Israeli Men and Women Aim for Long-eluded Medals in Panama

In the flag football world championship, the Israeli women’s squad hopes to build on European success

Israel Bowl MVP Dani Eastman running with the ball at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem last Thursday.
Rick Blumsack

Israeli teams have a number of medals in European competition, but a World Championship medal has long eluded the Israeli men’s and women national flag football teams.

Both teams entertain realistic hopes for a first medal at this level at the 2018 IFAF Flag Football World Championship in Panama City, Panama, which began Thursday night after press time and ends Sunday. 

The Israeli women’s squad, sponsored by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, is looking strong after earning a silver medal in the 2017 European championship and a seventh place finish at the world championship in Florida in 2016. 

Second-year coach Elissa Sagoskin has talented veteran Shana Sprung returning at quarterback after a one-year break.  Generally recognized as one of the world’s leading female QB’s, Sprung can rely on veteran receivers including 2014 World Championship MVP Yael Freedman, snapper Rachel Shmidman and Jesse Sagoskin. Rookies Tova Fuhrer and Rivka Weinberg complete the talented offense.  A football “legacy” according to one Israeli football official, Weinberg is the daughter of former men’s national team player Dvir Weinberg. The defense features veterans Estie Shay, Sarit Baily, Sara Meisenberg and Aviva Singer.  

The Israeli women face an uphill battle to the medal podium. In its opening group games, Israel faces world No. 2 Austria, No. 3 Mexico, No. 5 U.S.A. and European champions Denmark.