American football in the UAE got a boost on Saturday as the Falcons defeated the visiting Titans of Kazakhstan 28-0, writes John McAuley.
UAE's American football Falcons fly in opening win over Titans
DUBAI // The Jebel Ali Shooting Club may not be the most obvious place for the birth of a UAE American football team, but it was here on Saturday that the work of a dedicated few offered a palpable sense of pride.
The UAE Falcons, a side comprising players from the four teams contesting the nascent Emirates American Football League (EAFL), celebrated their first official match with a resounding victory against opponents from Kazakhstan.
In truth, the visiting Titans did not portray much confidence from the outset, their numbers heavily depleted because of problems obtaining visas.
The hosts needed only the merest of invitations to take advantage, though, dominating from the outset and even using the closing stages as an opportunity to field reserves.
For Kai Trompeter, the Falcons' head coach, the success was reward for sacrifices made in establishing the national team.
The Falcons had gathered before - against Turkey in March - but this was their inaugural encounter since the local league was officially recognised by the IFAF, the sport's world governing body.
"I'm so happy with the performance," Trompeter said. "It's the first time this group played together and we had only three practice sessions. The first, on Monday, I couldn't even make as I got stuck at the airport in Germany because of the snow."
"It's a few people doing a lot of work. The EAFL was set up in September as a non-profit league and, although we have some sponsorship support, none of us get any money out of this. It's lots of time spent and Dustin Cherniawski, our general manager, does most of the work."
On the field, the busiest players were Chris Wentzel, quarterback and conductor-in-chief; Mahmoud Monem, scorer of two of the Falcons' four touchdowns; and Chris Erickson, the deadly accurate American who managed a quartet of conversions, or "point afters" in American football.
The hosts, consisting of more than 15 different nationalities, contained only two Emiratis - Atef Al Braiki and Mohammed Al Tigani - but Trompeter expects that number to increase as the team gains in reputation.
"It's building. We have four or five Emiratis overall, but I'd definitely like to have a lot more," he said.
"Yet this team is representative of the UAE, where we've a large expat community and lots of people who have been exposed to American football back in the States. But we're getting more and more interest from Emiratis."
The Falcons received a decent support on debut, taking to the pitch to Guns N' Roses' Welcome To The Jungle, although it was their Asian counterparts heading into the lion's den.
A slow first quarter was followed in the second by touchdowns from Daniel Viranyi and Monem, as Erickson took advantage with the boot.
Monem and Jamar Johnson notched two more in the third, with Erickson concluded the scoring.
The Falcons then eased off as Trompeter gave game-time to the less experienced members of his squad.
"I have to give absolute credit to Kazakhstan as they came here with a very small squad," he said.
"There was no need for us to score high if we didn't have to, so I decided to give our back-up players some experience as well."
As for the visitors, the Titans coach and captain, Sanzhar Issenhov, was pleased with the opportunity to hone their talents outside of home borders.
"We play only five times a year in Kazakhstan and never have the chance to play other countries excepts teams from Russia," he said.
"So this was a lot of fun - tough without a lot of players - but something we want to do many more times."
They will get the chance to do battle again, with the Falcons planning a trip to Kazakhstan next May.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE