Italian Football League set to launch 2022 season

The newly re-named Italian Football League (IFL), Italy’s top division, will kick off Saturday 5 March for a 13-week regular season.

The 2021 Italian top division proved to be one of the most competitive and exciting leagues that Europe had to offer. Despite countless close games the Parma Panthers managed to come out on top and go undefeated, beating the renowned Milano Seamen three times to claim the Italian Bowl.

Along with the rebranding came the addition of the Moderna Vipers and Mastini Verona, both promoted from the second league, making the IFL a nine-team league. Unlike the rest of Europe, the Italian league has remained almost entirely intact since the emergence of the magnet league, the European League of Football (ELF).

With the retention of domestic players (following some harsh player restrictions) the IFL is set to be just as exciting as last year.

Parma Panthers: 2021 record – 10-0 – Italian champions

In 2021, the Parma Panthers went on an undefeated rampage of Italy, claiming the Italian Bowl for the first time in eight years.

Leading from the front was head coach, Marc Mattioli, who utilized an array of different weapons to beat the reigning champions, Milano Seamen, three times. With an almost identical roster, expect the Panthers to again be favorites to win the league.

Milano Seamen: 2021 record – 7-3 – Italian Bowl runner-up

Winning five of the last six Italian Bowls, the Milano Seamen were hot favorites coming into the IFL in 2021. With the addition of Italian star receiver Jordan Bouah and returning QB Luke Zahradka, the cards looked set. 

But despite having the best defense in the league and an offense that averaged over 35 points a game, they fell short three times to the Panthers.

This year the Seamen have lost a few of those key domestic additions from 2021. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back after what was for them a disappointing season last year.

Firenze Guelfi: 2021 record – 4-5 – Semifinalist

Three of Guelfi’s five losses last year were decided by one score. Their unconventional offense proved difficult to handle and placed them tied first for touchdowns in the league last year, earning them a place in the playoffs last year.

The team has excelled over the last few years with high quality imports and make-shift play. Their scrappy personality will surely keep them as a playoff contender this year. If Art Briles does coach the team as announced, all bets are off. Under Briles in 2019, the Guelfi reached the championship game. 

Lazio Ducks: 2021 record – 4-5 – Semifinalist

In 2021, Lazio had one of the many outstanding receivers in the league, Matt Hazel. Under head coach Dan Pippin, the ex-NFL product averaged 140 yards per game and scored 10 touchdowns on the season. He was helped by QB Luke Casey who has since left to pursue a top-tier high school coaching job at Dematha.

Replacing Casey this year will be the QB from the European League of Football’s Berlin Thunder, Calvin Stitt.

Ancona Dolphins: 2021 record – 3-5 – Finished 5th

Ancona were unable to get consistency in the passing game last year despite having one of the league’s top defenses.

American-Italian QB Collin De Galbo will be returning this year looking to build on the success he had last year in his first year abroad. In addition to De Galbo, the team will be joined by the do-it-all Euro all-star, William James – who will return to ELF before the end of the Italian season.

Warriors Bologna: 2021 record – 2-6 – Finished 6th

The Warriors struggled to get much going last year after a week-one win against the Milano Rhinos.

Head coach Giorgio Longhi has brought in a number of new imports this year including Canadian-Italian QB Gabriel Cousineau in the hope of making a playoff run.

Rhinos Milano: 2021 record – 1-7 – Finished 7th

Despite losing nearly every game last year the Rhinos put on a show. American-Italian QB Giovanni Rescigno and the Hawaii product Jason Sharsh teamed up to be nearly unstoppable. Sharsh pulled in an eye-boggling 1,300 yards in just eight games, leading the league in almost every category. 

This was not, however, enough to win games. The team will need to address some issues. Hoping to fill some of those holes will be import linebacker Aaron Ortiz from Sioux Falls (NCAA DII).

Modena Vipers: 2021 record – 8-1 (Division 2) – Newly promoted

One of the two newly added teams are the Vipers of Modena who were all but perfect in Division 2 last year. The Vipers ranked mid-table in almost every category but still managed to knock off the top-seeded Giaguari Torino in the final game of the season.

To help them along the way in Italy’s top league, Vipers head coach Christian Nobile has signed former Ohio State QB, Danny Vanatsky. This mammoth signing turned a number of heads in Italy and will undoubtedly be on everyone’s ‘to watch’ list.

Mastini Verona: 2021 record – 7-1 (Division 2) – Newly promoted

One of the top scoring offenses in Division 2 of 2021 was the Mastini Vipers. Averaging over 35 points a game, they went undefeated before falling to the Giaguari Torino in the playoffs.

Now with former Colby College (NCAA DIII) QB Justin Ciero, the team looks to build on the success they had with a strong rushing attack to make a splash in the IFL.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who has worked in B2B journalism and comms in the third sector; with experience in both education and human rights. He played for the London Warriors for 15 years as well as Team Great Britain .