It’s not a very common occurrence for something positive to evolve out of what initially seemed as a step in the wrong direction. Prior to the 2015-2016 IFL season, there was hype/rumors/talk/plans for the largest group of teams this league had ever seen. Come kickoff time, the final number was 8, and feelings drifted towards the unfortunate lack of growth for Israeli football.
However, after just more than half of the current season has passed us by with quite some intense action, the lack of expansion appears to be one of the most fortunate events in IFL history.
It’s no secret that the league is divided. There are teams that are simply stronger than others as several clubs struggle to recruit enough players or reach the competition level of the top teams in the country. The fact of the matter is that there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s still a new league, with a new sport, in a new country. No, the IFL won’t become the NFL within one or two or ten decades, but that doesn’t mean what we’re currently witnessing isn’t promising.
After just over two months, the IFL season has seen some of the best displays of football ever experienced in its short history. We’ve seen more one-score games so far this season than the entire last season combined. Teams are competing at a higher level, and despite the current standings, there is no clear-cut favorite for the IFL championship.
And of course, there’s the scheduling. Take the Ramat Hasharon Hammers as an example. Having finished in 4th last season, the Hammers were expected to have a relatively easier schedule than the top 3 teams considering their position, despite the fact that they could go toe to toe with the Pioneers, Rebels and Underdogs. Their 4th place finish would ensure them only 1 game this season against those top 3, with two games apiece versus the Lions, Troopers and Black Swarm.
But then the league dropped down to 8 teams, and Commissioner Friedman was given the incredible opportunity of creating a schedule that truly reflected the talent and power of teams in this league. The Hammers are now in the middle of the unenviable stretch of Underdogs, Rebels, Pioneers, Rebels, Lions – with the first two games having already been exciting and tough contests.
Nearly all the teams in the IFL now have schedules that are more suited to their position, and the league is undeniably flourishing. Prior to this past Thursday’s game between the Hammers and Rebels, there were five (FIVE!) teams tied with a 3-1 record, and this had Effi diving deep into the league’s tie breaker rules in order to sort out the proper standings. Now, try to tell me that having “only” eight teams in the league is a bad thing.