Tonight, Sunday August 30th, Israel’s National American Football Team will be competing in Alcoran, Spain in their first ever official International game. If Israel’s National Team wins, they will qualify to compete in the International Federation of American Football’s B-Group International Tournament in 2016.
Israel’s National Team is comprised of the best players from throughout Israel, all participants in the nine IFL teams in Israel: Haifa, Ramat HaSharon, Tel Aviv, Petach Tikvah, Mazkeret Batya, Jerusalem, Beersheva and Nahariya. The players chosen for the national team include 3-time reigning MVP in the league Dani Eastman of the Judean Rebels from Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion, Johnathon Curran, a Wide Receiver from Tel Aviv who plays for the Ramat Hasharon Hammers, and anchoring the defense is Assaf Katz of the Tel Aviv Pioneers.
Also joining the National team this year is former University of Michigan Quarterback Alex Swieca. Alex played in the American Football League in Israel while attending the Young Judea year course in 2011-12. The quarterback for the Jerusalem Lions that year, he was voted the MVP. Because he had not played football at Michigan during his freshman year (since he was on Young Judea year course instead), he was entitled to play in Michigan for one more year. He decided instead that he wanted to come to Israel and return to where football had started for him personally, here in the Holy Land. “I am so excited to have an opportunity to represent the State of Israel in Europe with my fellow teammates” Swieca told us, “But I am also hoping to spend time this year promoting American Football throughout Israel and getting even more Israelis excited about the sport.” Alex made a fun video about his decision to come to Israel to play football rather than stay in the US:
With the help of New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, there has been a big push in recent years to grow and develop American Football here in Israel. As a part of that effort, he generously sponsored and led a “Touchdown In Israel: Mission of Excellence” trip to Israel in June, bringing 19 Pro Football Hall of Famers with him to the Holy Land. The trip gave some of the world’s top football players an opportunity to see the growth of football in Israel, and inspire those playing the sport here. Beyond Kraft, the travel party included Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, and an impressive list of Hall of Famers including former Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett, guard John Hannah and cornerback Mike Haynes, and NFL legends Curtis Martin, Raymond Berry, Tim Brown, Thurman Thomas and others.
“It really isn’t just “American” Football anymore” explains Israel Football League Commissioner Betzalel Friedman: “The International Federation of American Football includes at least 71 countries worldwide, over 30 in Europe and including Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, Turkey and Kuwait.”
Like Kraft, Betzalel is dedicated to bring the sport of American Football to as many Israelis as possible, while raising the level of the game here. He tells us: “We feel that taking the Israel National Team to Europe, having an opportunity to represent our country and our sport with pride is an honor. It is also a huge step forward in gathering attention and interest in American Football within Israel.”
Because the team travelling to Europe is an official delegation, security for the team is being provided by the State (Shabak) and coordinated with the Israeli Consulate in Spain. But Friedman says the team isn’t concerned: “These are football players. It’s a pretty tough bunch. They’re not fearful, just proud.”
Live streaming of the game on Sunday can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40N8Ch-eYQM&feature=youtu.be
For more information about the Israel Football Association, visit http://www.ifl.co.il/.