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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Plenty of interest has Marine Corps Community Services officials optimistic that Okinawa’s first interservice football season in 15 years will become a reality.

Even though just “a handful” of Marines have turned in the paperwork needed to play, “the interest is there,” according to Mike Desmond of MCCS Okinawa’s Semper Fit Athletics, which will oversee the six-team Okinawa Football League, tentatively scheduled to debut on Sept. 26.

Marine teams would be fielded at Camps Kinser and Schwab, with Camp Foster and Futenma Air Station combining to form a third, and Camps Courtney and Hansen — which together fielded a team last season in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League — constituting the fourth.

Players have until Aug. 20 to turn in their forms, Desmond said.

“We’ll get enough players to field four [Marine] teams. There is plenty of interest. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t pursue the program.”

An Air Force team from Kadena and the Ryukyu University Stingray, a Japanese team, will round out the league.

The old Okinawa League suspended operations after the 1989 season, citing expense and lost staff hours due to injury.

Desmond estimates that he and Sonny Jones spend half of their work day on OFL preparation. They receive five to 10 phone calls daily from prospective players.

And while players have been slow to submit the paperwork and only Camps Hansen and Kinser have coaching prospects, so many registration forms have been handed out that “they’ve had to replenish their supply of forms” at base gyms islandwide.

Such work has gone on since last November, Desmond said. Plans call for the six teams to play a double round-robin schedule from Sept. 26 to Nov. 20, followed by semifinals involving the top four teams and a league championship on Dec. 4.

Between $250,000 and $275,000 has been invested in the effort, Semper Fit officials have told Stars and Stripes.

“Players won’t have to worry about anything,” Jones said. “All equipment will be provided to all four of the Marine teams. Coaches will have everything they need — first aid kits, blocking sleds, agility ropes — all they have to do is show up.”

Ryukyu and the Air Force’s Kadena Dragons, a former charter member of the USFJ-AFL, would not be funded by MCCS Semper Fit.

Kadena’s 18th Services officials told Stars and Stripes they don’t plan to fund the Dragons. William Cupp, in his first season as Dragons coach, confirmed that the Dragons will participate in the league.

All the league is waiting for, Jones said, is goal posts for fields at Futenma, Foster and Kinser.

“That’s not a show-stopper but it will limit where we can play,” he said. “If they don’t come in, then all games would be played at the Courtney Bowl ... which does have goal posts."

One venue is certain. Mike Petty Stadium at Kubasaki High School on Camp Foster will host the title game.

“We worked it out with Kubasaki to run the championship there on Dec. 4,” Jones said.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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