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Israel’s Female Flag Gears Up for European Tourney

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Israels Rachel Shmidman, left, and Yael Freedman going up for the ball.Credit: Neria Granovitch / American Foot

Israel’s national women’s flag football team is gearing up for the Big Bowl Flag Football Tournament held in Walldorf, Germany at the end of the month. Teams from all over Europe come to compete in this event, including Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and England. Big Bowl is the biggest flag football tournament in Europe and the Israeli women, who have taken first place several times, hope to reclaim their title.

The national team made its international debut in 2004, when 11 young players and one coach flew to the Dominican Republic to compete in their first flag football tournament ever. The team won their first game, beating the Dominicans 21-6, but eventually finished in fourth place.

Since that victory 10 years ago, the women’s program has grown into a football powerhouse.

The women train hard for months in preparation for tournaments throughout Europe and North America, team officials told Haaretz. Their dedication has led to impressive wins in European and world championships. Some of these wins include multiple championships at tournaments held in Germany and France.

The team upset previously unbeaten Austrian Amazons in 2007 to claim the Big Bowl, and in 2009 Israel rolled to its third Big Bowl championship by dominating its opponents with six consecutive victories. The team took bronze last year.

The women have consistently placed within the top three at the biennial European Championship and are currently ranked third in Europe. They have also fared well at the World Championship and currently rank fifth in the world. Officials say they would not have been able to accomplish their goals without the steady support from the Kraft family, which owns the New England Patriots.

The women will be hosting the 2014 Flag Football World Championships this summer in Jerusalem.

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