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30.06.2010 EFAF

The Final of the Finals

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It is time for champions - on Sunday the Vienna Vikings will host the Berlin Adler at Vienna's Hohe Warte for Eurobowl XXIV, the final game of this year's European Football League. It is the first time a reigning Austrian champion will face a reigning German champion in the Eurobowl final. Quite a perfect timing: Both nations currently share the record mark of six past Eurobowl victories, so the battle for Eurobowl XXIV has historic dimensions as well. The Vienna Vikings won four Eurobowls in a row from 2004 to 2007, fellow-Austrians Tyrolean Raiders brought home the trophy in 2008 and 2009. Germany's first triumph dates back to 1995, when the Düsseldorf Panther won at Stuttgart. They were followed by the Hamburg Blue Devils (1996-1998) and the Braunschweig Lions in 1999 and 2003.

As there is a strong notion in both Austria and Germany that the respective own national league - Austria's AFL and Germany's GFL - has the better level of play than the other, the game at Vienna already has its main plot. But there is plenty to add: With a victory the Vikings could further expand their all-time-lead in the category of Eurobowl victories on three-time champions Bergamo Lions and Hamburg Blue Devils, becoming the first team to win the trophy five times. Their eighth qualification for the final game already put them ahead by two on six-time-finalist Bergamo. On the other hand Berlin could expand a German EFL record mark, as already Germany is the only country featuring three different clubs with Eurobowl victories, the Adler could become the fourth team to win the trophy. And Berlin even has a chance to accomplish an all-time-first: They could be the first team from both Austria and Germany to win an Eurobowl on foreign soil: All 12 Austrian and German victories of the past were helped by home field advantage.

So again this might give the Austrians a slight edge in this year's game, however Berlin has proved in an exciting semifinal game at Innsbruck that they are able to win abroad - as they did before in the quarterfinals visiting Finnish champion Porvoon Butchers and in the preliminaries at Czech champion Prague Panthers. With another win at home against Stockholm Berlin eliminated three other national champions in total, while Vienna surpassed the national champions of 2009 from Italy (Bolzano) and France (La Courneuve) in the current competition. With this on record there is no doubt that exactly those two teams from the Austrian and German capitals deserve their spot in the final.

Also there is no doubt that EFL 2010 fulfilled EFAF's approach to stage this competition as an elite tournament, in which Europe's top clubs compete. A true „champions league“ of American Football, in which all champions of the major European American Football countries take part (plus the runner-ups from the most advanced national leagues in European American Football and the four EFL semifinalists of the preceeding season). Within the last decade the EFL finally lived up to expectations, a remarkable development as only nine years back there were just teams from six nations competing and most champions from the top national leagues were absent from the competition. A reliable scheduling formula with 16 starting spots has helped to adjust the EFL schedule to the needs of the clubs, which of course have to coordinate the European competition with their own national season. Additionally from year to year the Eurobowl final has grown as an event, and with the ultimate matchup of this year it is guaranteed that this trend will continue.

And in comparison to the early days of Eurobowl the differences are even more noticeable. The Berlin Adler, who have been to one of these Eurobowl finals in earlier years, are a pretty good example, not only for the fact, that long-term American Football programs in Europe are possible. When they traveled to Offenbach in 1991 to face the Amsterdam Crusaders (and subsequently lost 20-21, a loss the club, which is very proud for its 30+-year-tradition, still in some way suffers from and is using for motivation for Sunday's game), they did so without even winning a semifinal game - as well as their opponent Amsterdam. The semifinals in that year had to be suspended, because both other qualified clubs simply failed to take their journey to the scheduled games. So the two exciting semifinal games we saw some weeks ago, when Vienna beat Graz 38-22 and Berlin beat Tyrol 29-27, where just another indication of how much progress European American Football has made in a short timespan of just a few decades.

European Federation of American Football