Dustin Cherniawski says the Emirates American Football League is destined for success after hosting its inaugural Arabian Gridiron Invitational in the UAE.
The EAFL has been growing in popularity since it was established in the Emirates three years ago and general manager Cherniawski believes the organisation no longer has to toss a ‘Hail Mary’ into the air and hope its caught in the end zone – they’ve already scored.
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The Arabian Gridiron Invitational saw the home team EAFL Falcons welcome Team Russia and German giants Dusseldorf Panther to the UAE for the round robin youth tournament.
Dusseldorf emerged victorious with two victories, including Friday’s 39-8 victory against the Falcons, who can be hugely content by scoring a touchdown against the champions. They had only conceded 15 points all year prior to their Middle East trip.
Dusseldorf then followed that up with a narrow 7-6 triumph against the Russians on Sunday.
The Falcons completed their tournament with a 33-6 defeat at the hands of Team Russia at 7he Sevens Stadium on Tuesday night.
“It was the first year it was held but there’ll definitely be a second tournament next year and who knows how many teams will compete,” said Cherniawski.
“There were five teams that originally entered but two were forced to pull out because of financial constraints, but it shows that the EAFL is drawing more attention from the international community.
“There’s interest in the UAE but people outside have also seen football here and seen that it’s run to a fairly high standard.
“There’s not many place outside North America that stages competitive football or has leagues, so they can see we are run well.”
The Under-17 age grade Falcons are drawn from all six of the UAE’s American football clubs, including the Abu Dhabi Scorpions, Abu Dhabi Wildcats, Dubai Barracudas, Dubai Sandvipers, Dubai Stallions and Al Ain Desert Foxes.
“It was the first year but there’ll definitely be a second next year” – Cherniawski
The league was a little lop-sided last season in favour of the Dubai clubs but Cherniawski said the youth set-up is much more competitive. “The Falcons had a good mix of all teams being represented and the youth league is one of the most exciting divisions we have, the level of competition is quite even.
“They had their work cut out against Dusseldorf who won their own league by winning 52-0 in the final. They only had 15 points scored on them all year so for us to have been 8-0 up on them was a great accomplishment.”
There are now 500 athletes playing American football in the UAE, only 40 per cent of whom are American with 53 other nationalities represented throughout the league.
“Everywhere we go we hear the same thing, that the EAFL provides an authentic American football experience,” added Cherniawski.