Ultimate Frisbee Game comes to Rwanda


Michael Tignor seen here training Flying Gorillas players at their Cercle Sportif de Kigali base. (Courtesy)

World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) based in Colorado in the United States of America is set to develop the Ultimate Frisbee in Rwanda after the game was last month recognized by the International Olympic (IOC) Committee as an Olympic sport.

After gaining recognition, IOC tasked the WFDF to expand and develop the game in Africa where it is still non-existent in most parts.

It is in this regard that the WFDF delegated Michael Tignor to Rwanda as development officer and coach to establish the sport—the American has been in the country since May, three months before the game was fully recognized as an Olympic sport.

The Ultimate Frisbee game in Rwanda has been embraced by players of different ethnic backgrounds. (Courtesy)

Last week, Sunday Sports’ Geoffrey Asiimwe caught up with Tignor to talk about the new game and how far the project has gone.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Micheal Tignor from US and I am the head coach and development officer of Kigali Ultimate Club “Flying Gorillas”. I have been tasked by our federation to start Ultimate Frisbee game in Rwanda.

What is your background in this game?

I have played Ultimate Frisbee since I was in secondary school in the US, it now about eleven years, so I have the knowledge of the game but personally I just have love for the game.

Now that it is just a new game in Rwanda, explain to us what Ultimate Frisbee is?

Sure, Ultimate Frisbee was started in Massachusetts United States in 1960’s by Joel Silver as a non-contact sport of athleticism, endurance and skill and since that time until 1985 is when the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) was started and this year it has been recognized by IOC as an Olympic sport.

Besides Rwanda, which other African countries has the game been introduced?

Right now there are several clubs in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa because for them they are already registered with WFDF but also Ethiopia and Burundi have Ultimate Clubs and soon we shall begin in Morocco.

So why are you so much interested in the East African region?

It’s because we have the strong base of those two countries (Kenya and Uganda) that have come up, they have been able to help other countries nearby to begin to develop and personally I love Rwanda, so I wanted to bring up this opportunity here.

Can you explain how the game is played?

The game is played on a ground similar to one of rugby with an ultimate Flying disc weighing 170gm and it’s the only equipment you need. There must be 14 players on the pitch, seven on either team.

It is a no-contact team field sport where points are scored by passing the disc to a teammate in the opposing scoring area on the field called the end zone.

Other basic rules are that players must not take steps while holding the disc, and interceptions, incomplete passes, and passes out of bounds are turnovers.

The score limit for the tournament game is 13 points and each team is supposed to have 25 players meaning each can make 18 substitutions. For the duration of the game, the team that reaches the 13-point mark is the winning team.

What is so unique about this game?

The unique part about Frisbee is that it is a self-officiated sport; there is no referee, which means each player is responsible for what we call “Spirit of the Game” the number one rule.

The game is supposed to be filled with integrity and if you have been fouled, you’re the one to call your foul and if you’re the one committing the foul, spirit of the game says that you should be the one to call the foul on yourself.

In comparison to other games, Ultimate Frisbee is played in a mixed division, boys and girls at ago so it teaches sportsmanship values of honesty, integrity and community integration.

So now what are your plans and how far have you gone with the establishment?

So far we have formed a club as I said earlier, called Flying Gorillas and we are based at Cercle Sportif de Kigali which recently participated in a continental championship in Kampala.

Players of Flying Gorillas during a training session at Cercle Sportif de Kigali. (Courtesy)

We are also currently looking to get legal status so as to be able to start coaching clinics in schools and hopefully by January everything will be sorted.

You have talked of a continental championship in Kampala, how did you perform?

It was the first ever African Ultimate Frisbee Club Championship that was held at Kyadondo ground in Kampala earlier this month and we finished third behind Uganda and Kenya after winning five games and losing two and we were recognized as the most spirited team in the tournament.

Did you sponsor yourselves for this tournament or you already have sponsors?

In fact that one of the challenges we are facing because since we have not yet been registered by WFDF so we can’t get funds now but for this particular competition we got support from Mr. Chips and Tangren restaurants.

Where do you see this game in Rwanda in three or four years to come?

What I see in the next four years is that this is the place for Ultimate Frisbee to reach great heights because you have the best athletes that have the ability to play, all they need is the knowledge so I see the game becoming one of the popular in the country, alongside football, volleyball, basketball.