The busy international fall American football season kicks off this weekend in Europe as Belgium’s national team – the Belgian Barbarians – will play host to Team Slovakia Saturday in Ostend, Belgium in the Treasure Cup. For the Belgians, this will be the first of three games the team will play over the course of the next eight weeks.
The Barbarians are preparing for their important IFAF Europe qualifier against Holland in October. Belgium has already played a game earlier this year against Team Kuwait, defeating them easily in Kuwait.
Slovakia is playing their first contest in two years in preparation for their qualifier against Switzerland September 26.
Belgian head coach Lee Rosky has assembled and experienced staff which includes co-offensive coordinators Pauwel Depreitere and Alan Verbraeken, running backs coach Christof Lauriers and offensive line coach Andreas Bröckers, co-defensive coordinators Peter Haest and Jean-Marc Bottin, defensive backs coach Christophe Olenaed and special teams coach Georgy Baudart.
The Barbarians played one game in 2014 losing to Holland in the Treasure Cup and then traveled to Kuwait earlier this year and won handily. After this game they will face Poland in September and finally play Holland in a qualifier for IFAF Europe Group B competition.
Rosky is optimistic:
“We have had 10-12 good practices and even though the players have not played a full game since the end of the Belgian season in June, they are excited to step on the field on Saturday.
“We had 100 players try out for the team and the roster we have is as good as it gets in Belgium. We look at these upcoming three games as the early steps in building a solid program.”
Starting quarterback Tomasz Firstz is very versatile according to Rosky.
“Tomasz is a hybrid. He can sit back in the pocket and throw or he can take off with the ball as well.
“He is a true leader and the other players look to him to set the tone.”
Running back Arkadi Meerschout is dangerous and a veteran of the national team as is wide receiver Ruben De Ruyter. The offensive line is anchored by center Daren Wonke.
On defense Belgium relies on defensive lineman Stijn Dossche who played in Germany for the Marburg Mercenaries before moving back to Belgium with the Ostend Pirates. Linebacker Frederic Casteels plays in the GFL2 in Germany with the Cologne Crocodiles.
Slovakia arrives in Belgium without having played a game since 2013 when they lost to the Czech Republic 38-6. Nevertheless, the coaching staff, led by head coach Greg Anderson, a former NFL player with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, is experienced and gives the team reason to have confidence going into this game.
Anderson’s staff includes defensive coordinator Jaymes Regualos, linebacker coach Phillip Hilderbrand and defensive line coach Dadrian WIlliams Eason. Anderson runs the offense and is assisted by Ray Bradley, running backs coach and Jeff Thompson who handles quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Quarterback Boris Butora is a seasoned veteran on Team Slovakia and his favorite receiver, who also plays quarterback, Patrik Slusny, has good speed and excellent body control.
Defensively, Slovakia relies on defensive end Tomaz Szarka, who is relentless. Linebacker Marek Ruman is known for his football IQ and is always around the ball.
Slovakia’s national team program is young, only five years old, so this tune-up game will be a litmus test to determine if they are ready to take a step up in Europe.