The Israeli Football League will host its first international game of American tackle football on May 17. Comprised of 10 teams, the league has cobbled together its first national team of Israel’s top players.
The national team will face off against Maranatha Baptist Bible College, a Christian university from rural Wisconsin, in a game that IFL leaders hope will bring some international publicity, as well as local respect, to the concept of American football in the Holy Land.
The national team players, like all IFL footballers, are not professional athletes. They are young men from every corner of the Israeli spectrum—soldiers and professionals, Americans, Canadians, Israelis and even a healthy representation of Israeli Arabs. They purchase their own gear, trek twice a week to practice, and subject themselves to pummeling injuries for one reason only: sheer love of the game.
“I am slightly overwhelmed because of now having to balance football with everyday life, but grateful for the opportunity to play for my country,” says Lewis Duker, a California native who plays for the Tel Aviv Pioneers and has also earned a spot on the IFL’s national team.