The Warsaw Eagles are making the five hour trip to Vilnius, Lithuania today to face the Vilnius Iron Wolves in the first American football game to be played in Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Europe and the world in mid-March.
Warsaw is traveling to Lithuania with a 41 man roster but more than half – 22 – are 21 years of age and younger.
These two teams faced each other in an international exhibition in 2019 with Warsaw coming out with an easy 38-0 victory.
The Iron Wolves were only formed four years ago, in 2016, and have played mostly exhibition and international friendlies since then. Many of the players began their football careers at that time.
Players to keep an eye on for Vilnius including starting quarterback Marius Žaganevičius (#2). He was the team’s offensive MVP in 2019. Wide receiver Tomas Kačinskas (#4) is more of the veteran having been introduced to the game while studying in England. Although only 5’6″, he is a deadly offensive threat especially in the red zone and his experience is critical. Former professional dancer, running back Bartas Sangavičius, (#33) can surprise out of the backfield as can Marius Vaitkus (#13). Although listed as a wide receiver he can play running back and even linebacker. Russian lineman Kirill Ovsiannikov (#75) acts as a playing coach and is the team’s defensive coordinator.
The Eagles are one of the most successful teams in Poland over the past decade and a half. Since 2008, Warsaw has reached the final three times winning it once (2008), reached the semifinals seven times and won a split title in 2018.
According to a team spokesman, Warsaw is sending basically their U21 team with some rookies, new and players returning from injuries older than 21.
“We got the invitation from the Iron Wolves around month ago and at that time borders were closed and we had just returned to practice in small groups under government restrictions.”
This will be the first game after the lockdown and some of the Warsaw players who have health concerns, live with family members in a high risk group or have other issues related to the post lockdown economy situation in Poland are not on the trip and will return to team practices at a later date.
“This is a unique situation and we want to give the players the option to play and take care of their private lives too. We are still waiting for solid info as to whether and in that case when a short/mini season will start in Poland but at the same time we are working on other exhibition games for the senior team and mini camps for our junior team.”
Warsaw Eagles Team Roster