Israeli tackle football team eyes European top-tier as it heads to Italy

The diverse team – including many Israeli born players alongside American immigrants – is made up of players competing in the eight-team Kraft Family Israel Football League.

By JERUSALEM POST SPORTS STAFF
September 2, 2016 10:42
2 minute read.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL IN ISRAEL president Steve Leibowitz leads the national tackle football team onto t

AMERICAN FOOTBALL IN ISRAEL president Steve Leibowitz leads the national tackle football team onto the field to face Spain in its only previous international match before this weekend’s European Championship qualifying tournament in Italy.. (photo credit: AFI COURTESY)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The Israel national tackle football team traveled to Lignano, Italy, this weekend to compete in a four-team European Championship Qualifying Tournament.

Forty-five players, and 18 coaches, trainers and Federation officials took the trip.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


On Friday, Israel will face off against host Italy, while later in the day Serbia takes Switzerland in the same venue

On Sunday, the two winners from Friday will duel for the tournament championship, while the remaining two teams will compete for third place.

The tournament winner will face either Denmark or Sweden next year, and the victor in that game will qualify for the European Championship in 2018 along with the best six teams on the continent including Germany, Austria, France and Finland which have already qualified. 

Israel is new to international tackle football. The journey started last year when Team Israel traveled to Madrid and defeated Spain 28-20 to reach the EC Qualifying Tournament.

Playing two games in three days is a challenge for any football team and a full 45-man roster was required.



Israel Football Federation President Steve Leibowitz said that the organization and financing of such a large team was a daunting task.

“To my knowledge this is by far the largest Israeli team ever sent abroad in any sport.”

The diverse team – including many Israeli born players alongside American immigrants – is made up of players competing in the eight-team Kraft Family Israel Football League.

The team’s head coach is Yonah Mishaan who was a standout player and coach in the IFL. US coach Eric Cohu is assisting Mishaan and brings years of coaching experience from the United States.

Still, the challenge is formidable.

“We have only 10 years of experience in tackle football, and only one international game under our belts and we are playing much more experienced teams which larger and stronger leagues to draw players from,” said Mishaan

Undaunted by the challenge, the coach added, “We have very talented and hard-working players and we are going to Italy determined to win.”

The trip to Italy is a very costly venture. The team has a series of high profile sponsors that include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf, hedge fund owner Henry Swieca and a group of donors affiliated with the Pro Football Hall of Fame that includes several Gold Jackets.

Some of the top players on the team include:

Doni Eastman – An American immigrant who won three straight MVP awards playing for the reigning champion Judean Rebels in the IFL and was the MVP in Israel’s victory over Spain. Eastman has been moved from receiver and safety to quarterback.

Yuval Fenta – Israel’s top running back is the child of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. Fenta won two MVP awards in the High School IFL playing for the champion Kfar Saba Hawks. He was offensive player of the year in 2015 playing for the Tel Aviv Pioneers.

Ahmed Abu Gaber – A rookie from the Arab village of Kfar Kassem, Gaber is a standout defensive player for the Petah Tikva Troopers. He brings exceptional speed and toughness to the defensive line.

Yaniv Kovalski – Israel’s top offensive lineman, Kovalski is an all-IFL player for the champion Judean Rebels.  

Related Content

Rami Feinstein
August 18, 2018
Music from the heart

By ARIEL DOMINIQUE HENDELMAN