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Small Country Big Dreamer

As a kid who grew up dreaming about playing at the next level and doing what I love, it all felt like, any second, now, someone was going to wake me up. Moving alone to a different country away from home where I didn't speak the language took a lot of courage which, till this day, I still don't know where I got it from. I had to leave my friends and family behind which was hard, but they all supported me and my dream.

You know what they say, "signing day is the most amazing day in your life...until you need to start working!". Playing abroad as an import was no joke at all. You are up against people who are quicker, smarter, and stronger than you, but because of the coaches and local friends you meet wherever you go, you receive the support that you need in order to perform at a high level and play the game in the best way possible.

For the life of an import, you wake up in the morning, go to the gym, after the gym you eat and watch film, finish with film and go to practice, finish with practice and reflect on what you could have done better to improve your game and your skills. This day-to-day was no different from what I had expected coming in to play pro football.

This grind, It's all worth it when you got to game day; standing and playing in front of a big crowd was a brand new thing for me and, at first, it was a bit overwhelming at first, but it all went away the moment the whistle blew. I learned that no matter where you go and what level you play, it is always important to enjoy the path and to enjoy the people you meet along the way; it's a great joy to meet people who are different from you and from which you can learn so much.

When the opportunity came to me I took it without even thinking! Go and play on a bigger stage? Yes please. This was an opportunity to learn from coaches and players that could help me improve my game as a player as well as for me to go back later in life and help improve the sport in Israel. It was the opportunity to travel around and do what I love and meet new people. Finally, as the first Israeli ever to play in one of the toughest leagues (German Football League) in Europe, it opened the door for others to do like me. How many people can come and say they made history at the age of 21?

Football culture in Israel is growing to be something great that will develop high quality players one day, mark my words ;). The football culture in Israel is divided in two. The first group are the people who play as a hobby. The second are the players that really want to develop themselves and make it in Europe. The balance between those two groups is working well and it's interesting to see the way everything is work together and forming into a beautiful organization. And as time goes on you get to know more of us out there; there's me, playing around Europe and there's coach Ariel Back. The latter of which coached in the ELF and won a championship with the Vikings. He is also coaching in the upcoming season for the Panthers. The AFI (American Football In Israel) is creating a lot of amazing events and working on many big projects to help catapult the sport to a whole different level both at the national and international levels; but, this all will take some time.

I play with the Israeli flag sticker behind my helmet because I am proud of my country and will always try my best to remember where I'm from. I am receiving a lot of comments. However, roughly 90% of the time those comments actually come in the form of questions, people wanting to know more about a guy who served his country for three years in the army. To Those people, I will be more than happy to grab a beer or coffee and have a nice conversion and try my best to answer any question and represent my country. It is important for me to remember that for a lot of people I'm the first person they've met from Israel, so I need to represent it in the best way possible.

This game offers opportunities and teaches a lot. The first lesson it has taught me is that of the importance of connections. Luckily, I have a few friends around Europe that can help me develop players and "put Israel on the map" and sign players to come play and develop in some of the clubs. This can help benefit both the clubs and the players Once the player is finished playing and improving, he can come back and play or help coach in Israel. By doing this, the level of Israeli football becomes better and better. For example, we, as a collective, want to do some joint clinics for both Israeli players and coaches to learn from experienced coaches, as well as for coaches to see if they want to sign any of the Israeli players. Israel football is going to be something big in a few years.

I'll leave you with this, being the first Israeli to play professional football is an amazing experience and I am more than happy to be the player that opened the door for a lot of other young players. I feel like, for a lot of years the Israeli league was under the radar. Now, teams around Europe are starting to understand that there are a lot of players and coaches from Israel that can play at a high level and compete in high level leagues around the world. It's my absolute pleasure to be the first one to show it for you all.

Omer Kazarnovski.


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