American Football League in Israel Hopes to Regroup, Crown Season Champs by Summer

The adult league had just completed its regular season when all play was suspended due to coronavirus regulations

Steve Klein
Steven Klein
The Pioneers taking down the Underdogs in the mud of Abu Snan, 2018.
The Pioneers taking down the Underdogs in the mud of Abu Snan, 2018.Credit: Sleeman Amer
Steve Klein
Steven Klein

As the government contemplates reopening the country, officials from the American Football League in Israel consulted Thursday to chart a finish to its spring season.

“We are tantalizingly close to ending our season in tackle,” AFI president Steve Leibowitz told Haaretz. “The high school league, the Kraft Family IHFL, has 10 games left to play including the playoffs. The men’s Kraft Family IFL has three games for the championship. So we’ve been holding teams together via Zoom.”

Indeed, the adult league had just completed its regular season when all play was suspended due to coronavirus regulations. The Jerusalem Lions had completed a perfect season, finishing 10-0, while the Ramat Hasharon Hammers ended second at 7-3. The Lions are slated to meet the Judean Rebels when play resumes, while the Hammers are slated to host the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm.

Leibowitz said all team managers are getting together with him and the board to establish a deadline to get back on the field and finish the season, possibly May 31 for the high school system and a little bit later for the adults.

“We want to do it. It’s an American football community, and we’ve all stayed in touch, as close as we can be via social media,” he said. “We’re bringing up old videos, encouraging teams to be in touch and going over old game films.”

He said most of the teams would like to get the season over in June, but then again there’s no telling what will be next season, so he believes it’s important to crown a champion. “I don’t want people to be left dangling after working for a whole year to get to this point, if it’s safely possible and [goes] according to the law and regulations.”

Leibowitz stressed that despite economic pressures, the association has retained its six full-time staff members. “We’re holding it together. They’re all active, planning for next season and keeping things going if possible this season,” he said. “It’s a big operation – 2,000 players, coaches and referees, so we’ve managed to keep them so far even though getting government support is very difficult. We’ll keep that going as long as we can.”

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