Manchester is known as a world renowned destination for football and so it proved once again – only this time it was of the American variety.
It seems fitting that the tournament was held at Platt Lane, the former training ground of Manchester City because as City know all too well, it takes marketing, investment and community involvement to grow.
As MM found out, the Jaguars have all three.
JUMP AROUND: Flag Football or “Flag Tag” allows players to ‘tackle’ by pulling a strip attached from their opponent’s ‘belt’
Ryan Moore, UK Events and Marketing Executive was keen to emphasise the community aspect.
“We’ve got a school’s program that started in Manchester from September and we are working with a group called ‘EdStart’ – who are coaching primary school and secondary school kids, as well as another group called ‘Active Communities Network’.
“We’ve been given government funding to support England to put three satellite programs in to Manchester.”
The school programs are known as “JagTag”: a simplified version of the sport for kids aged 12-16 of varying abilities.
JagTag introduces the basics and allows children to grow in to the game and encourages teamwork and tactical thinking.
LIFTING THE LID
Thanks to JagTag, American Football is being played up and down England with the ambition being to push this to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
On an overcast day at Platt Lane, MM experienced first-hand a microcosm of the spirit of American Football akin to exactly what JagTag looks to achieve.
Nowhere was this more evident than when we chatted to West Bromwich’s Wayne Drew, 27, playing for the Leamington Spartans.
“I run a group called ‘Lifting the Lid’ – a mental health campaign developed for American Football and the community as a whole.”
Wayne’s program invites people to share their story of mental health issues either by name or anonymously to let people know they are not alone.
In terms of on the field, on one end you had people like Leah Mashitter, 29, from Lancaster who played for the Lancaster Lightning.
Leah was a first time player of the sport who had an “amazing” time, her team weren’t there dreaming of glory and a trip to the Super Bowl, they were there to enjoy themselves and that’s exactly what they did.
At the other end of the spectrum you had eventual winners the Danish Dynamite – a team consisting mainly of Danish national team players who were playing some simply sumptuous American Football.
Led by their quarterback Frederik Ermler, 27, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan from Copenhagen, they were merciless as they seemed to reach their peak when it mattered most in the final.
WINNERS GRINNERS: Danish Dynamite are presented their plate and move one step closer to an all-expenses paid trip to Super Bowl LIII
“It [the competition] hasn’t been to Denmark, once we saw that they were arranging it here again after last year, we definitely knew we wanted to come.
“All the guys here are proud and used to representing Denmark, with this prize on the line though it is really something special. We are looking forward to celebrating and seeing more of Manchester.”
Denmark wasn’t the only country proudly showing off national team players however.
Glasgow’s David McInally, 25, was the tournament’s answer to Superman as a mild-mannered insurance broker by day but wide receiver for the Great Britain national team by night.
“The level of the competition is high, playing against that Vienna team (the runners up), they were the best team we’ve played against all day,” said the Irlam-based player, fresh off the back of an incredible catch.
“Even the guys that throw teams together though, it’s just great and it’s a 20-minute drive from my house.
“My main focus from 13-24 was full contact, I absolutely love it but what you get here is when you play five-a-side with your mates, you just have fun.”
To the casual observer, what you would have seen was a set of 3G football pitches with 14 people looking to throw, catch or intercept a different shaped football but what the Jags know and the reason they sponsor these events is that there is so much more to it than that.
This is a community, a community that cares about each other, looks out for each other and it is that community that the Jags are helping to foster, the fact they have chosen Manchester to further this aim should be a sign of great pride for Mancunians all over.
If you have children who may be interested in JagTag then please visit: