Ex-UB football player hopes he set world box jump record

Personal trainer Chris Spell, left, and architect Herb Guenther authenticate one of the two jumps Spell made April 19 at Catalyst Fitness in Cheektowaga in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record box jump of attempt of 63.6 inches. He cleared 64 inches on each of the jumps. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Chris Spell is on a dual track toward two lofty goals.

Play football in the NFL.

Set the world record for the highest standing jump.

Spell will try out next weekend for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, a step that could bring him closer to his biggest goal.

He’s much closer to a Guinness World Record listing.

“I wanted to time the tryout with this box jump record, to kind of springboard my career,” said Spell, a former University at Buffalo football player who has spent the last several months training intensively for both.

Last weekend, the 23-year-old Westchester County native twice leaped more than 64 inches high, atop a collection of mats stacked in the Turf Room at Catalyst Fitness in Cheektowaga.

The world record is 63.6 inches, set in May 2016 by Evan Ungar in Oakville, Ont.

Spell arranged to have both of his jumps videotaped, and observed by three sworn witnesses: a member of the Air Force and two police officers. Clarence architect Herb Guenther measured and confirmed each of the heights.

That Guinness-sanctioned arrangement allowed him to save several thousand dollars it would have cost to bring in world record company representatives to handle those duties, said Spell, who works in a Buffalo youth soccer program.

He expects to hear from Guinness this week if either of his two successful jumps is official.

One measured 64.5 inches; the other, 64.625 inches — nearly 5 feet, 4 inches high.

A crowd gathered behind cones to watch both attempts, and erupted in cheers after Spell stuck the landing on each one.

“He’s in here almost every day,” Catalyst branch manager Antoinette Todaro said. “He’s in good shape.”

It was the second stab the nearly 5-foot-10 Spell took at the record. Several weeks ago, Guinness officials told him the mats in an earlier attempt had too much give, and suggested he better stabilize them.

Spell began box jumping in earnest last August, when he discovered he could do it well.

“People were impressed by what I was doing in the gym,” he said, “and I wondered what the record was. I decided to look on Guinness World Record and it was 63.6 inches. I was getting 61 inches comfortably back then, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s pretty close. It would be really cool to say I’m the best in the world at something.’ So I started training.”

Cleaner eating — adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to a protein-rich diet — and six-day-a-week workouts have steeled him in his efforts. Spell focuses on legs twice a week, once doing squats, deadlifts and other strengthening exercises, the other drop-down jumps and box jumping drills.

Spell played football at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., then at Hartwick College in Oneonta, before transferring to UB and walking onto the Division 1 football program. The wide receiver — who never caught a pass in a game but was a regular on special teams — played on scholarship his last semester before graduating in late 2017 with a bachelor’s in sociology.

During his school pro day in 2018, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and broad jumped 10 feet, 10 inches.

Spell credited UB football coach Lance Leipold and strength and conditioning coach Ryan Cidzik for inspiring him to get into the physical condition he hopes will give him a shot at both of his goals.

“All of my training from University of Buffalo really helped even outside of the weight room,” he said.

If pro football doesn’t work out, he and his high school sweetheart, Anna Kelley, a hospitality major at SUNY Buffalo State, plan to return to Westchester County after she graduates next year. Spell, now a certified personal trainer, looks to teach other young athletes how to improve their physical performance.

“I’m super excited about this record,” he said, “but football is my true love, and that’s where my training and my head and all my effort is going to go to after I officially get this.”

He also may look to set other world records. The most obvious? The running vertical jump, which now stands at 73 inches.


“Militarisation Of Football”: Army Training, Drills For Chinese Players


'Militarisation Of Football': Army Training, Drills For Chinese Players

Players being inspected by a soldier during military-style training sessions in Shanghai. (AFP)


Chinese national squads and a top league team have packed young footballers off to military camps for drills and Marxist-style “thought education” as a campaign to promote Communist Party values spreads even into the sporting world.

Chinese fans have watched the militarisation of football with a mixture of anger and bemusement after pictures emerged of players getting their hair shaved and throwing themselves bare-chested into the snow.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) spirited away more than 50 under-25 national squad players in October for several weeks of intensive army drills, swapping their football boots for combat boots and military fatigues.

The move, underlining desperation to improve the perennially underachieving Chinese national side, was particularly controversial because it meant some of China’s finest young players were not involved in the final games of the league season.

A second batch of players was packed off in early November, and this week a national squad of under-19s was set to don camouflage and head to the barracks, suggesting that the boot camps may become a fixture.

Chinese Super League (CSL) side Shanghai Shenhua — home last year to Argentine striker Carlos Tevez — followed suit with its under-19 players, combining football training with marching and other aspects of an austere military life.

Under the watchful eye of the drillmasters of airforce unit 94778, the young players were subjected on Monday to “thought-education”, the club said on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.


Players marching with a soldier during military-style training sessions. (AFP)

They “examined propaganda materials, visited the unit’s hall of history, soldiers’ barracks and took part in basic military formation drills”, it said.

The players were also plonked down to watch the evening news on state television — a nightly hymn to the Communist Party — before hitting their bunks.

‘Strengthen ideology’

The CFA has been characteristically coy on the thinking behind the boot camps, but the Beijing Evening News said: “In several previous warm-up matches, some of the national team were criticised for not working hard and having no sense of honour.”

The Beijing Youth Daily, citing the CFA, said that the camps will “strengthen young players’ ideology”.

President Xi Jinping has conducted a broad campaign to bolster the ruling Communist Party that has drawn comparisons to past mass political campaigns under former leader Mao Zedong.

Government departments, businesses and organisations across the country have signed up to the drive by conducting indoctrination sessions focusing on Marxist values and “Xi Jinping Thought”.

Earlier this year, players for the national team began appearing in matches with bandages covering their tattoos, which the Xi government frowns upon in its purity campaign.

But frustrated Chinese football fans accused the CFA of putting politics before football as it took dozens of domestic players out of action for the critical last few games of the season.

Pictures subsequently emerged online of the under-25 players with buzz cuts and wearing military garb as they sat in a whitewashed room watching the senior national team’s 0-0 with India on television.


A soldier teaching marching techniques to Shenhua players. (AFP)

A red banner at the front of the room exhorted them to be upstanding members of the public.

Soccer News reposted pictures on Weibo said to be of the players baring their teeth and leaping half-naked into the snow.

China’s World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, whose final assignment with the team will be the Asian Cup in January, has not commented on the army-style initiative.

As part of Xi’s efforts to make the country a footballing powerhouse, China made the 70-year-old Italian one of the best-paid coaches in the world when they hired him in October 2016.


FIFA Mobile Alternatives: 6 Great Football Games for Android and iPhone

FIFA Mobile Alternatives: 6 Great Football Games for Android and iPhone


  • All free options have in-app purchases
  • Football Manager Touch is the most expensive among paid ones
  • Soccer Stars has the most unique take

Not all of us football fans have the liberty to spend time gaming at home, but do have long commutes which can be better utilised. That’s where mobile gaming can be of help, and in 2016 there are at least half a dozen decent options to fill your time. Be it casually flicking the ball towards goal or racking your brain to manage tactics, squad, and transfers, there is something for everyone in the world of mobile football games.

The obvious choice for most mobile converts is EA Sports FIFA, which got a big new update this week, introducing modes that emphasise attacking and competitive gaming with your friends circle. If you’re looking for alternatives, here are the ones we love:

1) Top Eleven 2016
One of the oldest kids on the block, Top Eleven has gradually grown to become possibly the most played title on mobile. Developer Nordeus claims 100 million players worldwide, and it’s got enough marketing budget to rope in Manchester United’s José Mourinho.

As for the game itself, there isn’t any on-the-pitch action. Top Eleven is about being a manager (hence Mourinho’s involvement) and that means running the club. You’ve to bid for players, think tactics, build a world-class stadium, and then challenge other managers to win games. Top Eleven also lets you build your own football association, and invite your friends to compete.

It’s even got two dozen licenses, from the likes of Arsenal in the Premier League, Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund, Juventus in Serie A, and La Liga’s Real Madrid.

Platforms: Android and iOS
Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

2) Score! World Goals
Instead of giving you the keys to a game of football, Score! World Goals has a narrow focus: recreating goals, be it domestic leagues, European cup nights and even the World Cup. All this, with just the flick of your fingers.

Fans appreciate the game’s minimal learning curve and barebones mechanics – which lets the gameplay focus entirely on setting up goals from running past defenders to putting sweet volleys past the goalkeeper. Score! World Goals has commentary, mo-cap animations, and even a multiplayer mode.

Platforms: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone
Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

3) Football Manager Mobile/ Touch
Sports Interactive’s Football Manager franchise has long been the mainstay for dedicated managers. And when we say dedicated, we mean people whose lives tend to revolve around the game. So it was only natural that the brand would move onto devices and ecosystems that people carry with them everywhere they go.

There are now two versions of Football Manager available for mobile devices, in Football Manager Mobile and Football Manager Touch. Both are single-player only, and offer the same modes too – Career, Create-A-Club, and Challenge. Mobile is for the (comparatively) casual crowd, offering faster progress with less depth, while Touch provides the exact opposite.

That even reflects in the number of players, staff, and leagues available in-game, with Mobile coming in at 11,000 people across 40 leagues in 14 nations. Touch, meanwhile, offers 26,000 to 190,000 real footballers and staff in a total of 137 leagues spread over 51 nations. Other differences include the presence of 3D match simulator in Touch, and cross-play functionality across your mobile and desktop devices.

Platforms: Mobile – Android and iOS; Touch – Android and iOS
Cost: Mobile – Rs. 600 / Rs. 550; Touch – Rs. 1,350 / Rs. 1,200

4) Flick Kick Football
Technically speaking, Flick Kick Football is the football version of Paper Toss. For those who have never played the classic crumbled paper ball into a trash bin, all you need to do is swipe and flick the ball towards the goal. And as the difficulty increases, you will have to put spin on the ball.

The game has other modes too – you can practice your skills in well, Practice Mode, hit the targets in Bullseye Mode, race against the clock in Time Attack, and even go multiplayer if you like.

Instead of spending money acquiring licenses, developer Pikpok has taken the game to its “Golden Era”, which has allowed it to not care about the same. Hence, you will find high-waist shorts, moustaches, and 60s hairstyles.

Platforms: Android and iOS
Cost: Rs. 99.99 on Play Store, Rs. 120 on App Store

5) PES Club Manager
Konami makes one of two credible football games on desktop, and its mobile counterpart – PES Club Manager – is one of the few to offer 3D matches on your phone. It’s simulation-based though, so you’ll need to get your tactics spot on to win games. And what it lacks in sheer gameplay it delivers in graphics – the match simulator draws on the same game engine from Pro Evolution Soccer on consoles.

PES Club Manager has over 5,000 licensed players from around the world, be it South American leagues, or the likes of Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. The game has a huge download size though, at 1.23 GB, so keep that in mind before you take to the pitch. The latest update, in September, brought in the European Championships alongside more daily and weekly achievements.

Platforms: Android and iOS
Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

6) Soccer Stars
Of all the games on this list, Soccer Stars has the oddest take on football, borrowing elements from air hockey and foosball. The game is meant to be played online, and even allows you to login with your Facebook account to take on your friends.

Soccer Stars is meant to be a pick-up-and-play game, so it’s easy to learn and still manages to offer fun in the long run. There are no real footballer likenesses on display, though you can collect the different colours of clubs (such as FC Barcelona, and Liverpool) and countries (Spain, Brazil, and more) to show off your support.

Platforms: Android and iOS
Cost: Free, with in-app purchases

What is your favourite football game on your mobile device? Let us know in the comments below or tweet to us @Gadgets360 with #footballapp.

Tags: football games, soccer games, football mobile, mobile football, Top Eleven, Score World Goals, Football Manager,PES Club Manager, Flick Kick Football, Soccer Stars, FIFA Mobile, Konami, Sega, Sports Interactive, Miniclip


Enter the Dragon: Under President Xi, China looks to achieve world domination – in football

Enter the Dragon: Under President Xi, China looks to achieve world domination – in football
Photo Credit: Alejandro Pagni / AFP
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Earlier this week, Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan’s dreams of glory faded as the club exited from the preliminaries of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League, suffering an unforgiving 6-0 defeat against China’s Shandong Luneng FC. Neither the elimination nor the manner of capitulation caused particular disgruntlement among the Indian players or fans, but the result did highlight China’s lofty footballing potential, originating from both a historical and political context.

Football in China is not a recent phenomenon. In the third century BC during the Han dynasty, cuju, or kick-ball, was a leather ball game between two teams on a marked pitch with goals at two ends. Kicking was a key form of propulsion. Emperor Wu Di was both an aficionado and connoisseur, according to historical accounts.

Cuju might have been rudimentary, but China was the cradle of the earliest forms of football. China’s early settled cities and social hierarchies allowed for a framework wherein spontaneous play became organised and institutionalised. Yet the historical importance of the Chinese for football never translated into much in today’s global game.

For years, football has been a synonym for abject failure in China. Serbian coach Bora Milutinović, a doyen of international football, guided China’s team to the 2002 World Cup, but Lóngzhī Duì ,or Team Dragon, finished bottom of Group C with a goal difference of -9 after matches against Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica. Chinese clubs also failed to make much of an impact internationally.

Xi Jinping embraces the beautiful game

Then came President Xi Jinping and, with him, an insatiable desire to propel China onto football’s world stage. The president is a self-declared football fan – of the Manchester United inclination. In 1983, he attended a friendly between China and Watford in Shanghai. The London club’s comfortable 5-1 victory must have been traumatic for Xi: in 2011 he proposed a goal-orientated vision for his country. The Chinese president listed three ambitions, all football-related: to qualify for the World Cup, to host international football’s biggest jamboree and, ultimately, to win it.

Those Greek dreams speak of a larger narrative of Chinese nation-building. As an editorial in China’s Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper pointed out:

“Dreams have power, and the constant jarring reality of Chinese football threatens nothing less than the Chinese ability to dream of a more powerful nation.”

Football is a reflection of the president’s profound insecurities that, notwithstanding the republic’s great strides forward, China remains a B-list power, shunned for its many peculiarities and deemed unfit to join an elite club of countries that matter.

For Xi, football is a soft-power tool to mitigate the nagging fear that China’s quest for hegemony might never materialise, but rather fizzle out and be absorbed by the open and integrated global order. Football is required by the Chinese administration to rule with more legitimacy, for increased geopolitical standing and projection of power, according to Xu Guoqi, a Harvard-educated historian at the University of Hong Kong.

Football neatly fits in to the everyman image Xi has been cultivating since he became president in 2012. Yet Xi’s self-proclaimed football love is more than just hoopla.

A rapid resurgence

Chinese club football is improving drastically with Guangzhou Evergrande a prime exponent. They won the Chinese Super League or CSL five consecutive times and rose steadily to become a continental powerhouse, winning the AFC Champions League under Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Club World Cup was still a step too far as they failed to muster any pugnacity in the semi-finals against FC Barcelona’s triangulated game and Luis Suarez’s goal-poaching instincts.

In the January transfer window, Guangzhou signed Colombian midfielder Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid for £31.5 million, 2016’s highest fee. Ramires, Elkeson and Gervinho also completed high-profile moves to inject the CSL with star ethos and quality. At this rate, China will become the biggest non-European league, overtaking the Major League Soccer, with healthy average attendances of 22,000 and a television rights deal package worth £850 million over the next five seasons.

The CSL may form the basis for a stronger national team, together with a grassroots level movement. By 2017, about 20,000 football-themed schools will be opened with the aim of educating and producing more than 100,000 players. They might be part of a future generation of Chinese star players. Mohun Bagan and the rest of the football world may want to take note: China’s footballing power is not to be taken lightly.