Israel pumped to host Flag Football European Championship

21 men's and women's teams from 12 countries to compete for medals in three days of games at Jerusalem's Kraft Family Sports Complex

By JPOST.COM STAFF
August 19, 2019 09:30
4 minute read.
Israel pumped to host Flag Football European Championship

ISRAEL HAS high hopes to contend for a medal later this month when it hosts the 2019 Flag Football European Championship in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: NINEK PHOTOGRAPHY)

American football is set to take center stage in Jerusalem as Israel hosts the ninth edition of the Flag Football European Championship at the end of August. Ten men’s national teams and 11 women’s national teams will be competing for medal and to qualify for next year’s world championships in Copenhagen.

The tournament marks the re-unification of European Flag Football, after a split in the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) resulted in two separate European Championships being played in the summer of 2017. The IFAF is now completely re-united under the leadership of President Richard Maclean from Canada.

This is the first time that Israel will be hosting a major international football championship and comes five years after the 2014 World Championships, planned to take place in Jerusalem, was moved to Italy due to national security concerns in Israel due to the war in Gaza.

American Football in Israel President Steve Leibowitz said he was honored that Jerusalem and Israel were chosen to host the event. Leibowitz sent a message to the arriving players: “These are your glory days my friends. You are playing the highest level of international football, in a city that many consider to be the center of the world. It’s an emotional time for me, 30 years in the making. Soon you will you take the field, and my goal is that your four days in Jerusalem will be etched in your memories forever.”
Israel football sponsor and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent the tournament participants a message as well.
“It is a tremendous honor for the Kraft Family Sports Campus to host the European Championship,” wrote Kraft. “When my family built this facility, it was our dream that the fields and infrastructure would be used to advance the game of football across Europe and the Middle East. Your participation in this championship is a realization of that dream. Thank you for being ambassadors of this great game both in Europe and in Israel. Your dedication to the sport is paving a path for generations of American football fans in Europe who will follow you by watching and playing the game.”

IFAF President Richard Maclean said: “The opening of this event marks the beginning of a celebration of football which I hope will inspire current players and add to the growing momentum behind the growth of flag football. To all the players, we congratulate you and wish you well here in Israel. Your individual skill is to be celebrated, but your success will be determined and defined by your team play.”

The men’s and women’s competitions will each be divided in to “A” and “B” divisions for the group stage of the competition on August 29 and 30. The medals and placement games will take place on Sunday, September 1 and the schedule for those games will be announced after the conclusion of Friday’s last games.

On the women’s side, Austria is the strong favorite, with five gold’s in European competition including first place in the 2017 European championship played in Madrid. Denmark is the co-title defender after winning the 2017 European championship played in Copenhagen.

Joining Austria in Group A is Finland, Italy, Great Britain, Sweden and Spain. Joining Denmark in Group B is Russia, France, Israel and the Czech Republic.

On the men’s side, Denmark is the perennial favorite, with five straight gold’s including the 2017 title in Copenhagen. Austria could provide the stiffest competition, and was the 2017 gold medalist in Madrid. Austria leads Group A, which also includes Israel, France, Sweden and Spain. Denmark is joined in Group B by Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland and Russia.
Host Israel’s men’s and women’s teams are in the mix for a medal after both gained silver medals at the Copenhagen championship in 2017. The Israeli men are led by rookie coach and former player Benjamin Schultz. The women’s team is coached by Elissa Sagoskin.

AFI Vice President Yonah Mishaan, and former longtime women’s coach, believes that both Israeli teams have what to prove.
“On the one hand this will be a tougher tournament than in 2017 because all of the best teams in Europe will be here,” noted Mishaan. “ On the other hand we have home field advantage for the first time, and I hope that fans will come out to push us toward the top of the podium.”

After the first two days of competition, the top finisher in each group goes directly to Sunday’s medal rounds, while teams finishing in second and third place will face off, with the winners qualifying for the final four. All top-four finishers earn a spot in next year’s world championships in Copenhagen.

Tournament donors are led by Mr. Kraft, Ira and Yael Kleinman and Simon Fallic. The local tournament sponsors include the Israel Sports Authority, the Ayelet Non-Olympic Sports Federation of Israel and the Jerusalem Municipality. Local corporate sponsors include Gooper Dry Bags and Broadsay Video.

Entry to all games is free of charge and there will be 30 hours of live webcast coverage of the games. Visit www.ffecisrael2019.com for an updated tournament schedule and additional information.


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