x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE Falcons are ready to shelve the scrimmages and make contact

The country's only American football team has lined up matches with two teams, from Egypt and Turkey, at The Sevens.

Tryouts for the UAE Falcons took place in September 2010 at Safa Park in Dubai.
Tryouts for the UAE Falcons took place in September 2010 at Safa Park in Dubai.

Finally. Someone else for the UAE Falcons to hit.

The nation's only American football team will play squads from Egypt and Turkey at the Dubai Sevens ground on March 3 and March 17, respectively, team organisers said, marking the first official games for the Falcons after more than a year spent knocking over each other.

"We have had six or seven scrimmages with no holding back," said Kai Trompeter, the German coach of the Falcons. "But that is not the same as playing another team. Now we can really let our emotions out."

The Falcons are a multinational group of aficionados of the "other" football, the American brand, which celebrates speed, strength and violent collisions. The majority of the team's 40 active players hail from the Middle East, Trompeter said, and among them are four Emiratis.

Their first game will be against an Egyptian team, probably the champion of a four-team league based there, and the second will be against the Mersin Mustangs, who come from southern Turkey. The Falcons are paying for the air travel and lodging of 32 players and coaches for each game. Trompeter estimates that airfare, alone, will cost the Falcons Dh60,000 for each game.

The idea, however, is to develop the game in the country by exposing it to those who have never seen it, aside from on television, and the Falcons consider the expense of bringing in opponents to be a worthwhile investment, potentially leading to a major commercial sponsor.

The games will feature the full American football experience, said Karyn Macdonald, the sponsorship and events manager for the Falcons.

"We're trying to make the event as authentic as possible, with a tailgate party and a food-truck sponsor, and some girls who've gotten together to form a cheerleading team for us," she said. "We will try to show everyone what's it all about, as well as appealing to a big demographic here - Arabs and Indians who have been exposed to the game while at school in the US."

The Falcons continue to train three times per week, in Dubai, and Trompeter's analysis of the talent on hand, which features several big linemen, is taking him in the direction of a run-first, pass-second team.

"Our strategy will be 'ground and pound', a good running game, keeping it basic, and maybe some play-action passing later in the game, when we might get more adventuresome," he said.

"We're taking a very professional approach because we have a core group who can really play, NFL Europe-level, six or seven guys like that. But some guys have little experience, and teaching the fundamentals and strategy, we are very limited on the offensive schemes."

Perhaps the most-experienced member of the Falcons is Dustin Cherniawski, a safety and player-coach who spent time with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.

Macdonald is optimistic that the Falcons can attract crowds of 1,000 fans to each game, and is especially interested in bringing in some who are less familiar with the game. "We hope to get as much exposure as possible because this is new, and a first for the UAE," she said.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae