Wuhan – 11/5/2015
Its not like they have never been in this spot before – on the sidelines of a football game, coaching up the players. But, not in the middle of the vast expanse of the middle of mainland China, not like this.
Phil Bogle, and Derek Stingley, two veteran players, coaches and football executives – back in the good old USA that is.
Here in Wuhan, the two who currently help run and coach the Philadelphia Soul of the US Arena Football League, have traveled half way around the globe to consult and help the head coaches of the 6 China University teams who are competing (rather fiercely by the way) for the Dehang Bowl trophy, to be awarded at the end of this unique 4-day round robin tournament.
And Bogle and Stingley were feeling frustrated after day one. “I mean the game is going on, the clock is winding down, or I see something in the alignments, and I try to tell the coach, but by the time I explain my point to the translator, and he then says it in Chinese to the coach, well, one time the other guys were already in the end zone, and there was nothing I could do about it!” That’s Bogle speaking. Phil Bogle, formerly of the San Diego Chargers, Hamburg of the World Football League, and all- star lineman with the 2008 AFL champion Philadelphia Soul. Bogle is now their general manager.
Welcome to US-style, Arena-style football in China, Like the players, who have been at this for only 28 months, the coaches are “living and learning” in their own way.
Stingley, the son of the former New England Patriot wide receiver Daryl Stingley (paralyzed for a lifetime after one of the most viscous hits in football history) was gritting his own teeth on day one. “I mean the center was double pumping he ball on every single snap. But once I did a little live demo on the sideline, we fixed that. Its that level of coaching right now.”
I have been here before. 11 times in fact, and I waited another day before I approached the two, who I work with on a regular basis back home, producing and hosting the Soul games and magazine shows on TV. I had a good inkling that there would be another reaction after day two.
“Man, I could not believe the difference today” said Bogle. “These guys today, I can’t believe the improvement” said Stingley.
The teams from Hebei and the host school Wuhan were facing off for the first time since they met in the finals of this event a year ago – Hebei coming out on top. Revenge is a lesson well learned in any sport, in any country. Wuhan 34 – Hebei 19.
“Yeah, the guys – my guys (with a laugh) were serious about this game today” said Stingley who was clearly having fun, after watching Wuhan’s enormous defensive line dominate (they average 6’6″ across – I guess that answers your questions about China and if they have guys big enough to play football.) ” And I was really impressed with their innovations on offense. I mean they used the tight end more than we do in the US. And their fake field goals and extra points were tremendous and well executed.”
Bogle felt the same even after watching “his” Hebei Pirates take their first loss in two years. “Our quarterback had a live arm (so far a rarity in China, where no young people play any sports involving an overhand throw – until now) – I mean he threw the ball with at tight spiral, a bunch of times close to 50 years in the air.”
“Yeah, I’m beginning to see that this is going to work” said Bogle. “We have our work to do as coaches, but
now I see it, I see the fire and desire, and that’s what you need to play this game'” said Stingley.
Sports, the world’s great equalizer. Football is the most popular sport in America, and with western norms, entertainment and culture penetrating China faster than I, or most people I know expected, how long before football leads the way here as well?