For the first time, Optima Sports Park in Schwäbisch Hall will be the scene of an active final on Saturday (17.00). The Unicorns want to defend their title in the CEFL and expect the reigning Italian champions, who, however, will not be able to defend their national title as they lost 14:19 in the semi-final to Guelfi Florence last weekend. Thus, the CEFL final is the last match of the season for Parma. The Unicorns, four-time German champions, are just at the start of the German Football League (GFL) season.
The Unicorns coaching team around head coach Jordan Neuman spent hours watching and analyzing video footage of the opponent. The CEFL semifinals were of particular interest as the Parma Panthers defeated the Calanda Broncos in Chur 21: 9. “Parma is a very strong defensive team,” said the Haller head coach, classifying the opponent. “Of their eleven starters in defense, seven or eight are Italian internationals.” After all, Italy is the reigning European football champion. Offensively, the Parma Panthers mainly rely on the running game. Quarterback Brook Bolles is of particular importance because he is very mobile and does not hesitate to run himself. The Haller defense must adapt to this.
Strict immigration rules
The expectation among the halls is enormous. “This is now our fifth Europa Cup match. So we have already gained some experience,” reports head coach Jordan Neuman. He would not stress that if there was no reason for it. Because in CEFL there is a different, much stricter immigration regulation than in GFL. The term “alien regulation” is almost misleading. Because it’s more about players with college experience. These are usually Americans. A maximum of three is allowed on match day list, but only if both teams list three of those players in their preliminary 55-man list, as both teams reported last Tuesday. This squad will then be reduced to 45 men at the final.
Although the Panthers have three American players with college experience in their ranks, one of them was injured in the semifinals against Florence. The Italians reported only two, so it is clear that the Unicorns can only play two players with college experience.
Quarterback Reilly Hennessey, who has Italian ancestors and therefore also has an Italian passport, has a permanent seat. He knows Parma well, having played there before moving to Hall. The same goes for tackle Alessandro Vergani and cornerback Giuseppe Della Vecchia. For tactical reasons, Jordan Neuman does not want to reveal who takes second place with college experience.
The Unicorns expect a close match, similar to the semi-final against the French representative Flash de la Courneuve, whose final result of 35:21 does not really reflect the course of the game. Unlike last year, when the Unicorns had to play away at Swarco Raiders Tyrol in the final, this time they enjoy a home advantage. “It’s something special. We’ve hoping for a lot of spectators and, above all, loud spectators,” said Jordan Neuman.
More than 2000 fans will probably follow the Europa Cup final in the sports park. The CEFL final will also be broadcast live on the sportdeutschland.tv platform.
Central European Football (CEFL) is a privately organized Europa Cup that has become increasingly important over the years. It was founded in 2006 under the name Southeastern European League of American Football and was originally a competition for teams from Serbia and Slovenia. Gradually, more and more teams joined, so the name was eventually changed to CEFL. In 2022, 13 teams, including nine national champions, participated in the CEFL.