," Vincent told The Associated Press. "When I've been asked over the last 24 months, in particular, what does the next 100 years look like when you look at football, not professional football, it's flag. It's the inclusion and the true motto of 'football for all.' There is a place in flag football for all."
The NFL partnered with the International Federation of American Football to bring flag football to The World Games with an eye on the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
"That's the ultimate goal to make flag football an Olympic sport," Vincent added.
Tight ends eager to showcase talent
The Giants' tight end room has gone through a significant transformation since the end of last season.
Of the six tight ends currently on the roster, not one finished the 2021 season with the team. Daniel Bellinger was selected in this year's draft, while Ricky Seals-Jones, Jordan Akins and Chris Myarick were signed during free agency. Myarick is the only one who spent any time with the Giants last year, playing in eight games before being waived. Undrafted rookie free agents Austin Allen and Andre Miller round out the group.
Although he has only been a part of the NFL for a little over two months, Bellinger has already recognized some of the differences between college and the professional level.
"This level is a lot more particular on the small details, whether it's one-foot step, one kind of leverage on a route, compared to college," the rookie said on the Giants Huddle podcast. "College wasn't as particular on the small details because sometimes you're just straight up better than the guy across from you. But at this level, everybody is good. More often than not, the guy across from you is going to be better. So, in order to beat him, you have to win with small details and the small technical things in that kind of aspect."