THE ISRAEL men’s and women’s national flag football teams are traveling to Panama this week with hopes of winning a medal at the World Championship.
(photo credit: AFI COURTESY)
Israeli teams have a number of medals in European competition, but a World Championship medal has long eluded Israel’s men’s and women’s national flag football teams. Both teams entertain realistic hopes for a first World Championship medal in the tournament that will be played in Panama City, Panama, from August 9-12.
The Israeli Women, sponsored by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, are looking strong after earning a silver medal in the 2017 European championship and a seventh-place finish at the World Championship in Florida in 2016.
Second-year coach Elissa Sagoskin has talented veteran Shana Sprung returning at quarterback after a one-year break. Generally recognized as one of the world’s leading female QB’s, Sprung can rely on veteran receivers including 2014 World Championship MVP Yael Freedman, snapper Rachel Shmidman and Jessica Sagoskin. Rookies Tova Fuhrer and Rivka Weinberg complete the talented offense. A football “legacy,” Weinberg is the daughter of former men’s national team player Dvir Weinberg.
The defense features veterans Estie “Baseball” Shay, Sarit Baily, Sara Meisenberg and Aviva Singer.
The Israeli women face an uphill challenge to medal. In its opening group games, Israel faces world No. 2 Austria, No. 3 Mexico, No. 5 USA and European champion Denmark.
The Israeli men are also confident coming off a second-place finish at the 2017 European Championship, and an eighth-place finish at the 2016 World Championship.
Sponsored by New York businessman Ira Kleinman and his wife Yael, the Israeli men are a highly regarded, veteran team. QB Avrami Farkas has a range of sure handed targets led by player/coach David Abell, Dani Michaelov, Gideon Reiz and snapper Johnny Ephrat.
The 2014 World Championship MVP Dani Eastman will play some offense, but will focus on leading the defense that includes veterans Benyamin Shultz, Effi Mishaan, and David Tover. Newcomer Avi Shamrock joins the team as the defensive rusher.
In the group stage, the Israeli men face world No. 2 and European champion Denmark, world No. 3 Mexico, world No. 5 Canada and Guatemala.
On the sidelines of the tournament, the International Federation of American Football will hold its annual conference, in which Israel is bidding to become the host for the European Championship in 2019. AFI President Steve Leibowitz believes that Israel has the inside track to host next year’s tournament in Jerusalem at the new Kraft Family Sports Campus.
While in Panama, the Israeli teams will be holding events organized in coordination with the Panamanian Jewish community. Team Israel’s Panamanian sponsor Simon Falic has been instrumental in arranging a warm reception for the Israeli players.
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