Israel's newly formed national football team takes on the Maranatha Bible College Crusaders tonight in the first-ever international tackle football game to be played on Israeli soil.
The game also marks the debut of full 11-man squads taking on each other on a regulation-sized 100-yard football field in Israel. The Israel Football League plays 8-on-8 on a 60-yard field.
Maranatha is a Division III school out of Watertown, Wisconsin that finished 3-7 in the Northern Athletic Conference in 2011. It is unusual for being a Bible college with an athletic program
A group of 27 players and coaches from the college arrived in Israel on May 6 to prepare for Thursday's game but also to take advantage of the trip for "vivid education, cultural and spiritual lessons," according to the school's website.
The group has toured Israel from the Galilee in the north down to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
"As a developing football nation, we're thrilled and honored to play hosts to a Division III team out of the United States," said Yonah Mishaan, Israel's head coach. "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."
Maranatha alumnus Jay Armstea, who has coached with the Haifa Underdogs the past four seasons, will coordinate defense together with Jon Sharon of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres, the reigning IFL champions.
The Crusaders played lopsided games on its two previous international trips to France in 1995 and Ireland 1998, but expect much stiffer competition tonight.
Game time is 7:30 P.M. at the Baptist Village.
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