Italian Bowl XLI: Quarterbacks Luke Zahradka and Andrea Fimiani face off for national title

Today, the 2022 Italian bowl will be played in Bologna with the Milano Seamen facing off against the Firenze Guelfi to decide the Italian Football League (IFL) champions.

Leading their respective teams on offense will be quarterbacks Andrea Fimiani of the Guelfi and Luke Zahradka of the Seamen.

Italian quarterback Fimiani began his career with the division two side Blue Storms Busto Arsizio in 2008. Recognizing his talents, Fimiani decided to take the leap to division one in 2018 with the Bergamo Lions. After two years with the Lions, Fimiani decided to head south and join the up-and-coming Firenze Guelfi.

Fimiani’s football world was then turned upside down as the team was joined by one of the most prolific coaches in modern times, Art Briles.

“Everything changed with coach Briles, he’s one of the best to ever do it and of course changed the culture and the mindset of the team. He sees football differently than anyone else I’ve ever met. Being able to play in his offense is just a blessing. I love the game and all the strategies etc, so having the opportunity to work with him is fantastic.”

Previously implementing a similar offense with Silas Nacita, Briles has turned Guelfi’s offense into a nightmare for opposing defenses. Fimiani has rushed for 951 yards and 11 touchdowns and thrown for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

But the team has not been without their struggles this year.

“For me, the toughest thing I’d say is injuries. We played more than half the season without two of our three imports. But this made us stronger at the end of the day. The key for the championship will just be to execute what our coaches prepared. As I said we got one of the best to ever do it. We just gotta follow his (Briles) lead.”

Although Fimiani remains the lynchpin to the Guelfi’s success, he also makes sure to note that he is doing it more so for Florence than himself:

“The Italian championship would mean everything. No other male senior team in the history of Florence has ever won a national championship. We are doing it for the culture, it’s bigger than us.”

As contrasting as the two finalists play style are, so are their recent histories.

In recent memory no other team has been as successful as the Seamen have. Five of the last six titles have gone to the Seamen, three of which belong to Seamen quarterback Luke Zahradka.

But last year’s season was marred with three losses and eventually coming up short in the championship game. Luke has this to say on last year’s championship loss:

“I think last season’s loss in the final made the team come closer together. After three straight wins in the finals, being on the other side brought us back down to Earth. Having that “sour” taste in our mouths made us hungrier to get back to where we are now, competing in another final.”

The Seamen have been through a series of changes this year; a new head coach, new domestic and international players and a new culture:

“I think our team attitude overall has been the biggest difference. All of the players bought into the new philosophy of the coaching staff and the young guys have been stepping up all year.

Markell Castle is a big piece of the offense but the whole offense is different because we have a new system with Coach Ramler. Castle’s ability to get open forces teams to bring guys over to him which opens up matchups for our other receivers.”

And with the recent news of the Milano Seamen set to join the European League of Football next year, this may be Zahradka’s last chance to play in an Italian Bowl.

“It will be a great way to finish playing in the IFL before heading into the ELF, if that’s what the plans are for next year. Each opportunity playing in the Italian bowl is a blessing, but being on the winning side is a whole lot sweeter.”

Both quarterbacks have led the league in rushing and passing respectively. They have both acquitted themselves superbly and given the performance of a lifetime. It is almost a certainty that the Italian Bowl will reflect that today and give IFL fans what they came to see.

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.