Israel’s gridiron squad heads to Turkey for qualifier

Blue-and-white national tackle football team to host Belgium next month in Jerusalem

September 17, 2019 23:40
1 minute read.
TACKLE FOOTBALL has grown in Israel over the past decade, and the national team is ready for Europe.

TACKLE FOOTBALL has grown in Israel over the past decade, and the national team is ready to make waves in Europe.. (photo credit: AFI COURTESY)

Israel is currently ranked 21st out of 22 nation teams   playing American tackle football in Europe. That lowly spot could change over the next year, as Israel, Turkey, Belgium, Hungary and Spain, are set to meet in the Group B European Championship Qualification competition. The group winner will advance to Group A along with the best American football teams on the continent.

The Israeli team has a tough first game of its campaign on Thursday, on the road in the Turkish city of Samsun on the Black Sea to play Turkey, which is ranked 16th in Europe.

On October 6, Israel will host No. 18 Belgium at the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem.  In the fall of 2020, Team Israel will travel to face group favorite Hungary, ranked 12th, and Spain (No. 14) is set to visit Jerusalem.

The Israeli team is made of top players from the Kraft Family Israel Football League. Team Israel is coached by former NFL player Dr. Jay Hoffman.  Hoffman described the upcoming games as, “Definitely challenging.  But I believe that we can play up to our expectations and emerge with a win.”

AFI President Steve Leibowitz said of the upcoming games: “The competition symbolizes a breakthrough in the organization, unification and expansion of American Football in Europe.” 

Relating to Israel’s current ranking Leibowitz noted that “we are still at the beginning of a long road, but I believe that when the campaign is over we will have a considerably higher ranking than the current 21.”

Israel has only three international tackle football games under its belt.  The first game was a 28-20 victory over Spain played in Madrid in 2016.  In 2017, Israel lost to Italy and Switzerland in a four team tournament played in Italy.

The contests are being played under the auspices of IFAF/Europe (International Federation of American Football/ European Section.  The European section of the IFAF has recently undergone a major reorganization that includes bi-annual continental home and away games in a tournament system.

The Israeli team is sponsored by family foundations connected to the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker.     

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