IFAF European Championships: New HC Max Sommer leads Team Austria into a new era

The talent-rich country of Austria is home to a strong tradition of American Football national teams of all ages.

Recent success on the men’s side has come in the form of two recent IFAF European silver medals. One in 2014 and narrowly missing out on gold in 2018. However, the international powerhouse took a step back as they were upset by the Italian national team back in October of 2019. The IFAF European championship preliminary round loss devastated the second-seeded Austrians as they seemed poised for gold in 2020.

Now, after nearly two years of Covid-19 pandemic-related postponements, a revamped Team Austria looks to bounce back and return to its former glory against Serbia this Saturday. The winner of that game will face Denmark in a battle to decide the tournament’s fifth-place finisher in October.

Leading the charge for the new look Austrian team is young and vibrant coach Max Sommer. Sommer takes the role of Austrian head coach with the departure of former Swarco Raiders coach Shuan Fatah to the Berlin Adler. The energetic 33-year-old has been an assistant and prominent youth coach with both the Austrian national team and Graz Giants. The first-year head coach will be supported by defensive coordinator Chris Calaycay (head coach of the Vienna Vikings) and offensive coordinator Ivan Zivko (Vienna Vikings offensive line coach). Sommer and his experienced coaching staff look to build a winner for years to come.

Austria’s new head coach commented on the culture he wants to build within the proud national team:

It is my vision that our national team will again become a permanent and successful part of the Austrian football and sports landscape. We want to establish a culture in which every football player in Austria carries the national team with pride in their hearts and in which the “we” stands before the “me”.

Head coach Max Sommer address his team during march camp. Photo: AFBO

Coach Sommer’s offense features athletic quarterback Alexander Thury. Thury quarterbacked Austria to a silver medal back in 2018 and has been a fixture on the Austrian national team for years. Behind Thury, running back Florian Wegen will no doubt get the lion’s share of the carries. The stocky runner is coming off of a phenomenal 2021 season where he led the Austrian Football League in rushing. Thury’s receivers include proven veterans such as Adrian Platzgummer and 2021 League MVP Phillip Haun. However, newcomers are expected to contribute as well, none more so than 20-year-old receiver Marco Schneider. 5’9″ slot receiver was recently given the AFL’s Young Breakout Star Award after a great season with the Swarco Raiders. Up front, the offensive line will feature a duo of Vienna Vikings in Michael Hinterwirth-Haider and Georg Marx.

Quarterback Alexander Thury at national team camp Photo: AFBO

Austria’s veteran quarterback Thury on the team’s potential following training camp:

“The team is set on a very good course, we are on our way to becoming the best Austrian team there has ever been. That’s our goal. We want to be the best possible version of ourselves. Whoever we cross paths with we want to beat them.”

Graz Giants linebacker Thomas Schnurrer is a key player to watch on this defense. the young linebacker recently led the Austrian league in tackles for the third season in a row. Schnurrer is expected to be a building block of this defense for years to come. In the secondary, Luis Horvath and Florian Albrecht are both talented players to build around for the future. The two young defensive backs have shown the ability to cover and tackle well over the years, making them prominent defenders on their rival clubs. Middle linebacker Thomas Schnurrer commented on what is means to wear red and white:

Linebacker Thomas Schnurrer at National Team Camp Photo: AFBO

“It means a lot to me personally to be part of the national team. That can never be taken for granted because there are a lot of good players in Austria. The atmosphere in the team is great, we are focused on one goal and we have a lot of fun doing it. This national team has the potential to achieve great things. “

After 22 months away from the field the team’s first test will be against a physical Serbian team this Saturday in Vienna.  The rebuilt team Austria is eager to finish this year’s tournament on a high note and move their program towards greater heights. The intriguing mix of savvy vets and promising youngsters gives Austria’s new coaching staff an optimistic feeling about the future of the historic program. Coach Sommer’s team looks to use the rest of this year’s tournament to build for the 2023 IFAF European championships where they will have their eyes dead set on gold.

Click here to see Austria’s 50 man roster for Saturday’s matchup vs Serbia

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football