|Image c/o Sport360|
After a grueling first season that has seen teams for the first time in the UAE participate in an organised league, the playoffs come to a close this Friday - March 8 - and only one team can take home the first ever Desert Bowl and mark their name in Emirati American football history.
The playoffs have already thrown up thrills and spills after two heart-stopping semi-final games that saw the Abu Dhabi Wildcats controversially avoid a shock defeat to the Al Ain Desert Foxes, while the Dubai Stallions marked out their championship credentials with a huge win over local rivals Barracudas.
Starting off as a fledgling idea from a few American football enthusiasts, the league has blossomed, attracting fans every week, gaining new sponsorships and creating the much needed story lines that propel any league anywhere in the world.
Story lines have been thick and fast both on and off the pitch from the start of the season.
The Abu Dhabi Wildcats won all six of their regular season games to stamp their mark on the league while the Dubai Stallions kept a clean sheet in their first four games.
The Desert Foxes needed five games to get their first win before they were cruelly dumped out of the playoffs after a controversial refereeing call on a touchdown conversion that would have seen the league’s underdogs take a late lead against the undefeated Wildcats.
There have been other controversies too, such as the forfeited game between the Stallions and the Wildcats after the former were unable to pull a team together while others have been more playful, such as the athletic play of quarterback Chris Wentzel and the celebration antics of Saeed Suleiman, all of which can be viewed on the EAFL Facebook page.
Held at the Jebel Ali Shooting Club Centre of Excellence, the EAFL has made watching football in the UAE a reality and something to be truly enjoyed.
The tireless general manager of the league, Dustin Cherniawski, gives entertaining and insightful in-game commentary over the centre’s speaker system while refreshments are served on the premises – including some extremely delicious shwarma that is personal favourite of this reporter.
Merchandise of each team are in plentiful supply so you can adorn yourself in your favourite team’s colours.
For American Football obsessives and well wishers, the Emirates American Football junior and senior league finals are all being played on Friday, with the Stallions taking on the Wildcats in the senior final at 1pm before the Wildcats play the Barracudas in the junior league finals.
The highlight will be the Desert Bowl, kickoff at 4.30pm. Reason enough to head to the venue.