What does one say to a team of Israeli football players after they are blown out 51-0 to Switzerland, and finish last in the European Championship qualifying tournament played this weekend in Italy?
These proud and devoted players and coaches had sacrificed their family time and social lives for the past six months to be the best they could be. I could see tears in their eyes, and they could not hide their deep disappointment as they left the field. They believed they could win, and so much wanted to bring victory and honor to their country. They left it all on the field, and did their best, but it wasn’t enough.
The fact is that they play football in the relatively small Kraft Family IFL and their European opponents have much larger leagues and a more experienced pool of players, and giving their best was just not enough.
These big, tough men love the game, and they are the best players Israel has to offer. But clearly they are not as talented as the best in Europe.
The American Football Federation in Israel must now take a step back and examine where to go from here. I told the team that we must be humble and take stock of our place in the world of American Football. I said that together with them, we must plan a strategy going forward. Perhaps the focus must be on youth and high school football with the goal of building a stronger program from the bottom. I suggested that bringing coaches from the US where the tradition and culture of tackle football are strongly ingrained is a good place to start. We must be humble and show humility about how much we don’t yet know.
We will come back when we are ready to mentally and physically compete with the best in Europe. It can no longer happen at the European Championship of 2018, but with enough will and determination our day will come. If we will it, it is no dream.
The current journey of Israeli football teams taking on the world has not ended, it’s just beginning.
In fact, it continues only hours from now when at 4 am 10 of us head to the airport in Venice and then to Rome and on to Miami. There we will join 28 others arriving from Israel to make up the Israeli Men’s and Women’s Flag Football teams taking part in the World Championship of Flag Football. In flag football Israel has a long tradition and a more realistic chance for success. But more on that in part 5.