Sleek, Agile, and Innovative: Unveiling the Flag Football Squads in Aberdeen and Elgin, Envisioning Olympic Glory


Sleek, Agile, and Innovative: Unveiling the Flag Football Squads in Aberdeen and Elgin, Envisioning Olympic Glory

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Flag Football Makes its Olympic Debut in Los Angeles 2028: Aberdeen and Elgin Athletes Dare to Dream

As flag football gains momentum in the UK, earning a coveted spot in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, local players from Aberdeen and Elgin are setting their sights on Olympic glory.

The non-contact variant of American football is experiencing explosive growth across Scotland, with teams sprouting up in various regions. Notably, Aberdeen Oilcats’ own Gary Elliott and Fort William-native Liam Harper proudly represented Great Britain in this year’s European Championships, showcasing the talent brewing in the north and north-east.

This weekend, Aberdeen will play host to the annual Granite City Quaich tournament at Aberdeen Sports Village, welcoming 12 teams from across the UK. Coaches are optimistic that the tournament will unearth potential gold-medalists for Team GB in the upcoming 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Pioneering the Flag Football Movement Leading the charge in popularizing flag football in Scotland is Forres-native Matthew Berry, affectionately known as Bez, who champions the sport through his podcast, ‘The Way We HNC It.’ Bez, an Aberdeen Oilcats player, entered the scene in 2016 and swiftly competed against the Swedish national team. His journey also took him to the Netherlands and culminated in a triumphant tournament victory in Moscow.

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Matthew Berry, a prominent player for the Aberdeen Oilcats and host of a flag football podcast, envisions a transformative impact on the sport with its inclusion in the Olympics. While stars like Aberdeen-raised David Ojabo of the Baltimore Ravens and Inverness-native Jamie Gillian of the New York Giants have solidified the north’s connection to the NFL, the grassroots of the sport lie in Stewart Park, Aberdeen, and Cooper Park, Elgin.

Berry’s aspiration is to bring flag football closer to children, emphasizing its benefits in physical education—enhancing agility, balance, and coordination. He anticipates that Olympic recognition will revolutionize aspects such as broadcasting and management, drawing parallels with how the inclusion of rock climbing transformed the sport.

Berry foresees a surge in participation over the next five years leading up to the Olympics, providing young enthusiasts aged 18 to 21 an opportunity to excel and potentially compete in Los Angeles. The recent victory of the Great Britain women’s team in the European championships highlights the sport’s existing success and appeal.

Flag football, characterized by non-contact play and the removal of flags from a belt to tackle opponents, is played in 5-on-5 matchups with 20-minute halves on a 70 x 25 yard field. Players can score touchdowns by either throwing or running the ball.

Dave Ronald, the head coach of Moray Distillers, began coaching the sport in 2002, initially recruiting players from Lossiemouth High School. In the past two decades, NFL promotion has propelled flag football to a global audience.

The Moray Distillers, founded just four years ago in Elgin, started as a group of friends using the sport to support each other’s mental health. Within two years of joining British leagues, the team earned promotion to the elite level of Scottish play. With both men and women competing on the same field, Ronald believes that the game is highly accessible for aspiring young athletes.

He underscores that flag football is a dynamic blend of speed, physicality, creativity, and technical skill, requiring not only physical prowess but also strategic thinking.

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The Moray Distillers hold the distinction of being the northernmost American football team in the UK. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Flag football stands out as one of the most inclusive sports, regardless of gender, age, or physique.

The Olympic inclusion promises to draw a wider audience and foster even greater growth in the sport.


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