(JTA) — Israel’s national American football team took the field for the first time against an American opponent, falling 49-6 to the Maranatha Baptist Bible College Crusaders.
Thursday’s contest featuring the Israelis and the NCAA Div. III squad from Watertown, Wis., was the first international game since the Israel Football League began play five years ago, The Associated Press reported.
About 500 fans — mainly North American olim or relatives of the players — came out for the game. The crowd, a mix of secular and religious Israelis, cheered wildly in a mix of Hebrew and English as kosher wings and fries were sold nearby at the Baptist Village sports complex, AP reported.
Uriel Sturm, commissioner of the amateur league who made aliyah from Toronto, noted that last year’s Israel Bowl attracted more than 1,000 fans and was broadcast live on an Israeli sports television channel.
The fledging league is funded in large part by New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, who has donated $70,000 every year to the IFL. A field in Jerusalem that hosts many of the league’s games is named for Kraft.