USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck addresses media in Austin April 28 as the 2012 IFAF Under-19 World Championship game schedule is announced. On stage with Hallenbeck are (right to left) Austin Sports Commission Executive Director Matthew Payne, Univeristy of Texas Director of Sport Management Dr. Laurence Chalip and IFAF President Tommy Wiking.
Known as an energy-producing state, Texas lived up to its billing April 28 in grand fashion, football-style.
Electricity and excitement beamed from the Austin Marriott South during a day of meetings for the upcoming 2012 International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Under-19 World Championship. The Austin tournament is the sport's second U-19 world championship, the first held in 2009 in Canton, Ohio.
Head coaches and national team administrators from American Samoa, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Panama, Sweden and the United States toured practice and game sites as well as team housing on the University of Texas campus. The football contingent also poured over IFAF rules for the global competition within one of the world's fastest-growing international sports.
IFAF President Tommy Wiking of Sweden announced the championship's seeding and game schedule, which holds four compelling first-round matchups June 30.
The tournament's Oceania representative, American Samoa, an island of 68,000 people with a galaxy-sized football passion and heritage, owns the No. 8 seed and opens against defending IFAF U-19 champion United States.
The No. 8 seed was predicated upon Oceania's finish (New Zealand, 0-3) in the 2009 U-19 world championship. Having produced hundreds of college players and dozens that have advanced to the NFL, American Samoa is expected to field a formidable team for Austin.
American Samoa was represented at the meetings by chief national team administrator Mel Purcell.
"It's going to be interesting," Purcell said, chuckling when asked about facing the U.S. "This is like David and Goliath - that's basically what this is. Going up against the best is really going to show how we measure up and what we need to do to develop our program to get even better in the future."
American Samoa, Austria and Panama make their first IFAF U-19 World Championship appearance in 2012.
Panama's American football roots are nearly 40 years old, established by U.S. military personnel on American bases. The second-smallest country in the tournament by population - behind American Samoa - Panama possesses successful youth football leagues and is eager to compete for a gold medal in the heart of Texas.
"For us, it's an honor to be here," Panamanian Federation of American Football (PFAF) President Guillermo Suarez said. "We're really excited to come in and have the opportunity to play teams like Austria and either the U.S. or American Samoa depending on the results. It's going to be exciting.
"We want to win it all, like anybody else. We understand the high level of competition here - we know it's going to be tough. We are going to prepare and place ourselves in a position where we can compete."
IFAF President Tommy Wiking released the tournament's seedings and game schedule (all times CST).
Multi-game ticket options are available at www.U19championship.com.