Host Team wins inaugural EFAF Atlantic Cup
The West-Vlaanderen Tribes of Belgium are the first of four European cup winners to be crowned this year in EFAF competitions. The team from Izegem won the inaugural EFAF Atlantic Cup by beating Ireland's Dublin Rebels by a score of 15:13. Four weeks after defending their national title in Belgian Bowl XXII (12:0 against Tournai Phoenix) the Tribes not only hosted the Atlantic Cup tournament at Brussels, but also advanced to the final game surpassing Luxembourg's Dudelange Dragons 52:0 in the semifinal game on Saturday. The Dublin Rebels, which were the first Irish team to compete in an EFAF tournament, qualified for the showdown with the host team on Sunday by beating the Amsterdam Panthers of the Netherlands by a score of 9:0. In the final game West-Vlaanderen took an early lead, but the current leader of the Irish American Football League from Dublin did never surrender. Even when facing a 0:15 deficit at the start of the last quarter, the Rebels stuck to their game plan and were rewarded with late points of their own. Not enough to turn the game to their favour, but enough to leave their mark in the newly opened history books of the Atlantic Cup.
EFAF's Atlantic Cup is part of an ongoing long-term initiative of the European Federation of American Football to help establish American Football in more European countries. Earlier this year EFAF granted full membership to Poland, Hungary and Serbia, expanding the number of members to 20 national federations. This and the recognition of a number of national federations as „associated“ EFAF members is the organizational side of things - this summer proves that on the field of play European American Football is more vivid than anytime before: A record number of participants played in EFL and EFAF Cup, the long-time-established EFAF club competitions. And like the Atlantic Cup in the Western part of Europe the EFAF Challenge Cup drawed a lot of attention in the Eastern regions. Hungary's Györ Sharks will face the Reggio Emilia Hogs in the Challenge Cup final on July 18th or 19th.
Both new EFAF competitions have been installed following the positive effects that EFAF Cup has had within European American Football. While the 1986-established EFL, EFAF's flagship tournament for club sides with the Eurobowl final of the two best European clubs in the end, proved to be a welcomed challenge to clubs from the bigger European countries like Germany or France and their rivals from regions with a special tradition in American Football like Austria or Scandinavia, many clubs from countries with a younger tradition of American Football stood only little chance of surviving its preliminary rounds. But still the demand for international competition was there throughout Europe. Also, the need for such competition arises from the perspective, that any progress in development for the stronger teams of any nation can only be achieved by letting them compete with each other across the borders.
Since 2002 the EFAF Cup fulfills exactly this approach. National champions from countries with a smaller American Football community, but also developing teams from countries with a bigger American Football heritage, compete on a fitting level of play. Not only the participating teams, but American Football in Europe as a whole profits. Examples are easily to be found: The rise of the Austrian club teams to the top of Europe (reigning Eurobowl champion Tirol Raiders will host this year's EFL final on July 11 against French champions La Courneuve Flash) has been supported in part by the EFAF Cup, where quite a few Austrian clubs excelled and later on enhanced the level of play in the Austrian Football League. Last year's EFAF Cup champion Berlin Adler rolled in for this year's EFL, only falling to finalist La Courneuve, and until now has not been beaten in this year's German Football League season. This year's EFAF Cup final will feature another club team on the rise: the Prague Panthers from the Czech Republic take on the Thonon Black Panthers from France on July 4. The team from the Czech capital is dominating its national competition for years, its continuing development is documented quite clearly within the EFAF Cup record books. The Panthers should be on the verge of making it to the EFL in the near future.
For the West-Vlaanderen Tribes, the Dublin Rebels, the Györ Sharks and a lot of clubs alike the leap into the „shark tank“ of the EFL still might be a very long way down the road. However this year they took their first step. Not only will this do good for the individual clubs, which will take their newly-gained experience to their ongoing or upcoming national competitions. The West-Vlaanderen Tribes not only proved themselves as winners of the field, but also as capable of administering the four-club-tournament. For the Dublin Rebels the first trip to continental Europe might have beend ended with a close defeat on the field of play, but the team should return to its national championship play with an enhanced spirit. And will start to plan the preparations for the second Atlantic Cup - the club along with its national federation has signaled the interest to host next year's tournament, which would be the first official EFAF tackle event on Irish soil.