The American version of tackle football kicked off its 11th season today. Eight teams throughout the middle eastern country participate in the Israel Football League which is backed by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family. Kraft, who is Jewish, has been heavily invested in Israel, both financially and emotionally, and is close friends with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This past summer, Kraft took a group of Pro Football Hall of Famers to Israel for “Touchdown Israel II”. The group included Jim Brown, Joe Greene, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach and others as ambassador of the sport.
The current season started with the following teams:
- Haifa Underdogs
- Jerusalem Big Blue Lions
- Tel Aviv Pioneers
- Beersheva Black Swarm
- Judean Rebels
- Rama HaSharon Hammers
- Petah Tikva Troopers
- Mazkeret Batia Silverbacks
The teams play on various soccer fields but starting this season, the Kraft Family opened the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem. The 25-acre, multi-sports venue includes the first three regulation-sized football fields in the Middle East. The 10-game regular season schedule runs from November to March.
The Israel Bowl is the leagues’ championship game. The Jerusalem Lions beat the Tel Aviv Pioneers last season for the Israel Bowl X title. The Lions are again favorites to win the title. Here were the final standings last season (2016-2017):
- Petah Tikva Troopers (9-1)
- Tel Aviv Pioneers (8-2)
- Ramat HaSharon Hammers (5-5)
- Haifa Underdogs (2-7-1)
- Jerusalem Lions (9-1)
- Efrat Rebels (6-4)
- Be’er Sheva Black Swarm (2-7-1)
- Mazkeret Batia Silverbacks (0-10)
- Wildcard games: Efrat 36, Ramat HaSharon 14, Tel Aviv 68, Be’er Sheva 40
- Division Championships: Jerusalem 48, Efrat 40, Tel Aviv 44, Petah Tikva 32
- Israel Bowl X: Jerusalem 44, Tel Aviv 36
American’s version of football isn’t as popular as it is in the United States but the sport is growing as there are currently 1,350 active football players in the country. Kraft’s late wife, Myra, was also responsible in promoting the sport to women as she had donated millions of dollars to women’s flag football in Israel.