You can’t help but find good stories at the Flag Football European Championship games.
Many countries, accents and languages make for a delicious salad of humanity. Mostly good attitudes and brother- and sisterhood abound. People are on their best behavior, because you know their coaches have reminded them that they are ambassadors for their countries.
Besides that, sports — like music — has the capacity to allow people to rise above politics for the good of the greater project. Throughout the day, we witnessed many examples of behavior that made us proud, of the Israelis, and also of the players and coaches and referees representing Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Finland, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
This year, for the first time ever, the Flag Football European Championship is being held in Jerusalem, 29 August through 1 September. Seeing the joy on the face of our friend Steve Leibowitz, the President of American Football in Israel (AFI), was worth ten times the price of admission (which, incidentally, is free). “In 2014 we were given the opportunity to host the IFAF’s World Championship. The Gaza War came, with hundreds of rockets falling on Israel. The tournament was moved to Italy just a month before it would [have taken] place in Jerusalem…”
Five long years later, the games are being held in the state-of-the-art Kraft Family Sports Campus, built by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, the primary sponsor of American football in Israel.
One of the Israeli women’s team’s players, quarterback Emma Rubin, shared the most precious story of the championship — and it had nothing to do with football.
Emma lost her cousin Olivia about three years ago. Olivia was a teacher in New York, and a volunteer ambulance driver. The family, lead by Olivia’s husband, raised donations to dedicate a MADA ambulance in Olivia’s memory.
Many times when they visited Israel, the Rubin family would hope to see Olivia’s ambulance, without success. When Emma and her parents arrived at the stadium for the first day of the event, they saw an ambulance in the distance. They understood that the ambulance was here, engine running, to allow MADA volunteers to rescue any players or fans in distress through the course of the games.
“Wouldn’t it be great if this was Olivia’s ambulance?” Emma’s mother asked. As they drew closer, they saw that the ambulance — out of around a thousand ambulances in Israel dedicated by loving families, countries and organizations — was indeed Olivia’s ambulance.
“It feels like Olivia is with us in spirit, as if she is watching over Emma and her teammates.”
There will be other wonderful stories. But my favorite story of the championship thus far is an example of hashgacha pratit. Some people prefer the term “coincidence.” But I love the idea that maybe God took the time to put His hand in and touch the lives of a family, and by extension, all of us.