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    Polish League of American football provides gridiron fix for deployed Soldiers

    The Soldiers, taking a break from training while in Poland supporting the Atlantic Resolve mission, took advantage of an opportunity to enjoy an American pastime on Saturday in Zielona Gora, Poland.
    One such Soldier, Spc. Dante Mata, an intelligence analyst assigned to Company D, 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion, said it was a great experience to interact with the Polish fans.
    “It was a fun social setting and a welcome break from the daily grind.” Mata said, “It was good to see the sportsmanship and respect the players had for one another.” Mata and other Soldiers in addition to watching the ball game, provided answers to questions as scores of fans climbed all over the HMMWV’s brought for a static display or clamored to try on and pose in ACH’s (combat helmets) and IOTV’s (protective vests). The Polish military was on hand also, providing a 23mm anti-aircraft gun for display. The event provided for a great community relations experience.
    Regardless of the outcome, both teams, Towers from the city of Opole and Wataha “Wolf Pack” from Zielona Gora, were cheered for. Cheerleaders for Wataha kept the home crowd pumped up and loud.
    The Polish LFA or Polska Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego was founded in 2006 and is comprised of two tiers with tier one being the best talent-wise. The teams were competing in the tier two championship with the winner advancing to tier one for the next season. The home team, Wataha, has enjoyed both a new facility as well as an artificial turf football field. They also have quite a sizeable following. The sport of American football has grown steadily over the years here, and this was in evidence at this weekend’s game.
    While the teams are primarily rostered with Polish players, occasionally a foreigner or in this case, an American can be found. Matt Pineda, from Austin, Texas and a graduate of Howard Payne University, is a wide receiver on the team. After experiencing the NFL combine Pineda decided to ply his skills internationally. He eventually landed with the LFA and Wataha. “I love it here.” he said. “We have great facilities and our own medics. Additionally, the fans love us.” Pineda added that the fans were quick to pick up on the game and its rules. That in part is due to a “DJ” that travels to the games and provides running commentary over the PA system as well as explains the game as it’s being played.
    A teammate of Pineda’s, Polish native offensive lineman Mateusz “Viking” Andrzejalc, has been playing for six years and loves every minute of it.
    “I am a little crazy!” When asked what his favorite American team was, Andrzejalc without hesitation, exclaimed, “the Vikings, man!”
    As far as rules go, they are pretty much the same as American football and are enforced by a crew of officials. After attending a clinic to learn how to officiate, Maciej Zoladek has been a referee for over ten years.
    “It’s not as difficult to officiate a game here because the game moves slower and the talent level is not the same as the American league.” He stated further, “We make calls to keep the players safe. Though they are getting paid to play, they have other jobs in the off-season.”
    Another American on the sidelines was the head coach for the Towers, Tim Bishop. The Scotch Plain, NJ native has been coaching football for years starting at the high school level. He has been coaching internationally for three years with teams in Italy, Portugal and most recently, Spain.
    “The team folded last season and I was asked to come coach this team.” Bishop continued, “I love it here. The club pays all the bills, and I get to travel.”
    It was obvious watching the fans in the stands that a good time was being had by all. There was the obligatory wave through the crowd and loud cheering. In the end however, there had to be a victor and unfortunately it wasn’t the home team. The Opole Towers won with a final score of 36-20. It was a pleasure to see the sportsmanship and well wishes as the teams met in the middle of the field to shake hands and watch the presentation of the championship trophy.
    Coach Bishop was especially happy.
    “Having won this championship, the club has asked me to stay on for another season!”



    Date Taken: 08.04.2018
    Date Posted: 09.28.2018 07:32
    Story ID: 288192
    Location: PL

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