WORDS: Chari F. Alvarez
PHOTOS: Aaron R. Vicencio
“Flag football here used to involve groups of friends that played American Football every weekend in U.P., Alabang, and Ateneo. Then they decided to organize a league and see if more people would play the sport,” says Chino Pastor, commissioner of the Philippine Flag Football League, as he takes a break from playing the game at the Manila Polo Club.
But what is flag football, anyway? Put succinctly, it’s a game of territory. The offensive team starts in its half of the field and runs a set of plays to get towards the opposing end zone. Once the offensive team crosses the end zone with the ball, they score points. As for defense, as all defensive teams go, their job is to defend their territory or the end zone and regain the possession of the ball.
To get a clearer picture of the game, imagine what you see on TV when you watch American Football—except for the hitting. In flag football, instead of tackling people and bringing them into the ground, they pull their opponents’ flag, which is worn on their waists by a belt.
The league has three basic tournaments, “We used to have a lot but we decided to cut it down into three—namely, the 9-on-9, the 7-on-7, and the 5-on-5,” Chino explains.
In the 9-on-9, downfield contact is allowed; kicking and punting is also included. This tournament lasts for 60 minutes. On the other hand. the 7-on-7 tournament has no downfield contact, meaning players cannot block for their teammates or hit anyone downfield. There’s only a certain zone where a player could hit. This game is faster than the 9-on-9, as it’s more pass oriented and thus less contact for the players. As for the 5-on-5, it’s played on the beach. This tournament doesn’t have a line, unlike the 7-on-7, so there’s no contact. The team has one quarterback and four receivers.
Bruises and black-eyes? Present!
Since there’s no tackling involved, it may seem that the game is not as exciting as American Football. “I’ve seen blown knees, broken ankles, broken noses and blood on the field. I’ve also seen my share of fights and it gets pretty heated,” Chino reveals.
Another misconception is that flag players don’t get tired since they play in bursts—they play ten seconds max then rest for fifty seconds to prepare for a play. “Try playing a sixty minute game, you would get tired!” Chino answers.
Experiencing the game
We got hold of Joseph Pagulayan the coach of the Avengers who also play for the Jagermeister team. He’s been playing the sport for the last six years as Jagermeister’s defense lineman. “The hard part is that the defensive linemen get the most bumps and bruises of the game,” Joseph says. Speaking of bruises he already suffered from an inversion; his ankle twisted and he had a fracture on his right ankle. “It affected my game but I learned to play with it,” he continues.
He also tours schools with commissioner Chino to teach kids for free. They give them the basics and pointers on how the game is played. “I would recommend kids or anybody to try the game. We want to give people another option for them to break the norm in sports. Instead of judging the game just try it out first,” he urges.
WORDS: Chari F. Alvarez