Thrills & Controversy Aside, American Football is at Home in Europe

In June 2014, the European Championship of American football title game between Germany and Austria set a standard that will be hard to match in future tournaments. Germany downed the Austrian national team 30-27 in Innsbruck, Austria in front of 27,000 wildly cheering fans with a huge European and worldwide TV and online audience watching. The game went into double overtime and both teams traded punches and never gave up. In the end, the discipline of the German team may have been the final, deciding factor as Austria took a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties in the second overtime with Germany on Austria’s four yard line giving the Germans six attempts to score, which they did to win 30-27.

John Leijten, head coach of the Dresden Monarchs in Germany’s top league and Team Australia, and former NFL Europe coach wrote a compelling account of the tournament which bears reading again.

The 2014 European Championship was a great tournament and raised the bar for future events…it had to go into double overtime….you can’t ask much more then that!

The 2014 Eat the Ball European Championship for A Group countries came to an end in thrilling fashion. Just like with other European Championships or World Championships there was a big difference in the level of all six participants. Germany, Austria, France, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. This doesn’t mean that any of the six nations didn’t give everything they had. Preparation for football on this level takes a lot of hard work, time away from family and friends, the sacrifices the players and staffs make are huge. Living up to expectations, under performing and over performing was all part of the 2014 European Championships of American Football. These top six nations in Europe were represented for sure.

Penalties controversial or not?

Controversy was also part of the tournament’s final game. Or was it only the appearance of controversy? Apparently both teams were warned about the strict enforcement of the unsportsmanlike conduct rule in the final. Both teams had penalties called against them in regulation. Both teams also had multiple opportunities to put the game out of reach early.

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Did the coaches of Team Germany get through to their players just a little bit quicker then Team Austria and adapt more quickly to these strict interpretations? Maybe the European players shouldn’t watch and mimic the NFL players. As we know the rules are a little different in the NFL where the “look at me” behavior is a commonplace.

Let’s say these fouls were holding penalties and it would have been the difference between a completed pass or a sack. Would we still have a controversy? Both teams would have had a similar warning, “’listen, we are going to put an emphasis on holding today, you are warned.” Do we blame the referees for making the call or the players committing the foul? I have been on both ends so I have an idea of how it feels to be in those situations. Nothing you can say or do to make it right if you are on the opposite end of the call!

You should never blame the loss of a game on the bad decision making of referees. The bottom line is that Team Germany made less mistakes then Team Austria when it counted the most. Team Austria started slow but came back with everything they had and gave us the most exciting final game in European Championship history.

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I seriously doubt that the 27,000 spectators in Ernst Happel Stadium really knew what was going on at the end, just like all the people around the world who watched the ORF Sport + live stream or watched Eurosport. It wasn’t Europe’s finest American Football moment but it should not take away from the spectacular job the organizing committee has done or what the teams have shown us on the field. It was a great tournament that has raised the bar for future events. The game was so close that it had to go into double over time to get a winner. You can’t ask much more then that.

In the early 2000’s I  scouted Sweden v. Austria just as Austria had started their march into Europe’s A Group. That game Austria lost to a better Swedish team but from this moment on they have been constantly improving and not just their National team. We already know they have two of the best club teams in Europe (Swarco Raiders, Vienna Vikings), and  Team Austria will show up at the 2015 Stockholm World Championships more determined then ever and have put all teams on notice with their play this year…

And how about the great work of the AFBOE? Great league, great development of their players, great national team, lots of football spectators, the AFBOE is working their plan and doing it well! 

Congratulations to all six teams, American Football is still improving in Europe and the quality of the 2014 Eat the Ball European Championship has proven this!

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John Leijten
John is the current Head Coach of the Dresden Monarchs (Germany) and the Head Coach of the Australian National team, as well as the former LB coach of the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe.
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