Football Tackles Israel

By Noah Davis 

The NFL is taking over America. Soon, it could be huge in Israel as well.

The New York Times tells the tale of the Israel Football League, a fledgling outpost for tackle football. In its fourth year, the IFL boasts 400 players, up from 80 in its first season.

If nothing else, the story provides for some wonderful ledes:

On a Thursday night early in December, Pinchas Zerbib took off his traditional cotton skullcap. In its place, he put on a polyester one. “It’s my Under Armour yarmulke,” Zerbib said. “For practice, it’s better. Plus, it’s still kosher.”

But why is Israel so well suited for a tackle football league?“It definitely helps that a lot of the guys here are 21-, 22-year-olds that just came out of the elite combat units,” Yonah Mishaan, who coaches the Jerusalem Lions, tells the Times.

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, donated money to build a stadium in Jerusalem. His financial and emotional support lead the Israelis to call their league the Kraft Family IFL.

Football won’t take over sport and basketball in terms of popularity, but it’s a growing niche. Somewhere, Roger Goodell is smiling.