USAFL'er in Japan

So today (April 2nd) I had my first practice and footy game.  We play at
a "field" by Osaka Castle.  Why I put "field" instead of field I will
explain later.  I went to the park to look for the field, and after
having my picture taken a few times, I finally found the field.  It was
a huge sports complex and there were about 150 Japanese playing various
sports on the "field".  I saw three Japanese teenagers suit up in full
gridiron football gear (aka american football) and then proceeded to
have about a 3 hour practice that looked intense...all without a ball.
Talk about dedication.  There was also a lot of soccer, frisbee, and
heaps of baseball being played.  Then I found one guy with a footy
ball.  I made the guester for a handpass and he looked shocked.  After
pretending to know each other's respective language, we played a bit.
Then out of the woodwork came about 20 - 25 Japanese and 2 Aussies.  It
was crazy.  We practiced a bit which was interesting.  I am one of 3
non-Japanese players so the practice before the game was in Japanese.
It wasn't that much of a challenge though because the warm ups we did
back in the states are identical to the ones in Japan, so I would just
go to the middle of the line and watch until I figured it out.  The odd
part of it all was that I actually helped teach a new Japanese player
how to hold the ball and kick it, simply with gestures.  After a quick
warm up we then played each other for my first game on Japanese "soil".
so why the "field"...?  Well it didn't have any grass, we played on
gravel.  YES, gravel.  The same brown gravel that makes up a baseball
infield.  Even though I am finally bigger than some people on the
opposing team, I still get knocked down a few times and getting smashed
into the gravel is not fun.  There was a huge mix in the skills of the
players.  Similar to in the States.  There were a good number of
players that were speedy on the field and were like ninjas with their
movements.  (sorry, i had to use ninja).  The handpasses were crisp and
the kicks accurate.  Maybe that is due to the fact that taking a mark
means you won't get tackled into the gravel.  We won our game today and
we are preparing for an Anzac Cup coming up soon.  I only got a behind
today as I was in the back pocket.  I also don't know what the score was
because it was kept in Japanese characters!  It is going well here
though, and from what I can tell after just one game, the Japanese team
in the International Cup has some potential to be a surprise.  I will
keep you posted.

- Mike Staffa

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