Israel National team to face US College

American Football in Israel is proud to announce first-ever international tackle football game to be played on Israeli soil.

IFL (photo credit: Rick Blumsack/IFL)
(photo credit: Rick Blumsack/IFL)
JERUSALEM – American Football in Israel (AFI) is proud to announce the first-ever international tackle football game to be played on Israeli soil, with the newly-formed blue-and-white National Team set to take on the Division III Maranatha Baptist Bible College Crusaders out of Watertown, Wisconsin, USA, on Thursday at the Baptist Village in Petah Tikva.
The game, which will be covered on television by SPORT ONE, also marks the debut of 11-on-11, 100-yard football in the Holy Land, with the five-year-old, 10-team Kraft Family Israel Football League playing 8-on-8 on a 60-yard field.
“As a developing football nation, we’re thrilled and honored to play hosts to a Division III team out of the United States,” said Israel head coach Yonah Mishaan.
“This is the culmination of years of hard work, on and off the field. The opportunity to take what we have built in our local league and expand it to the international level is something that will hopefully make an impact in Israel for years to come.
“We welcome the entire Maranatha delegation and thank them for making the trip. We are excited for a great game.”
In addition to Mishaan, the Israeli coaching staff is comprised of coaches from within the IFL. Big Blue’s Avigdor Yonah and Judean Rebel’s Betzalel Friedman are coordinating the offense, Haifa’s Ori Shterenbach is handling special teams, while coach Jon Sharon of the reigning-IFL champions Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres is taking charge of the defense along with Maranatha alumni Jay Armstead, who has been a coach with the Haifa Underdogs for the past four seasons.
Alan Hearn, Jonathan Yifat, Raviv Doron, Michael Ross, Avi Eastman and Rusty Guin round out the staff. Michael Verbois and Shana Sprung are the team trainers.
The members of the blue-and-white squad were selected through a tryout process by the coaches from the pool of players within the IFL, with the requirement that they have Israeli citizenship.
Maranatha has sent a delegation of 27 to Israel, including players and coaches. Over the May 6-19 mission, the student-athletes will see many sites of biblical significance, including the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida, Caeserea, Massada, the Dead Sea, Jericho, the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Wailing Wall, Bethlehem, Via Dolorosa, and the Temple Mount.
There will also be a number of clinics run by the Maranatha players and coaches and a BBQ at Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem two days prior to the May 17 game for both teams to get to know each other off the field.
This is the third overseas trip for Maranatha’s football program, following ventures to France (1995) and Ireland (1998).
The Crusaders played lopsided games against club teams on those trips; the competition this time is expected to be much stiffer. Coaches Terry Price and Curt Malmanger and their wives and coach Phil Price are among the delegation.
American Football in Israel (AFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of the sport of American Football in Israel, was officially recognized by the International Federation of American Football as a member in April of 2006. AFI currently operates a 10-team adult tackle football league, an 8-team high school tackle football league, a 55-team men’s flag football league, a 15-team women’s flag football league, a 10-team high school flag football league and many countrywide after school football clinics for youth of all ages.
There are more than 2,000 athletes playing American football in Israel today.
For more information on pigskin in the Holy Land, please visit www.israelfootball.

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