Merely eight months after the Emirates American Football League (EAFL) was born, the league boasts 220 players and 23 coaches spread across four men’s teams, three high school teams, and three youth teams.
If you haven’t been to the Jebel Ali Center of Excellence to catch a game, you’re missing out on a heavy dose of Americana – hot dogs, soda pops, merchandise tents, half-time sponsor give-aways, a DJ, video cameras, photographers, and a play-by-play announcer are all there. The only thing missing are the cheerleaders.
“We plan to have cheerleaders for next season,” says league General Manager, Dustin Cherniawski.
Just two weeks ago in Desert Bowl I, the Abu Dhabi Wildcats became champions at the men’s league and high school league levels. The Junior Dubai Barracudas took top spot in the 9-13 age bracket.
The brain child of former Canadian Football League (CFL) linebacker, Dustin Cherniawski and German Football League (GFL) receiver Kai Trompeter, the EAFL has quickly become the must-watch sport in the UAE.
With expansion plans in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi underway, the EAFL currently looks like this:
Dubai Barracudas : Men / Seniors/ Juniors
Dubai Stallions: Men / Seniors / Juniors
Abu Dhabi Wildcats: Men / Seniors / Juniors
Al Ain Desert Foxes: Men
Game day features a high school division which has produced some of the most exciting games of the year and top talent for the men’s league to draw on.
“The vision is a blend for achieving local and international goals – to develop the ‘new’ sport among the residents while also fueling a national squad,” said EAFL Commissioner Kai Trompeter.
The league contains players from more than 35 nationalities, including Sheikh Khalid Al Qasimi from the Sharjah royal family and several other Emiratis. Yet another healthy sign for the league is that roughly half the players have experience from leagues in the US and Europe.
The league was further consolidated in August 2012 with the EAFL becoming officially recognized by the International Federation of American Football (IFAF).
“We had a vision of bringing full-contact American football to the UAE on a level that appeals to anyone, from beginners to experienced players,” noted Cherniawski, “and we have achieved exactly that.”
We are currently recruiting players at all three levels with a focus on the high school league.”
“The youth league is already developing some outstanding players which will pay dividends in the future. There is no doubt that some of our athletes could play at a higher level and I suspect a few of them will”
Nick Ballew (RB – Stallions) and Andrew Williams (RB – Wildcats) are two of the top players in our league and benefit from regular competitive games. Both of them have applied to American colleges – Ballew with his eye set on University of Tennessee and Williams hoping for Virginia Tech”