Robert Kraft, Pro-Bowlers, touch down in Israel

Jerusalem's Kraft Family Stadium sparkled with energy Thursday night as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, together with veteran Patriots team members and 2008 Pro-Bowl players Richard Seymour and Ben Watson, kicked off the last game of the regular season in the Israel Football League. Big Blue Jerusalem Lions ran out as easy winners over Mike's Place Tel Aviv Sabres squad for a 38-0 shutout victory, heading into the first round of the first-year league's playoffs next week. Speaking in Hebrew and English before the teams took the field for the regular season finale match-up, Kraft welcomed Seymour and Watson to the Holy Land, and expressed his happiness at "watching American football in Israel, the best sport in the world." Despite their recent disappointment in the 2008 Super Bowl, when the Pats lost to the New York Giants, defensive lineman Seymour and tight end Watson were unwilling to take a backseat at the game. Each siding with one team, Watson and Seymour engaged fully with the Israeli players, offering words of wisdom in the pre-game huddles and from the sidelines. "Play as hard as you can, and put in a great effort," Watson encouraged the Sabres prior to kick-off. "Whatever happened last time doesn't matter. It's just about how well you play tonight." Kraft brings professionals with him each year when he visits Israel with the Combined Jewish Philanthropists of the greater Boston area. This year is particularly important for both Kraft and the sport, as 2007-08 marks the premiere season of tackle football in Israel. "This is really something!" Kraft exclaimed. Though he recognizes that the advent of tackle football brings more Americana to Israel, Kraft delights in the positive attributes that the sport possesses and will integrate into Israeli culture. "It's a great outlet … as a physical and intelligent sport," said Kraft. "It takes a lot of important things in life to be a great football player," he added, citing perseverance and mental toughness as two key attributes. All three were impressed with the overall quality and growth of the league. Addressing the crowd and players before the game, Seymour expressed how honored he was to be in Israel, as well as his high regard for the Israeli players. "We might have some prospects here," he said, to the crowd's delight, after completing the game's opening pass to the Jerusalem quarterback.