American football is growing in popularity in Belgium. Stijn de Backer board member and coaching staff for the “Brussels Bulls” has been around and seen his team make footprints both on and off the scene.
The Brussels Times: Stijn, you are the driving power behind the set-up of the BFL junior league competition. What were the challenges you were facing?
The main challenge is to get the teams to commit to a youth program, afterwards it is just figuring out the puzzle and create a league that responds to the requests of the teams (travel distance, home games …) the availability of the referees (getting in outside help…) and the need of the players for a good competition.
TBT: Do you believe that the division of the 9vs9 tackle competition into three conferences was a good idea?
It is a format that can be expanded to include more teams, allows for a more “regional” approach with more home games and shorter travel distances. It gave the possibility of a 3 round playoff which allowed us to reward the better teams with more games to play. It is by no ways a finished product and this year’s comments will be taken into account for next year’s scheduling.
TBT: Of course, there were only four teams in a 7vs7 competition. That worked out well?
I must admit that the developmental league got less attention than they deserved, however the goal is to get every team into the 9 man level.
TBT: Your team will most likely join the 9vs9 competition next year. So we will likely have four conferences or five conferences (if the Fighting Turtles, Razorbacks and other teams join the competition)? More challenges will lie ahead of you.
Youth football is the way forward so this would be a challenge I would welcome!
TBT: What do you think about the level of this year’s junior competition?
I saw some very good football and some rather bad games. The French referees told me they liked the play of the Tribes, Tigers and Bulls the most but overall they saw some promise in our junior football programs.
TBT: As from January on, teams will obviously focus merely on the senior competition. Should we therefore focus also on a competition or so for youth players during the senior season?
There is the possibility to join the cadet programs that run during the senior season as well as flag games. The YFDP in Belgium is also a good initiative.
TBT: The past year we saw the emerging of a true Belgian team, namely the Belgian Barbarians. What do think about that?
A good idea for more bonding in the Belgian Football scene that could still do with some tweaking but I believe any initiative to promote football should be lauded.
TBT: Should we start focusing on a U19 Belgian Barbarians team?
This is one of my personal dreams although I would go with the name “red shirts” for the moment.
TBT: And a female Belgian Barbarians team (a few Belgian teams have girls/women within their ranks)?
It is still early to speak of a women’s team but yes I noticed the emerging female players on our youth teams and they were definitely not the worst players out there!
TBT: Thank you for this conversation.