ECJ2000: Russian championship Gamble is a safe bet

Category: - published 2000-07-14 by EFAF

When it comes to coaching experience Russia will lead the way at the Wilson 2000 European Junior Championships in Berlin from July 30 to August 5 with honorary head coach Harry Gamble at the helm.

The American veteran has been recognised for his pioneering work in spreading the American football gospel in Russia by being given chance to lead the tournament's unknown quantity against Austria and France in Group B at the championships.

Gamble is a former General Manager and President of the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League and spent almost a decade as head coach of the University of Pennsylvania. Since easing into semi retirement after a period working for the NFL office in New York, Gamble has spent five years helping the Russians develop their football programme.

"I enjoy it, it's as simple as that," he said. "It's a labour of love and the Russian kids play with a type of intensity that I like. They remind me of players in high school 40 years ago and it's a pleasure to still be involved in that sort of football."

Gamble began his high school coaching career in 1954, then eight years later moved on to the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant before taking over the head job at Lafayette College from 1967 to 1970 and returned to take control at Pennsylvania in 1971.

"I've been involved in many areas of the game, but by far the most interesting is coaching, especially developing players and especially in Russia.

"When I was with the NFL office I had a friend who was out there and the Russians wanted some help and expertise. They didn't come to us asking for money, but wanted to learn about football and I began working with them from that point.

"I've been going over there each summer to coach coaches as well as players, so they can continue their programme without me. We introduced them to Pop Warner football and took a team over to Orlando and since then several teams have travelled to the US from Moscow."

Gamble introduced Moscow's finest to playing tours of Philadelphia and Milwaukee high schools and also made sure that playing equipment - a rare commodity in the former Soviet Union - found its way back to Russia.

Two years ago the development of football in Russia was evident when the junior team finished fourth in the European Championships in Dusseldorf and they will be looking to progress further this year.

"I feel we will be really competitive," said Gamble. "In recent years from what I can see there's been an improvement, but it's hard for me to evaluate teams like Austria and France having not had the opportunity to see them play.

"The players for this tournament have been selected by the Russians and they will have the hands on coaching role. I will be there in an honorary capacity, though I will have the chance to get together with them at a camp from July 18 to 25.

"We will work through things with a group of five American coaches who have all been over to Moscow before, then we'll head for Berlin."

Russia kicks off its Wilson 2000 European Junior Championship campaign as one of the last two teams to see action when Austria are the opponents in the Stadion Wilmersdorf on Tuesday, August 1 at 5:30 p.m. Two days later beaten finalists from two years ago France provide the opposition at 3:00 p.m. with an eye on the championship game on Saturday, August 5.

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