The Olympic Dream: FIL Adds Five More Nations

Moscow Lacrosse
Moscow Lacrosse

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine

Tom Hayes could not believe his ears. As the general manager of the U.S. men’s national team, Hayes once took the Americans to Thailand for an exhibition on their return tour from the 1974 world championships in Australia. The trip started his ambition to grow the game of lacrosse worldwide.

As the current chair of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) development committee, he now had Prantarit Nerngchamnong, president of the Thailand Lacrosse Association, on the phone asking him about FIL membership requirements.

“He went over to Royal Bangkok Sports Club, where we played and to which we had sent a plaque from the U.S. team,” Hayes said, “and it was still hanging there 37 years later.”

US Lacrosse is the biggest annual funder of FIL development efforts. The organization that hopes to one day put lacrosse in the Olympics took significant strides this year by adding five associate member nations: Thailand, Hungary, Uganda, Israel and Russia.

“No other country has an organization like US Lacrosse,” Hayes said. “The world is always looking at what we do not only competitively, but in development.”

With 43 member nations now on six continents, the FIL applied in August for membership in SportAccord, an umbrella organization for all Olympic and non-Olympic sports. It would represent a significant achievement in what Hayes called “the Olympic dream” for lacrosse.

In Russia, pockets of lacrosse in St. Petersburg (a university there received an FIL equipment grant in 2007) and Moscow previously existed. David Diamonon, who moved to Moscow in 2007 and founded the Moscow Lacrosse Group, has staged exhibition games between the clubs the last two years to help foster local interest in the sport and present a united front to the FIL.

Israel hosted a similar exhibition in August between the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv lacrosse clubs. Rutgers product Adam Goldberg scored four goals in a 12-11 Jerusalem victory. Chad Cohen (Colgate) led Tel Aviv with six goals.

“Both teams represented their cities with great pride and passion,” said Israel Lacrosse general manager Howard Borkan. “It was the first lacrosse game ever played in Israel. Being a part of this event is a memory I will treasure forever.”

Another triumph in August came when lacrosse was featured in the Sunday edition of the Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper. Kevin Dugan, the director of lacrosse operations at Notre Dame, first brought lacrosse to Uganda on a humanitarian mission and has since founded Fields of Growth, dedicated to bringing lacrosse to impoverished communities worldwide.

The Ugandans hope to send a team to the 2014 FIL men’s world championship hosted by US Lacrosse in Denver. The FIL is also targeting Peru, China, India and Guatemala as future members.

“Every situation has been unique since I’ve been doing this since 1973, when we had four countries,” Hayes said. “We’re going to hit 50 in the next two years.

The previous article originally ran in the October 2011 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, an official publication of US Lacrosse, the national governing body for men's and women's lacrosse in the United States.