Israel's Shana Sprung, MVP, European Championship 2015, in action. (Courtesy AFI) (Courtesy AFI)
Shana Sprung football

This is the first time that Israel will be hosting a major international football championship. Twenty-one teams from 12 countries will compete for medals at the Kraft Family Sports Campus.

By United with Israel Staff

American football is set to take center stage in Jerusalem as Israel hosts the 9th edition of the Flag Football European Championship. Ten men’s national teams and 11 women’s national teams will be competing for medal and to qualify for next year’s world championships in Copenhagen.

The tournament marks the re-unification of European Flag Football, after a split in the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) resulted in two separate European Championships being played in the summer of 2017.  The IFAF is now completely re-united under the leadership of President Richard Maclean from Canada.

This is the first time that Israel will be hosting a major international football championship and comes five years after the 2014 World Championships, planned to take place in Jerusalem, was moved to Italy. The change of location was due to national security concerns in Israel, which was then engaged in a war with Gaza.

American Football in Israel President Steve Leibowitz said he was honored that Jerusalem and Israel were chosen to host the event. Leibowitz’s message to the arriving players: “These are your glory days, my friends. You are playing the highest level of international football in a city that many consider to be the center of the world.  It’s an emotional time for me, 30 years in the making.  Tomorrow you take the field, and my goal is that your four days in Jerusalem will be etched in your memories forever.”

Realization of a Dream

Israel football sponsor and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent the tournament participants a message reading, “It is a tremendous honor for the Kraft Family Sports Campus to host the European Championships this weekend. When my family built this facility, it was our dream that the facilities would be used to advance the game of football across Europe and the Middle East. Your participation in this championship is a realization of that dream. Thank you for being ambassadors of this great game both in Europe and in Israel. Your dedication to the sport is paving a path for generations of American football fans in Europe who will follow you by watching and playing the game.”

IFAF President Richard Maclean released a statement saying, “The opening of this event marks the beginning of a celebration of Football which I hope will inspire current players and add to the growing momentum behind the growth of Flag Football. To all the players, we congratulate you and wish you well here in Israel. Your individual skill is to be celebrated but your success will be determined and defined by your team play.”

The men’s and women’s competitions will each be divided in to “A” and “B” divisions for the Group Stage on the competition on August 29 and 30. The medals and placement games will take place on Sunday, September 1, and the schedule for those games will be announced soon after Friday’s last games.

FFEC 2019 is being run by IFAF tournament director Martin Cockerill and is organized by the Israeli Local Organizing Committee (LOC), headed by AFI President Steve Leibowitz. The opening ceremony will take place at the Ramada Hotel on Wednesday evening, August 28th. The emcees for the program include TV and media personality Natasha Kirtchuk and AFI co-founder Danny Gewirtz.

All games are free of charge. Refer to the website at ffecisrael2019.com for updated schedule and additional information.

There will be 30 hours of live webcast, and the broadcast schedule will be posted on the website.