Paving the way for future flag football Olympians

Elli Famira Azisman (main image, right) did not have to be asked twice about competing in the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Asia-Oceania Flag Football Continental Championships in Shah Alam, Selangor.

A broadcast sports journalist with Malaysia’s Astro Arena, Elli is on a break to complete her postgraduate studies London, England.

To make it more memorable for Elli, her brother Aidzat Famirul (main image, left) is a member of the men’s national team. They are the only siblings in the Malaysian contingent.

“I flew back from London to play in this tournament, as I wanted to be a part of history. I decided that way before the announcement that flag football will be in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics,” said Elli, one of Malaysia’s offensive captains for the tournament.

“It is unbelievable that the sport has earned the right to be in the Olympics, and I could not be more excited.

“I hope my generation of players will pave the way for the younger players to dream of becoming Olympians.”

That is not to say she does not harbour hopes of playing in the Olympics, just that she is realistic enough to know that it might come too late for her.

On Oct 16, the International Olympic Committee announced that flag football, baseball and softball, squash, cricket, and lacrosse would be the new sports for the 2028 Games.

“A lot of us were not groomed as professional athletes. We are a bunch of working adults with a huge interest in the sport. We are lucky to be part of the national team,” said Elli, who started playing the sport three years ago.

“Now that it is in 2028 Summer Games, players from Malaysia and this region can dream of participating in the Olympics.

“We are a welcoming community, and we can arrange for novices to play against each other so that they can learn the basics.

“Flag football is a lot like chess, as it is tactical. I urge the youngsters to try the sport. As it is a non-contact sport, they can have a long career.”

Elli discovered flag football nine years ago during the National Sports Day celebrations. She was attracted to the sport but was playing basketball for her university, so had to forget about it.

“I played many sports – football, futsal, basketball, and even touch rugby, but once I rediscovered flag football in 2019, I stuck to it,” said the 30-year-old.

“Best of all, I can play with my brother. It became something we did with our family and friends on weekends.

“We never dreamt that both of us would one day be national players.”

Aidzat conceded that his sister was the “better player” but said he was excited to be a part of the Continental Championships.

“We want to go out, have fun, learn as much as possible and be examples for future generations.”

The Asia-Oceania Continental Championships was the first competition since the announcement about the Olympics.

Twenty teams from 11 countries – Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand – competed in the event at EV Arena in Shah Alam, Selangor, that ended today.

The Malaysian women finished fourth behind Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The men’s team was fifth behind Thailand, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

There were two other continental tournaments earlier this year. The United States men’s and women’s teams won on home soil in July. A month later, Germany’s men’s and Britain’s women’s teams won the European titles in Ireland.