/

Huddle Bowl, Make-A-Wish of Japan team up for winning cause

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Touch, flag or tackle?

It doesn’t matter so long as it is fun and makes contributions to the community. That is what the people who got together at Yokohama Stadium on Sunday for a flag football tournament would say.

On a sunny but chilly day, the Huddle Bowl 2014 saw more than 1,200 former or active tackle football players over 35 years old take part in the charity event that teams up with Make-A-Wish of Japan, an international volunteer organization to support children diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.

“The participants of this event are healthy adults,” said Hideji Horiko, chairman of the Huddle Bowl organizing committee. “It is significant that the healthy adults provide the support to kids who are battling the intractable diseases. That is the reason we established this event.”

Horiko, a former star wide receiver himself at Kwansei Gakuin University in the mid 1980s who helped the Fighters win the college championships in 1984 and ’85, estimates the fund will be about ¥3.5 million after expenses, up by 60 percent from last year.

Each team was required to pay ¥100,000 for the entry fee. That amount was doubled from last year, but all 44 entry berths were sold out within an hour after the official website made the announcement of the event last November. The number of players was expanded from last year’s 758.

“Our first mission last year was to let the player have fun in the game because they are our main sponsors,” Horiko said. “That strategy worked. Thanks to the increase of the players, we’re now in better financial condition and that enabled us to spend more money for the charity purpose.”

A lot of ex-college football players learned the rules of flag football, formed a team and practiced just to take part in the Huddle Bowl. Former teammates gathered again. Old rivalries were revived. New relationships spanning generations were established.

“I believe many of football players are energetic, enthusiastic and talented,” Horiko said. “Once they decide, they never stop, never complain, put it all together and corporate to achieve the goal. That is exactly how you play a football game.

“The Huddle Bowl showed that football players are tightly united to each other. I don’t think it would happen in major sports such as baseball or soccer,” Horiko continued. “Football is minor in Japan. But you can be proud of being a football player by contributing to the community.”

Horiko, who runs Horiko Capital Management LLC in New York, watches many Japanese companies sponsor the NFL programs in the United States.

“They pay millions of (dollars) for NFL games. But I wish they would spend even a few percent of that money for this type of charity events. We showed we can do this much without much money from companies, but I wish the major companies would pay more attention to charity more than before,” Horiko said.