Touchédown – France win American Football European glory


Another trophy in French hands. France won the title on Finnish soil beating Austria in the final
Photo: IFAF

Touchédown – France win American Football European glory

by Ryan Conway

History was made in Finland on Saturday when France clinched their first ever  International Federation of American Football (IFAF) European title. Two teams went in search of a victory for differing agendas Austria were looking to banish the ghost of the previous tournament, when they were hosts and lost the Gold Medal game to Germany, while the French side ought to emulate their soccer counterparts.

It would ultimately be chunk plays on the ground and through the air, and a smothering defense in the second half that led the French to their first ever IFAF European Championship, beating the Austrians 28-14 in Vantaa.

After trailing 14-7 at half time, the French shut out their Austrian counterparts, forced mistakes from Quarterback Alexander Thury, who was limited to a meagre 85 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception and scored three times to seal their first title.

Their maiden victory in the tournament crowned a maturing process for the 2014 bronze medallists. France also avenged a defeat in the previous tournament with the win when their Head Coach Patrick Esume was powerless as Austria ran out 28-9 victors in a group clash.

The transformation from boys to men has not gone unnoticed. Speaking exclusively to Prost International, Czech Republic American Football Head Coach Romo Bonnell highlighted the growth within the camp.

“From the first game in the tournament I was quite impressed with the clutch play of the skill guys for France,” Said Bonnell, “France always has athletes in their squad, but there was a refinement to them this year that I haven’t seen before.”

The 2014 third-place unit won all their games comfortably in their run to the finals. They scored at least 21 points in every clash and had to beat hosts Finland en route.

France so often came close in previous tournaments, however Bonnell believes they have won it in perhaps the toughest way since the tournament’s inception in 1983.

“The quality of teams involved was very high,” Bonnell explained.

“Having access to film, clinic film, coaching clinics, and coaching websites has been pretty phenomenal in covering the tactical and technical gap between European and American players.”

Boasting talented players on their roster, France must hope the development of their players can be aided by the NFL’s IPPP initiative launched in 2017. France Quarterback Paul Durand passed for 225 yards and three touchdowns while their running game accounted for 146 yards. The win in the Nordic country may have got the attention of scouts in North America.

Bonnell feels the next step is to change the identity of the sport within Europe.

“Culturally, the game has to make the jump from amateur and hobby to professional before Europe will be able to truly compete with the higher levels Stateside. But the bigger clubs over here have invested in the coaching to being making that jump.”

Access to the National Football League is long, but not impossible. Now coaching for the Green Bay Packers having spent time with the Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts, Assistant Special Teams coach Maurice Drayton was the defensive coordinator for the Finland Crocodiles in 2006.

Drayton was present to witness the history unfolding and spoke to the IFAF about his journey from Europe into the NFL:

“I was working at a high school [in America]teaching, coaching and being an administrator. Then I jumped into the college ranks and just worked my way up.”

A stint at the regal-sounding The Citadel, his old team during his playing days, gave the Packers coach his first opportunity to try his hand putting together the game plan, rather than executing it.

“I did two stints at The Citadel. I was the defensive coordinator, Assistant Head Coach and Secondary coach. I was able to cut my teeth and they helped my personal maturation process to become better.”

It was at The Citadel where Drayton had a stroke of luck when he was introduced to Denver Broncos Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon.

“There’s a gentleman named Joe Whitt, we worked together at The Citadel. He introduced me to Tom [McMahon].

“After I left Finland in 2006 I did an internship with the Atlanta Falcons. Through that relationship and working hard Tom gave me the opportunity to get into the NFL. I’m very thankful.”

It would be farfetched to believe that the players will be populating NFL rosters in the immediate future. Trailblazing is after all only ever appreciated in retrospect. but who can say for definite that a future Super Bowl champions does not lie buried on a depth chart in Europe.

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