US men and women take flag football gold

Mexico takes pair of silvers at World Championships in Jerusalem as Israeli teams stumble to 9th and 12th.

  TEAM USA poses after capturing the gold medal at this week's IFAF Flag Football World Championships in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: SHAUL GREENFELD/COURTESY)
TEAM USA poses after capturing the gold medal at this week's IFAF Flag Football World Championships in Jerusalem.

The 10th Flag Football World Championships ended this week with Team USA finishing in first place in both the men’s and women’s divisions, winning gold medals in the three-day championship games. 

Mexico took silver medals in both divisions in a tightly contested final. Team USA women came from behind to beat Mexico 31-21. The USA men were trailing until their final possession gave them a 44-41 victory.  In the men’s division, Panama won bronze, defeating Italy 45-40, while Austria won the bronze in the women’s division, beating Brazil 26-13. Italy’s Jordan Bouah was named Tournament MVP in the men’s division, and Joann Overstreet of Team USA was the women’s MVP.

Israel’s men’s team finished the tournament in a disappointing ninthth place, while the women finished 12th. The placement took on added significance since only the top eight teams qualify to take part in the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama in July 2022, the first time the sport of flag football will be included in the World Games, thanks to the NFL. Women qualifiers include the USA, Mexico, Austria, Panama, France, Japan, Brazil and Italy. The men’s qualifiers were the USA, Mexico, Panama, Austria, Italy, France. Germany and Denmark.

The first days of the tournament were played at Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem. Strong winds forced the last day of games to be moved to Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, a less exposed venue.  AFI is grateful to Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion for stepping up at the last minute to provide Teddy Stadium at no cost for the final round of the games.

The tournament was sponsored by New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, who has been a stalwart supporter of growing the sport in Israel, and is the donor of the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem where the majority of the tournament took place. His involvement with the Championship and football in Israel was mentioned during Monday Night Football’s pregame show on ESPN. 

A record number of teams participated in the tournament, with countries like India, participating for the very first time. Over 800 athletes took part in the tournament with a total of  39 teams from 23 countries.

“I  am so very impressed with the local organizing committee who managed through the most challenging circumstances to hold a historic, first-class IFAF World Games,” said Scott Hallenbeck, CEO and Executive Director of USA Football and IFAF Vice President. “This is the first time Israel is hosting - and won’t be the last -  with the largest number of countries and teams, more than double the number that participated in the last tournament.  This tournament is an excellent steppingstone to future international competitions, including the Olympic Games.”

Jerusalem is a highlight – it’s one of the top cities in the world, and gives you a sense of its deep history and legacy,” said incoming IFAF President Pierre Trochet. “Israel’s football federation, AFI, headed by Steve Leibowitz, made it so easy for us to be here, and for that, we’re very grateful.”  

"The amount of work and effort by the AFI to insure successful – and clean – games has been unbelievable,” added Martin Cockerill, IFAF Tournament Director. “Every obstacle and hurdle was played with ease – they excelled and outperformed anything we’ve had before. The athletes followed all of the protocols of lockdown and played with exceptional spirit and athleticism. The local authorities have been superb and welcomed us with open arms. They made the impossible possible.”

The tournament was sponsored by Israel’s Ministry of Culture and Sport; the Jerusalem Development Authority; and the City of Jerusalem.  Private sponsors include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Minnesota Minnesota Vikings Mark Wilf, the Kleinman Family and the Swieca Family.