Dreams of the Olympics have begun for generations of American football players in Aberdeen and Elgin now flag football has been added to the games.
The non-contact version of the sport is one of the fastest-growing in the UK with teams across Scotland.
Aberdeen Oilcats player Gary Elliott and Fort William-born Liam Harper both played for Great Britain in this year’s European Championships.
So the north and north-east is at the forefront of the boom.
This weekend 12 teams from across the UK will descend on Aberdeen for the annual Granite City Quaich tournament at Aberdeen Sports Village.
And coaches hope the sport is already nurturing talent today to win gold for Team GB in Los Angeles in 2028.
‘Flag football is ready to explode’
Forres-native Matthew Berry, better known as Bez, is at the forefront of promoting flag football in Scotland through his The Way We HNC It podcast.
The Aberdeen Oilcats player started playing in 2016 and quickly went toe-to-toe with the Swedish national team. He also competed in the Netherlands and won a tournament in Moscow.
The north already has established links to the NFL. Aberdeen-raised David Ojabo plays for the Baltimore Ravens and Inverness-native Jamie Gillan punts for the New York Giants.
But the pro leagues are distant from training grounds in Stewart Park in Aberdeen and Cooper Park in Elgin. Mr Berry wants the inclusion of flag football in the Olympics to bring the sport closer to children.
He said: “Being in the Olympics is going to change the sport in ways I can’t even imagine in things like broadcasting right and management.
“Rock climbing is my passion sport, just look at what being in the Olympics did for that.
“I really hope the Olympics inclusion can get flag football into schools. It’s the ABC of PE: agility, balance, coordination. It works it all.
“I really believe we’re going to see an explosion of participation. It’s five years until its in the Olympics, so if you’re 18 or 21 now you’ve got five years to get really good at it to get to LA.
“The Great Britain women won the European championships this year too, so it’s already a successful sport that people want to be part of.”
What is flag football?
- Contact is not permitted. Players are tackled by pulling flags from a belt.
- Games are 5 v 5 and split into 20-minute halves.
- Fields are 70 x 25 yards.
- Players can throw or run the ball to score touchdowns.
‘Growth of flag football has been phenomenal’
Moray Distillers head coach is Dave Ronald. He first coached the sport in 2002 after players were recruited from a poster at Lossiemouth High School.
Twenty years ago very little was known about the sport. However, promotion from the NFL has now pushed it to a global audience.
The Elgin-based Moray Distillers came together just four years ago with friends throwing a football about to support each other’s mental health.
Just two years after joining the British leagues the team won promotion to the elite level of the Scottish game last month.
With men and women competing together on the same field, Mr Ronald believes the game is one of the accessible for aspiring young athletes.
He said: “It’s fast and physical but also very creative and technical. You’ve got to use your brain as much as your body.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, what age or size you are, flag football is one of the most inclusive sports there is.
“Gaining entry into the Olympics is just going to bring so many more eyes to it and grow the sport even more.”