By John Bevan
Born in the Ukraine, raised in Germany, schooled in America and now living in Kingston, 22 year-old Wasilij Korochenko or “Vaz” as he’s known to his team-mates, has taken over as president of American football at Kingston University.
River Online caught up with Vaz about his plans to take American football to the top of the popularity stakes.
So what’s your own experience in American Football?
Well, I played in America first when I was 17, so five years ago now. I was the quarterback for Traverse City Central, which is near Michigan Lake. From there, I came to England and played for my boarding school in Weston super-mare. I’ve played in high school leagues and then junior leagues and then joined university and started playing for Kingston and Surrey Stingers. We had a break last year to concentrate on the Kingston team and now we’re here.
Were you pleased with the turnout from the first session?
Yeah, it was fantastic. Two-hundred-and-fifty people had actually signed up at the fresher’s fair and 80 people turned up. A lot of people also came from the soccer practice as well so that was good. A lot of people hadn’t heard about American football and it was good to see everyone turn up. I think about 30 out of the 80 had played before.
Practice looked pretty gruelling. Where did you find the coach?
We spoke to Portsmouth’s (Destroyers) head coach and he’s the head of the British American Football Association (BAFA). He’s also the coordinator for all the coaches and he gave me Phil’s number. I spoke to Phil and then we met for an interview and he was impressed about our passion for the game. He said he was going to come down to our training game and he saw the passion at the training ground on Tuesday. He used to be in the army and a lot of his family did as well so he’s very military. He’s won back-to-back championships with the Oxford Cavaliers and obviously coached the Irish national side as well. His workout was ridiculous and that was only the beginning. There’s going to be two more minutes each session added on for the warm up. Everyone has rung me to say how much they’re aching (laughs).
What are your plans for the year game-wise?
The plan I have for our team is to play at least two games before Christmas. Our first game should hopefully be around the end of November and we want to play other affiliated teams who are in their first year. After Christmas, we’re hoping for another three games before the varsity against Surrey. Obviously they are our local rivals so we’re trying to arrange two games against them.
How do you think you will fair against the opposition?
The good thing is that we have a lot of big boys and physical boys. A lot of other teams lack in size, which is where we will do well. Even though our experience might be less, we are so much physically stronger.
Are there any spots left on the team?
Yes of course. We want people to come down to Tolworth on Tuesdays from eight to 10 o’clock. Everyone has a chance to play for us. All we’re looking for is passion and commitment from anyone who joins. We want this game to be as popular as football here in Kingston.
There was a theme of brotherhood during the training session – how important is that?
It’s a team game so everyone has to do his job. We lead and we try to bring everyone together and make our team very strong. If one guy can’t do his job, then someone else can’t do theirs so it is very important that we stick together. Everybody is part of us and everybody is very important to our team so we try to establish a set of brotherhood. We also go out together and that’s important because we need a very close friendship between players. All the players.
Where do you see the team at the end of the season?
We will be in a very good position because of our coaching as well as the commitment and passion of our team.
By John Bevan