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Jerusalem Life

| Jerusalem hosts the European Flag Football Championships August 29- Sept 1

Zev Stub    
Tuesday, 20 August 10:25 AM

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 5 years after the 2014 World Championships, planned to take place in Jerusalem, was moved to Italy due to national security concerns in Israel due to the war in Gaza.

American Football in Israel President Steve Leibowitz said he was honored that Jerusalem and Israel were chosen to host the event. Leibowitz 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.”

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 1st and the schedule for those games will be announced soon after Friday’s last games.   

 On the Women’s side, Austria is the strong favorite with 5 gold’s in European completion including 1st place in the 2017 European Championship played in Madrid. Denmark is the co-title defender after winning the 2017 European championship played in Copenhagen. Joining Austria in Group A is Finland, Italy, Great Britain, Sweden and Spain.   Joining Denmark in Group B are Russia, France, Israel and the Czech Republic. 

On the men’s side, Team Denmark is the perennial favorite with 5 straight Gold’s including the 2017 title in Copenhagen. Austria could provide the stiffest competition, and were the gold medalists in Madrid. Austria leads group A which includes Israel, France, Sweden and Spain. Denmark is joined in group B by Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland and Russia. 

The host Israel teams are in the mix for a medal after both gained silver medals at the Copenhagen championship in 2017.  The Israeli men’s team is led by rookie coach and former player Benjamin Schultz. The women’s team is coached by Elissa Sagoskin. AFI Vice President  Yonah Mishaan believes that both Israeli teams have what to prove. Mishaan said, “On the one hand this will be a tougher tournament than in 2017 because all of the best teams in Europe will be here.  On the other hand we have home field advantage for the first time, and I hope that fans will come out to push us toward the top of the podium.”  

After the first two days of competition, the   top finisher in each group goes directly to Sunday’s “medals” rounds while teams finishing in 2nd and 3d place will face-off, with the winners qualifying for the final four.   All four top finishers win a spot in next year’s World Championships in Copenhagen.

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 MC’s for the program include TV and media personality Natasha Kirtchuk and AFI co-founder Danny Gewirtz.

Tournament donors  are led by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Ira and Yael Kleinman and Simon Fallic.   The local tournament sponsors include the Israel Sports Authority, the Ayelet Non-Olympic Sports Federation and the  City of Jerusalem. Local corporate sponsors include “Gooper Dry Bags” and Broadsay Video. 

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

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


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