The Emirates American Football League (EAFL) Falcons didn’t return home from the Pop Warner Super Bowl having claimed the top spot, but they did leave quite an impression on their fellow international competition.
After going a combined 0-5 in their trip to Orlando, Florida, last year, the Falcons’ Under-15 and Under-13 squads each finished this year’s tournament with a 3-3 record.
The U13 team came second out of three teams, while the U15 side earned third place out of five.
A first-place finish wasn’t needed to further the UAE’s reputation as a youth football programme in the eyes of their opponents.
“Toward the end of the tournament, the teams that beat us would celebrate like they won the Super Bowl,” said Patrick Campos, coach of the U15s.
“We had begun to strike some fear in their hearts and went from being the easy out to one of the legitimate contenders.
“The takeaway for the players is that they were competitive with everyone. They weren’t necessarily the biggest team in terms of size or numbers, but our guys could go out there and compete toe-to-toe.
“They’ve gained a lot of confidence and they’re beginning to really appreciate what the EAFL and Falcons programme has accomplished.”
As impressive of a showing as they had, the Falcons could have done even better if they didn’t have to play multiple games per day following the long flight across the globe, according to Campos.
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The travel appeared to affect both teams, especially on the first day when they lost by a combined 54-0 in their second games after each recorded a shutout in the opener.
“Jetlag really was an issue. You look at the late timeslot and that was a killer. Both of our teams were extremely exhausted,” Campos said.
The Falcons, who were able to make the trip thanks to the support of Emirates Airline, generated interest from opposing teams for future tournaments, whether they’re played in the UAE, Canada or Mexico.
For the EAFL, the hope is to create their own version of the Pop Warner Super Bowl international competition, expanding on the tournament they hosted in October with Dusseldorf.
Campos said: “This really helps us to do that and when they look outside of North America, they’re like, ‘Look, there’s something going on over there in the UAE.’”