CEFL returns after a two year hiatus with a different looking Milano Seamen and Swarco Raiders

For all those even slightly aware of European American football, two names will have stood out for the last decade – the Swarco Raiders and Milano Seamen.

Both teams have been regulars in European Top 10 rankings but have markedly different Central European Football League tournament records. On the one hand, the Raiders have never lost a CEFL game since entering the tournament in 2017, while the Seamen on the other, have never even won one.

These two rivals square off against each other in the opening weekend of CEFL play.

Swarco first entered the CEFL tournament in 2017 in what most deemed as a late entry as they had been top runners in Europe for years before. Their debut performance resulted in a win against the Wroclaw Panthers 33 – 20 – in which Sean Shelton started. The team has since gone from strength to strength and cemented themselves as a dominant force in the CEFL with their latest win coming in the way of a 46 – 42 nail-biter against the Calanda Broncos back in 2019. 

The Seamen’s journey has been different to say the least. After a perfect 10 – 0 season back in 2018, and a national championship, Milano finally felt like they could compete with the big boys on the international stage. Their opener against Swarco was not the baptism they were looking for however as even a dominant duo in Luke Zahradka and Xavier Mitchell could not keep the Raider tide that engulfed them in a 50 – 23 defeat. The Seamen had lost their mojo and in the next game fell to the Thonon Black Panthers 42 – 7 in what would be their last CEFL matchup until COVID-19 hit.

The win column in the CEFL is the only place the two teams differ though. Both have stayed dominant in their respective countries of Austria and Italy with similar setups. The quarterbacks –  Luke Zahradka for the Seamen and Shelton Shelton for the Raiders – have provided stability and a high level of play leading each to national championships with a strong supporting cast of domestic talent. Both have also recently lost to league rivals in close games while being ranked favorites to win it all. And finally both have fast and physical defenses that force turnovers regularly.

Domestic teams on the wrong end of a battering will usually drop the line “they have all the best players”, and in the Raiders’ and Seamen’s case, it’s true. Both teams do a stellar job recruiting and manage to entice players like Milano linebacker Enzo Mensah. Enzo, who started his playing career in Bolzano for the Giants, knows that there is no love lost between the two teams and that the Seamen are eager to redeem themselves from the loss they suffered two years ago at the hands of the Raiders:

For me the decisive factor will be the intensity and the technique, whoever has the most will to win. We are hungry, we have been waiting for this game for two years now and nothing can hinder us or distance us from our revenge. I am a new member of the team and I even more want to compare myself with one of the strongest teams in Europe, and show who I am.

On the receiving end of Mensah’s physical play will be the young receiver and running back, Marco Schneider, who has electrified the Austrian league so far this season, positioning himself as one of the most exciting players to watch in European football.

But the 19 year-old has a cool head:

We gotta treat everybody at every position with the same level of respect. So I don’t want to call a position group out here, just be focused and most importantly never underestimate somebody. I think it’s gonna be the team who wants it more. Giving Sean a bit more time and we’ll be good. We have good RB’s who can run the ball and have receivers with safe hands.

Do not expect the same scoreline this time around as the Seamen team has stayed remarkably intact since the contest two-years ago, with some notable additions such as Enzo and offensive mercenary Jordan Bouha, who has torn the league up since he returned to Italy. But most importantly will be the 15 starters the Raiders are missing due to injury which will have nothing short of astronomical impact on the game.

Make sure to catch the game this weekend on AFI.tv.


Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.