x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

EAFL’s Abu Dhabi Wildcats prepare to share territory

Steve Elling reports on the second Emirates American Football League to be launched in the capital, the Abu Dhabi Scorpions.

The Abu Dhabi Wildcats, in black, have won both Desert Bowl titles. Christopher Pike / The National
The Abu Dhabi Wildcats, in black, have won both Desert Bowl titles. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // In the two years of the Emirates American Football League’s existence, the Abu Dhabi Wildcats have twice hoisted the championship trophy after winning the year-end Desert Bowl.

Having despatched foes from Dubai and Al Ain in consecutive seasons, there is a new threat on the horizon as player registration opens for the third EAFL season.

A threat that is originating in their own backyard.

Starting this autumn, Abu Dhabi will field two teams after the league announced the creation of the Abu Dhabi Scorpions for the 2014/15 season. Dubai has had two teams, the Stallions and Barracudas, since the league’s inception in 2012/13.

League commissioner Dustin Cherniawski is expecting 60 or more players to register from the Abu Dhabi area this year, which is too many for one team and will end the Wildcats’ city-wide player ­monopoly.

“If you are the Wildcats, you love that you had one team, because all the talent comes to you,” Cherniawski said yesterday. “That’s probably one of the reasons they are back-to-back champions.

“Definitely, there is room to grow. A team with 50 guys on it, that 50th guy is never going to see the field. That’s too many players.”

From a balance standpoint, there has been some muttering among the Dubai-based EAFL players about how the city was forced to separate players into two teams, while Abu Dhabi threw all of its talent into a single, undiluted squad.

Former Wildcats assistant coach and offensive co-ordinator Jim McGrath will coach the Scorpions, which ought to make for an interesting rivalry.

The Scorpions, who fielded teams at the youth level last year, bring the number of teams in the men’s division to five. Cherniawski said a team in Sharjah could be added if the registration, which has begun, is sufficient in the northern Dubai area.

Because the five-team format will create bye weeks and the potential for too much time between games, the league will expand the regular-season schedule from six games, the number played in each of the first two seasons, to 10 this season.

In another first, teams this season switched to an autonomous club structure, with each side having a president, secretary, registrar and equipment manager – relieving some of the administrative pressure from the league office in Dubai.

Each club fields multiple teams in various junior age-group levels, too. Registration information is posted at the league website, EAFL.com.

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