History will be made next Sunday, when the Israeli national American football team takes part in its first official international game against Spain.
If Israel wins, it will qualify to compete in the International Federation of American Football’s B-Group International Tournament in 2016.
The best players of the Israeli Football League (IFL) are represented in the national team, with players hailing from all nine local teams. Among those taking part will be 3-time reigning league MVP Dani Eastman from Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion, who plays for the Judean Rebels, along with Johnathon Curran of the Ramat Hasharon Hammers on the coast, and Assaf Katz of the Tel Aviv Pioneers.
A new addition to the national team is former University of Michigan quarterback Alex Swieca, who played with the Israeli league's Jerusalem Lions while taking part in a Young Judea year course in 2011-12, and went on to be the league's MVP that year.
Despite being entitled to play at Michigan for another year because he was in Israel for his freshman year, he decided instead to come back to Israel.
"I am so excited to have an opportunity to represent the State of Israel in Europe with my fellow teammates” Swieca said. “But I am also hoping to spend time this year promoting American Football throughout Israel and getting even more Israelis excited about the sport.”
Swieca made a comic video earlier this month about his decision to play football in Israel rather than stay in the US.
New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft has played a leading role in the push in recent years to develop the Israeli football league.
Kraft led a "Touchdown In Israel: Mission of Excellence” trip in June, bringing 19 Pro Football Hall of Famers with him to the Holy Land, in a visit accompanied by Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
"It really isn’t just 'American' Football anymore," said IFL Commissioner Betzalel Friedman. "The International Federation of American Football includes at least 71 countries worldwide, over 30 in Europe and including Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, Turkey and Kuwait."
"We feel that taking the Israel National Team to Europe, having an opportunity to represent our country and our sport with pride is an honor. It is also a huge step forward in gathering attention and interest in American Football within Israel."
The Israel Security Agency (ISA) will be providing security for the team in Europe as its visit constitutes an official delegation. But Friedman said despite their potential to be targets, the team isn't worried.
"These are football players. It’s a pretty tough bunch. They’re not fearful, just proud."
The video link below will provide live streaming of the game in Spain on Sunday when it begins.