New FIT director eyes off many opportunities worldwide for Touch
Jan. 6, 2022 @ 0:00 UTC
New FIT Director Topy Xu plans to help grow the game of Touch globally with the same enthusiasm he brought to expanding the game in China. The new board member is also seeking to unlock more global corporate support for the sport.
He’s been the driving force behind the rise of China Touch Association as a competitive force in Asia, and now as a member of the new Board of Directors for the Federation of International Touch (FIT), Topy Xu has his sights set on expanding the game globally.
Topy was chosen for the Board in November 2021 along with Chair Mark Croston (England), Michael Abramowitz (Switzerland), and Australian duo Aaron Jones and Peter Topp.
Long-term involvement in Touch
Not that Topy is a Johnny come lately to the world of Touch. The new director threw his first pass back in 1998 after switching to the six-aside game from rugby union. “It was in Guangzhou, and I was still at university. I was the only local with most of my teammates being ex-pats, including many Aussies, some English and Europeans.
“Apart from enjoying the sport, it was a great way for me to learn English, including lots of swearwords,” laughed Topy. “You know the ones I mean.
“After playing as a first five (10) in rugby, I played mostly as a middle and link when I shifted to Touch.”
Unluckily, the new FIT Director was forced to hang up his playing boots in June 2021 after going under the knife to fix a long-term ligament injury in his ankle. “I broke it 12 years ago, and the ankle was getting worse and worse.”
Focus on administration
However, Topy’s imminent retirement means he can focus entirely on his board role with FIT. Since 2013, Topy has been the Secretary of China Touch Association and was instrumental in getting a Mixed Team to the 2015 World Cup played in Australia. China sent a Women’s Open and Mixed Open team to the last World Cup in Putrajaya, Malaysia, in 2019. The Mixed team scored breakthrough wins over Ireland, the US and Fiji and narrowly lost to Singapore and Japan. “I was a co-founder of China Touch Association, and since 2013, participation numbers have grown from under 500 to more than 5,000 players – and with many more to come.”
Topy continued, “Participation in China has increased because Touch is perfect for Chinese people and Asians. Touch players need agility. You don’t need to be big as in Rugby League and Union.
On a social level, Topy says that the trend in China to smaller families means that Touch provides a new channel for building friendships for younger people. “Touch provides an outlet for all ages and genders to play together,” Topy explained. “It provides an excellent social network with after-game gatherings and parties.
“In my club in Guangzhou, we have at least three married couples that were brought together through playing Touch. It’s a great social platform for young people to get together.”
Passion and opportunity
Despite having a successful business in his own right, the energetic Topy admits that Touch is his passion. Therefore, he is ecstatic at the opportunity to join the FIT Board.
“For many years, Touch has been a big part of my life, and almost all my friends come from Touch and rugby. These sporting connections have been a big help in my business too. So, I want to give back to Touch where I can. For me, it is time to give back, and I join the Board at a time when the future for Touch is so exciting.
“At the same time, Asia is a significant market for Touch, and I feel I can contribute to the growth of the game in this region.”
Following his election to the FIT Board, Topy Xu received much positive support and good wishes from NTOs in the Asia region. “We have some strong nations in Asia such as Japan and Singapore, but my goal is to see teams from this region challenge the major nations such as Australia, New Zealand and England at World Cups.”
Touch doesn’t have a deep pool of major global partners, a situation that Topy is seeking to remedy. “Many Chinese companies seek to expand into international markets, and a partnership with Touch is an excellent way for them to go into new markets.
“A sport like Touch is a brilliant way for them to reach out to consumers, and I’m working on convincing some brands to collaborate with FIT.”
Going for Olympic gold and African growth
Apart from growing Touch in Asia, like fellow FIT Director Michael Abramowitz, Topy Xu also believes the goal of joining the Olympic family is achievable for Touch. “To achieve this, we must take the right steps, and in Asia, this means getting Touch first into the Asian Games.”
Topy also believes there are plenty of opportunities to grow Touch in Africa. “Touch is also a very young sport in Africa, and that continent has a very young population.
"Many African countries already have a rugby culture, and this will provide us with opportunities to grow Touch."
Associations with rugby
A relationship with rugby will also help grow Touch in China too, noted Topy. In the middle of 2021, China Touch Association became an official body under China Rugby and Football Association.
Topy says, “This announcement is big news for Touch in China because it means that the sport can now compete in the China National Games in 2025 hosted in Canton and Hong Kong along with other sports such as Rugby Sevens.
“It also means that any Sevens players who miss selection may try out for Touch. This situation will help China Touch grow its pool of elite players as many Sevens players are almost fully professional. This level of athlete will potentially make Chinese teams more competitive at major global Touch tournaments such as Asian and World Cups.”