With a little less than 24 hours before boarding a flight from Israel to get to Croatia and, specifically Umag, the manager of the new Peace Team was happy to have a short conversation and give details about the newest national team entering the Euro Cup for 2015’s tournament.
Yonatan Belik, as manager, is in arguably the best position to detail the rise of the team, as well as answering a few questions about the past, present and future and an assessment of the team’s chances in Umag.
The first question looked at the national makeup of the squad, in particular the unique criteria or otherwise relating to selection. According to Yonatan, “The Peace Team Lions are made up of two major nationalities - Israeli and Palestinian - who represent their communities in a 50/50 balance within the team. All Israelis are Jews from birth, whilst the Palestinians are made up of Christians and Muslims."
For the past four seasons in the Middle East, the Dubai Dragons have been the “Kings” of an otherwise arid jungle. Last year the club won their third flag, making them the league’s most successful club. Their tally saw them pass foundation club the Dubai Heat.
Whilst the off season has been a time for the Dragons to savour the joys of success, it has also been a time where other potential dynasties have been plotting the downfall of the Dragons.
Last year’s runners-up, the BM Bulls, might be the newest club to the league, introduced just last year, but they reached the grand final and lost. They are young but they are hungry and have used their contests with the Dragons as a measuring stick. They will be keen to avenge last year’s loss and have recruited well enough over the off season to bring about change.
In less than two weeks the AFL Middle East Pre-Season Cup will be held in Dubai at the Sevens Stadium. October 9th signals the start of the new season as teams begin to flex their sleepier muscles and brush of the cobwebs ready to see which club will be the next champion.
Last year’s Pre-Season Cup saw the Dubai Dragons play the newcomers, the BM Bulls, in the final. At the time many thought it might be a “flash in the pan” performance, yet just a few months later those same two clubs went on to contest the 2014/15 premiership. Certainly, a good performance at the pre-season event can be a guide to what might follow.
President of AFL Middle East, Matt Burn, was happy to give a bit of a run down on what followers might expect for the new season.
The newest team in the AFL Middle East stable off talent enjoyed one of the most remarkable maiden seasons in any league for the 2014/15 season. To play their first game in the pre-season cup in October 2014 and go on to be grand finalists in March 2015 shows an incredible performance in just five months.
Club President, Andrew Campbell, was involved from day one and was happy to share the story of the Bulls’ rise – as much for storytelling as it is a blueprint for development and success that other clubs may be able to replicate.
It is a week since the 2014/15 season finished in the Middle East, largely due to rest, recovery, work commitments and various celebrations. But in the clear air a week onwards, rather than the heady air of celebration or commiseration, a look back at the day tells a story of the day.
Huwy Jones, president of the victorious Dubai Dragons, provided his insight into how the day panned out.
“The Dragons had the wind in the first quarter and didn't capitalise with both sides kicking goals. Quarter time saw the Dubai Dragons 4 2 26 lead the BM Bulls 3 2 20.”
“The game turned our way during the second quarter - our five goals to one into the wind helped set up a very handy lead at half-time. Dubai Dragons 9 4 58 leading the BM Bulls 4 4 28.”
The Dubai Dragons have won their third flag in four years today when they defeated the league's newest team, the BM Bulls, today in Dubai. In a match which would re-write the history books no matter what the result, it was the Dragons that made amends for their loss last year to the Doha Kangaroos by taking the 2014/15 flag.
The final score saw the Dubai Dragons 14 4 88 d BM Bulls 7 8 50.
This result in the ultimate decider brings to a fitting end an undefeated season for the Dubai Dragons. They took out the pre-season tournament back in October, also against the BM Bulls, going though undefeated, and backed that up with a perfect record in the home and away season before putting an exclamation mark on the season with their win in Dubai today.
World Footy News will have a match review in the near future.
The biggest day on the AFL Middle East calendar is about to arrive with Friday’s 2014/15 season Grand-Final. To be played at Seven’s Stadium in Dubai, this year’s event sets up another David and Goliath type scenario as the powerhouse of recent season’s (a fourth consecutive grand-final appearance for potentially three flags takes on the newest team, the BM Bulls, in their very first season.
The match will kick off at 1.30pm, Dubai time. A decent local crowd is hoped for and expected as this becomes the newest local rivalry with two Dubai teams facing off for glory.
The all-conquering Dragons are deserving red-hot favourites, going through the pre-season and home and away fixtures undefeated. But how can anyone dismiss the efforts of the Bulls after surpassing all expectations to date in their maiden season.
Late last year the AFL Middle East competition welcomed a new team to the league with the BM Bulls becoming the third Dubai based team and a sixth team for the league. Whilst people may have dreamed of great things at the time, most felt the Bulls might need a season or two to get their rhythm and challenge for a flag.
The pre-season competition was played back in October and to the surprise of many the Bulls reached the grand-final against the Dubai Dragons. Beginners luck? Getting ahead of themselves? Playing above their station? Maybe, maybe not.
But this weekend’s final competitive round of matches saw the BM Bulls take on the in-form Dubai Dingoes for a small chance of grabbing a grand final berth. The Bulls not only needed to win, but had to make up a big percentage to do so. But, that is exactly what they managed to do in their debut season.
Not unlike Smaug, the devilishly gold driven dragon from the J.R.R Tolkein novel, The Hobbit, the Dubai Dragons are becoming fiercely protective of their glittering jewels. Whilst other teams slog it out to challenge and steal the loot, not unlike so many dwarves and hobbits, it is the Dragons that, for now, sit above all others.
Undefeated so far this season, the Dubai Dragons have already qualified for their fourth consecutive AFL Middle East grand-final, and are a red-hot chance to make it three glittering trophies in four years – their only hiccup being the loss to the Doha Kangaroos last season.
Matt Burn, President of AFL Middle East, has given a brief rundown on where the 2014/15 season currently sits.
Despite the enormous efforts of the AFL Middle east and the Oman based Clann na hOman GAA and Muscat Magpies AFL, the team has announced it will not formally continue the current season. In a blow to the Middle East competition, the Magpies will bow out and work towards a stronger club for next season and beyond.
The president of AFL Middle East, Matt Burn, released the following statement:
Unfortunately the Muscat Magpies have withdrawn from the 2014/15 season. The Magpies have struggled for numbers since the beginning of the season and sadly the situation has only become worse over the year.