The Stanford Footbag Crew … plus world champion Milan Benda throw it down in this video taken and uploaded by Brian Sherril!
I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the first ever Malaysian Championships which were held over the past weekend. My role was to give some assistance to the new players there, and also to judge the tournament.
With no idea what to expect, I got up to a very dark and cold Canberra, and many hours later arrived to the complete opposite in KL.
The competition was sponsored by Adidas Pure Game. Unfortunately they don’t have anything to do with the shoes department, so it wasn’t free Rod Laver shoes for all, but they did book in a spot in Mid Valley, one of South East Asia’s largest shopping centres, right in the centre court of the mall.
If you were going to the shopping centre, it was likely you would see the Adidas display, and if you saw that, it was likely you would see some footbag. I gave a number of demonstrations over the 4 days, every few hours, showing off a few tricks, and doing some routines.
The first day I got to meet a few of the players, I really had no idea what to expect, and I thought it would be more likely players would be coming across from Sepak Takraw. The best guys that had picked it up fairly quickly though, they came from a freestyle football background.
Lucky shoppers had the opportunity to get a footbag for free. With 4 days in the shopping centre, this was the kind of exposure that footbag never ever gets, and could do with a lot more of it. It wasn’t just a free gift though, to pick up your free footbag, you had to kick 5 times, thereby getting people up on to the stage and to come and have a go.
With the sport only new in Malaysia there was no point in holding the traditional events, no one wants to see a 2 minute routine filled with drops. The first events were all about participation, so the first one was the same as the very first event I ever competed in (consecutive kicks).
This meant the man on the street had a chance to compete, and you never know your luck, you could go to the final for the grand prize. That prize was something you don’t hear about often in the Footbag world. An all expenses paid trip to Worlds! Worth $10,000RM, which equates to just over $3000 (Australian or US). The support behind this event was just phenomenal.
It wasn’t just Footbag on the stage though, even though Footbag was the main event. There were breakdancers, and Shawn Lee, ranked number 9 in the world at beatbox.
The semi finals and finals were held on the Sunday, the semi finals took it a notch up from just kicks, which allowed me to explain what happens in the major competitions, but in a shopping centre, you don’t care about adds, you want to see people keep the little bag in the air, and you might want to see a couple of tricks. So to get through the semi finals, the best tricks were going to get there. The back up count would be the amount of kicks you did in your 60 seconds on stage.
Over the days I was there, the guys I was training picked up plenty of new tips. I tried to instill in them the idea of getting the tricks done on both sides, of using the clipper and the toe, and some different ideas. There was no need to go into the concept of adds or other technology, that’s something that can be learned once you have a few more tricks in your bag.
I guess this was the beauty of the trip, this simplicity of the game, the sheer enthusiasm showed by the players, even the ones that could just to tricks, all of them were trying to progress on to stalls, and most people were able to catch the bag on their foot after a few tries. Even though this players were just starting out, there must have been a thousand people or more watching the final. That’s the beauty of a big sponsorship, and such a public location.
The finals were on at about 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, the centre was packed with shoppers and the centre court had all four levels with people looking down over the tournament.
First there was a junior competition, this was just back to kicks, and some of these kids showed great control. Fitri was the winner, with over 100 kicks in his 1 minute timeframe. That was actually the second highest score of the entire weekend.
After the juniors it was time to step on to the final five. They had been selected on their control and variety during the semi final. My judging criteria was going to be similar to that of the Circle Competition, what I was looking for was variety and difficulty, with control being another aspect I was keeping an eye on.
Every competitor had a few tricks in their bag. They had to take a number from a hat to choose when they went. After each player had their turn, I would demonstrate one of their tricks to the crowd. They might have done a clipper, so then I would say without these basic blocks, you won’t be able to do the more difficult tricks, then do something like a ripwalk, to show to the crowd the path of progression.
By chance the final player to enter was Ariff Karim. There was simply another level up here. Even though he is just a new player, and had a drop early on, Ariff brimmed with confidence. He linked many tricks into each other, and finished with a moved borrowed from his freestyle football experience, stalling it on top of his sole whilst lying flat on the ground.
Soon after, I announced him as the clear winner.
Having such a massive competition was such a great kickstart to a new scene in Malaysia. I am back in cold, cold Canberra now, but I will be returning to KL in just a few weeks, and can’t wait to see how much everybody has improved.
I feel so lucky to be a part of such a great competition.
Footbag Club Malaysia on Facebook is the best place to go for more information on Malaysian Footbag. Thanks to Zaid for the pictures.
In the next couple of months I will travel to Malaysia, India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Unfortunately not for any of these massive events, but hopefully I will be able to bring news of more Footbag in hidden corners.