Despite failing to medal, Israeli flag football teams turn heads at Worlds

A record 33 teams from 21 countries took part in the competition that was played in Grosseto, Italy.

September 16, 2014 03:46
2 minute read.
Donny Eastman

Israeli flag football MVP Donny Eastman.. (photo credit: AFI COURTESY)

The Israeli National Flag Football teams finished out of the medals in the seventh edition of the IFAF World Championship of Flag Football. A record 33 teams from 21 countries took part in the competition that was played in Grosseto, Italy, after being taken out of Israel last month and postponed to this week, due to the rocket attacks on Israel during the Gaza war.

The Israeli men had the better result, reaching the quarterfinals after finishing the group stage with an impressive record of 6-2. Eventual tournament gold medalist Team USA knocked Israel out of medal contention.

In the 5-8 placement games Israel knocked off defending world champion Austria before losing a close contest for 5th place to European champs Denmark and finishing the tournament with a record of 7-4.

In the men’s tournament, Team USA took the gold medal, the silver went to Mexico and the bronze to Italy. On the women’s side the gold medal was won by Canada, Team USA got silver and bronze went to Austria.

In a highly unexpected development, the rest of the participating teams selected Israeli players as the tournament’s Most Valuable Players in both the men’s and women’s competition.

Both Donny Eastman and Yael Freedman dazzled the other teams with their receiving and running skills and each went ‘both ways’ much of the tournament as they stayed on as outstanding defensive players as well.

The Israeli women had a rough group stage as they went only 1-5 and lost two top starters to injury as defensive specialist Sarit Bailey broke her wrist and QB and defensive back Shana Sprung suffered a separated shoulder. The woman managed to bounce back with three straight wins in the 9-14 placement games to finish 4-5 overall.

President of American Football in Israel Steve Leibowitz addressed the opening ceremony of the tournament and told the gathering of some 600 athletes and officials about Israel’s disappointment in not hosting the World Championships.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Kraft Family sponsored the men’s and women’s teams in the tournament that is sanctioned by the International Federation of American Football.

This year, in addition to MHK patches in honor of the late Myra Kraft, the Israeli teams also played with a MAX logo in memory of lone soldier Max Steinberg, who fell while serving the Israeli Army in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. Steinberg was an ardent Patriots fan.

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