Colombian open club team Comunidad El Oso won the Colombian National Championship in 2011. As a result, Comunidad El Oso was awarded the opportunity to represent Colombia in the 2012 WFDF World Ultimate Championship in Sakai, Japan. Luis Rodriguez reflects on his team’s journey to achieving one of the highest honors in Ultimate.
What the Sakai 2012 world championship means to us
We are Comunidad El Oso, an Ultimate Frisbee Club founded in Bogotá in February, 2003. When we started as a team we were committed to contributing our players to National Open teams and to representing our country in the WFDF Club division. Over time, we have established our reputation as a consistent and competitive club; we are always considered a candidate for the finals in Colombia, and we obtained our first national championship in 2005. Players from our club have been part of each Colombian team that has participated in the WFDF World Championships, including the first Colombian team that traveled to Minnesota in 1998. Now, following the Colombian National Players Association (AJUC) board decision in February, 2011, the National Club Champion is the team that will represent the country in the WUGC. Comunidad El Oso Ultimate Club was the AJUC Colombian Open Champion in 2011. It is our opportunity to represent our country, and we are full of optimism and expectations.
The Club’s Foundation
Although some disc games were being played in the city of Medellin before 1994, the first Colombian Ultimate Frisbee program started in Bogota in 1994. An exchange student from the United States traveled to Colombia to study at Andes University, and was looking for a bunch of guys to teach the game to, like most of us do while living abroad. They started to play at the university and on some high school soccer fields where the group studied when they were younger (Cerros and San Carlos). Later in 1998, a few of our players and founders learned about the game and practiced the basics while competing at a recreational level. In 2001, they played in a tournament under the name of Mantis. During 2002, this group of players attracted a few other athletes that were all new to disc games; for a few years, pickup games took place at our training spot, “Parque del Oso:” an urban park where a 4-on-4 field could be set. In that year, 2002, a very competitive team was formed in Bogota under the name of Armadillo, and it included some of our friends from Parque del Oso. It was the first chance for a lot of us to compete for a national title in the two traditional tournaments that used to take place in Colombia in the early years: Medellin in May and Bogota in December. Armadillo won both Colombian championships in 2002.
2003 seems like the perfect time to start the history of Comunidad El Oso (Community of the Bear) Ultimate Club. The players from Mantis and Parque del Oso that were part of Armadillo 2002 decided that we were going to set our own path. From then on, the remaining players from Armadillo got organized, searched for new players, and created a new team under the name of Euforia. Two of the best teams of today´s Colombian Open Ultimate, Euforia and Oso, were the result of the club Armadillo.
Like every successful club, we have had our good moments, our not so good moments, and some periods of time in which people didn’t have a good perception of our team. More than 70 athletes have been a part of our roster in the past nine years, and we have a policy of including three to five under-17 players from the high school division every season. Back in 2003 we recruited four under-17 youngsters, invited some friends, and managed to have an eighteen-person roster for that season. We traveled to Medellin where we lost in the semis. Then, although we did not win the Bogota tournament, we eliminated Euforia for the last spot of the finals and ended up in 2nd place overall in Colombia after losing against Club Mamoots from Bogota. At the end of 2003, some players from Oso traveled to Brazil to play tournaments in Sao Paulo and Guaruja.
In 2004, as our roster kept growing and changing, we developed workshops for vulnerable populations. This led to the establishment of a not-for-profit foundation named FUFCO (Comunidad El Oso Ultimate Frisbee Foundation). During those months we worked really hard to spread Ultimate as a social and peace building tool and worked in over ten schools, four universities, different NGOs
dedicated to post conflict reintegration, and several other government and private programs. We also helped some friends in the early stages of setting up a women´s team called Osa Mayor Ultimate Club that is still competing and with which we have kept a strong bond over the years,. On the competitive side of Open Ultimate that year, we lost the finals in Medellin against Euforia in a really weird game that started at dusk and ended at night with no artificial lights. We had to play with flashlights… No comments on that situation… Later in December, in Bogota, we lost the semi-finals to Kwata and ended up 4th in Colombia.
National champions 2005 – 2011
2005 came with many expectations and the decision to travel and play as Oso in Venezuela, our regional leader. We planned our trip for Easter, which usually takes place during April, and we gathered a 16-person roster with two players from the Bogota club Matanga and two players from Venezuela. We ended up 7th in the tournament played in Santa Teresa and received the Spirit Award. Traveling to Maracay was an incredible experience that strengthened us as individuals as well as a group, and it no doubt consolidated us as a team with a competitive advantage in Colombia.
That same year, in 2005, a new city in Colombia, Cali, announced a tournament and their desire to become a regular member of the national Ultimate community. The Cali community offered an awesome tournament that included on-site camping next to the fields, swimming pools, a community environment, and a late night finals match in a lovely 500 person stadium full of players and spectators. It all took place at an average temperature of 28° (c). We played the finals against the Medellin club, Kwata. We won our first national championship and the Spirit Award. To this day, we are the only club in the history of Colombian Ultimate to win both titles in the same event.
The only test remaining in 2005 was the Bogota tournament in December where we would meet again with Euforia for the title, this time at 2pm and with no threat of having to use flashlights! We became the champions in one of the most exciting finals played so far in Colombia. Our record in 2005 – with three regional and three national tournaments, plus the Venezuelan championship in April – was 53-3, a very impressive and gratifying year for us all.
Between 2005 and 2008, before the age of the National Players Association, our club went to events in Maracay (Venezuela), Cali, Medellin, and the Bogota region where there are four smaller cities with teams and tournaments. Although we lost some games in those years, we kept a very positive record and won championships every year including a beach national and a mixed national with players from our sister team, Osa Mayor.
A more organized and inclusive system started in our country in 2008 with the creation of the Colombia National Players Association (AJUC). Since the creation of AJUC, a total of three national championships have taken place from 2009 to 2011. In 2009, our club, Oso, arrived as the number one rank from the Bogota region; we were defeated in the quarters by Euforia, the team that ended up as the 1st AJUC Open Champion and the 1st-rank open from Colombia for Prague in 2010. That same year, in 2009, our club, along with players from Matanga and Legionarios (two other clubs from Bogota), went to Medellin and placed 3rd in TEP, an international tournament in which Sockeye and Furious made an appearance. In 2010 we arrived to AJUC nationals as the 1st seed from Bogota and played a great tournament, achieving our first AJUC championship in Cali five years after our first national championship in 2005 in that same city. In 2011, this time playing in our hometown of Bogota as the 1st seed of the tournament, we repeated the title and won the right to travel to the next WFDF World´s event, Sakai 2012.
Club Oso Players in World Events
This year’s event in Sakai is the first World Championship for our team and a unique opportunity for our club, which is probably the most competitive squad in the history of the informal and organized ages of Colombian Ultimate (2000 – 2012). This doesn’t mean that our players lack international experience. On our roster we have a player that competed in the first World Championships that Colombia attended in 1998, Juan Pablo Zuluaga. Although Colombia placed last in the tournament, our country experienced international Ultimate for the first time and learned about the Spirit of the Game at a high level of competition.
In 2006, some of our players played the U-20 World Championship in Boston where Colombia won the bronze medal in an exciting game against Australia. That same year, a few other players made the trip down under to play in Perth and the Melbourne Hat # 18, where one Oso player was champion. In 2007 and 2008, also in Australia, Julian Bocanegra was the champion in UniGames and part of the Faculty team that was 1st in nationals.
In the 2008 WUGC, five Oso players were a part of the Open and Mixed teams. In 2009, Nicolas Restrepo, who is an Oso founder, was a member of the Canadian Champion team Mephisto. In 2010, we had players in the U-20 National open for Germany, and we also had players in the roster of one open club and the Colombian mixed team that played in Prague. Players from our club played in the two ECC tournaments that Colombian clubs attended (2009 and 2011), one of which saw victory over Furious George in 2009.
More than 15 players from our team have played a major international event. Additionally, two players from our current roster are living abroad; one of them is in Sydney playing in the elite open level and training with the 2012 Open Australia; the other one is living in Tokyo where he plays on his college team and is constantly competing against both Open and U-20 Japanese national teams.
In the WFDF ranking, Colombia is placed in the following positions:
- Open – 8th
- Women´s – 8th
- Mixed – 10th
- U-20 Open – 5th
- U-20 Women´s – 1st
How we see ourselves in Sakai
We are training hard and consolidating a very competitive group. We know that all the national teams around the world are focused and willing to show their achievements from the previous four years. We are certain that the teams from Japan, Canada, the USA, Australia, and England will have very strong squads. We believe that on our better days we have the potential to compete at the same level with these teams and put on good games. Our challenge is to be able to make the six days in Sakai not only our better days in Ultimate, but our best ever. Our goal is to make it to the final eight in order to play for the future of Colombian Ultimate in one game, the most important game of our lives. If we don’t make it to the semifinals, our objective is to be better than 8th, improving our position in the world ranking. We think that apart from the five teams mentioned above, teams like Germany, Sweden, Venezuela, Switzerland and Finland will be major rivals. We are also under the impression that a few strong rosters will be coming from the neighboring Asian nations and will surprise some more traditional teams.
The mere idea of traveling to Japan, celebrating nine years of existence, and representing our country at national champions in the last two years surpasses our deepest dreams. Any competitive achievement, however, would be worthless for our purpose as athletes and Ultimate players if we forgot about the essential aspect of the Spirit of the Game. Colombia has been a strong team in the past, but we have had one of the worst scores for the Spirit of the Game. We are preparing to improve our Spirit of the Game scores and to change the impression that the world has of Colombian Ultimate to a more positive view. We are fostering our emotional and moral training based on tools and workshops developed in Bogota for community, group, and team intervention in order to teach its members dispute resolution and peace culture through sport and playful activities. This part of our preparation for WUGC 2012 is run by members of Project Play Colombia, which has assisted all kind of communities looking to build a better country from the particular values of Ultimate since 2003.
Finally, we strongly believe that Ultimate is reaching an important peak in global growth. The number of players, teams, and countries that play increase every day. This reality, along with the mass media attention on the Internet, has led us to believe that Ultimate will be a powerful marketing vehicle. We are taking all the necessary steps with WUGC, internet live streaming providers, and local brand sponsorships to broadcast Colombian games live from Japan. We are making our best effort to give Colombian Ultimate the place of importance it deserves in the world, and more importantly, the place it deserves in our homeland, where more exposure and acceptances is required.
We would like to thank Skyd for this opportunity to be part of such an important Ultimate media platform. We have enormous expectations for WUGC2012 in Sakai and we would like to thank the organizing committee, the WFDF board, and everyone involved in making Ultimate around the world and the World Ultimate Championship this 2012 possible.
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