Games We Play: Israel brings home two medals from Big Bowl

The women’s and men’s flag football national teams both finished on the podium in Walldorf, Germany.

Flag football 311 (photo credit: AFI )
Flag football 311
(photo credit: AFI )
It was a double-hardware haul for Israel at the Big Bowl last week, with the women’s and men’s flag football national teams both finishing on the podium in Walldorf, Germany.
While the women’s silver and the men’s bronze came up slightly short of the twin-golds that seemed possible at one point late in an action-packed weekend of pigskin, the blue-and- white’s duo display definitely put the rest of the European nations on notice that Israel will once again be a force to be reckoned with at September’s EFAF European Championships in France.
“This was a great preparatory tournament for us, even though it would have been extra special to hear Hatikva played over the loudspeakers had one of our teams taken the title,” exclaimed Yonah Mishaan, head coach of the Myra Kraft-backed women.
Indeed, his club seemed poised to capture the championship after coasting through its first five games, despite also pulling triple-duty by competing in the men’s and junior draws in addition to the six-team women’s bracket.
However, in a dramatic final against the Austrian national team – whom they had beaten soundly early in the day – the Israeli girls fell 21-19 and were forced to settle for second place.
Among the positives taken away by the team from its fourth trip to the Big Bowl was the integration of a number of new Atuda players – Nili Block and Ari Augenbraun – into a iron-tight unit anchored by a cadre of entrenched veterans.
“I feel like we played well, but that we can and will play much better with this experience under our belt,” said rookie Chen Duanis, who performed spectacularly in her first trip abroad with the team.
“One place higher at the Euros, and then we’ll be happy.”
The blue-and-white men, led by first-year head coach Yossi Fuchs, were competing in their first real games as a unit. With a roster long on talent, but short on experience, the Big Bowl was a perfect first-tournament for the squad to gel and begin to develop chemistry, both on and off the field.
Quarterbacked by transitioning- tackle player Joe Martisius, the Israeli men demonstrated their quick-strike ability on offense, outpointing opponents 164-46 over the course of the seven games they played, with dangerous targets Allan Tover, Binyamin Schultz, Dvir Weinberg and Yonatan Halberstat all going back for seconds and thirds to round out the scoring smorgasbord.
The “New Kids on the Block” defense, featuring elder-statesman Raffi Grabin and a host of highschool cohorts (Dani Eastman, Beezee Etinger, Yair Grosbard and Shlomo Berman), excelled for the most part and led the charge to three shutout victories.
In the clear-cut game-of-thetournament, Israel battled Austria tooth-and-nail in an exhilarating semifinal tilt, one that needed overtime to decide.
While it looked like the blueand- white had the momentum to propel it into the final, a deep pass went just over the outstretched hand of the Israeli defender and allowed the Austrians to walk away with the hard-earned triumph.
“We came into this tournament hoping for a top-eight finish,” said Fuchs in the aftermath.
“There were 28 teams here and we finished third. I have a ton of things to work on with the team, and there are so many ways we can improve, but for now I’m just feeling so proud of how the guys played.”

Both men’s and women’s squads gave special thanks to the federation for non-Olympic sports in Israel, AYELET, which is a partner in the entire national program, helping out tremendously both financially and logistically.
“One day, maybe our sport will be in the Olympics,” said women’s assistant coach Jessica Sagoskin. “For now, we thank god for AYELET.”