(IsraelNN.com) Israel has entered a strong team to compete in the World Cup of Flag Football, which takes place in the Bahamas on February 20-22. This is the second time that Israel has sent a team to the annual tournament, which brings together the top Flag Football players in the World. Last year Israel finished sixth out of seven countries, defeating England before losing to the United States, Mexico, and Venezuela. The World Cup is run under the auspices of the International Federation of Flag Football, and is considered the premiere tournament in international Contact 9-man Flag Football.
This year 14 countries have registered to take part in the World Cup and Israel is optimistic that it will finish in the top five. "Last year we were new to Flag Football, and it was our first international tournament," says American Football in Israel President Steve Leibowitz. “The triumph in the World Cup was a sweet moment. After several years of effort our dream of creating a valid international flag football team has come true.” Coach Stu Berger adds, "We arrive this year with three international tournaments under our belts, including a third place finish in the 26 team Flag Oceane tournament in Le Havre, France. We have also gained a great deal of experience in pulling flags, and that is crucial." Based on the rules of American football, in flag football, players wear belts that have plastic flags attached to each side of the waist by suction. The idea is to detach one of the flags from the ball carrier’s belt, instead of tackling the opponent.
The Israeli team is sponsored by the Jewish dating service, ‘JDate.com’ and the ‘One Family Fund’. JDate founder Alon Carmel is very excited about sponsoring the team, "It's not everyday that Israel plays in an International World Cup event and JDate.com is proud to be the sponsor of the Israel National Flag Football team that will play in this years World Cup in the Bahamas".
Unlike other national teams, the Israeli Flag Football team combines sport with meeting the Jewish community. Team Coach Danny Gewirtz explains that before traveling to Freeport, in the Bahamas the team will spend two days in South Florida running a number of programs with the local Jewish community. An itinerary was drawn up that exposes the team to the South Florida Jewish community and develops a relationship between it and the players. “A big reward for our team is that players get to bond with the South Florida Jewish community,” says Gewirtz. Programs will include running clinics and playing an exhibition game at the Michael Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami, visit a Jewish Day School and meet leadership of the Greater Miami Jewish community. The players will also be hosted in the homes of Florida residents. Several players were South Florida residents before moving to Israel.
Gewirtz says that the hi-light of the team’s stay in Florida will be taking part in a fundraising event for the One Family Fund to raise money for the victims of Arab terror. “Terror has affected all Israelis in a very personal way,” says Leibowitz. “We created a bond with One Family Fund Director Marc Belzberg because our team wants to do something to directly assist the victims of terror. Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer is sponsoring the fund-raising event, which will be held in a Miami Beach Hotel. The Israeli team’s starting quarterback is Miami native Ron Dermer, who is Mayor Dermer’s brother, and works in Jerusalem as a special advisor to Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While in Miami, Ron Dermer will be guest speaker to a national gathering of Emunah Women.
The 13th season of the 600 player AFI is about to be completed. The Championship Holyland Bowl game is on February 7th. The league is based in Jerusalem, with all league games played at Kraft Family Stadium, which was donated by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.