Each week, AFL Europe in combination with Belushi’s will take a look at one of our star players competing in fixtures across the continent in Player Spotlight.
A casual game of Ultimate Frisbee with a few friends is where Yonatan’s Wengrowicz’s was first introduced to Australian Football, and within just a few weeks, he was in love with the game.
Yonatan was playing Ultimate Frisbee with Shir Shalev, the current Tel Aviv Cheetah’s captain, another Cheetah’s player Hadar Moran and a few other friends when the majority of them had to leave to get ready for a university test.
With just Shir, Hadar and Yonatan left, they stopped playing their game and noticed a group of people playing around with a football.
“At the time, we thought it was football [soccer] and so we just joined them,” Wengrowicz said.
He thought it was an interesting one-off experience, but didn’t think too much about it after. However, Shir loved it and started to train with the team, the Jerusalem Peace Lions based in Israel.
“He [Shir] started to train with the team on a regular basis and became a part of the team. A few weeks before the 2017 Euro Cup tournament in Bordeaux, France, he convinced me to join him for a session, and that’s how I joined the team. After the tournament in Bordeaux, I fell in love with footy,” Wengrowicz said.
However, that trip to Bordeaux very nearly didn’t happen.
Yonatan was trekking around Granada in Spain with a cousin before the 2017 Euro Cup. He hadn’t booked his flight to France before his trek, so when he found some Wi-Fi, he ordered the cheapest flight he could find, which included two connections in Madrid and London.
“Because of the poor reception, I booked the flight very quickly and didn’t notice that I would arrive and depart London from separate airports,” he said.
“I discovered it only upon my arrival to London and then I had to rush like crazy in order to catch the flight and make it to the 2017 Euro Cup!”
After his first Euro Cup in 2017, Yonatan then played in last year’s tournament in Cork, Ireland.
It was there that he fulfilled his best achievement in his career to date, with the Tel Aviv Cheetah’s (playing as a national squad) winning their first game of the Cup by six points over the Czech Republic.
“It was the last game of the day, after we lost all the previous games, and we were exhausted. After the match we sang and danced in the rain like we had won the championship,” he said.
One of the more entertaining aspects of playing Australian Football in Europe is trying to explain the game to people who don’t know what it is.
While the sport is bigger in places such as Ireland and England, it’s still growing in countries such as Israel, so when Yonatan gets asked what he plays, it can be a bit confusing.
“When I tell people I’m playing Australian Football they immediately ask: “Do you mean rugby?” Sometimes I have the patience to explain to them the difference but I’ve found the explanation that satisfies them most is ‘[Australian Football] is a kind of mixture between soccer and rugby’,” Yonatan said.
From playing Ultimate Frisbee at the park to playing in a number of European tournament’s, Yonatan’s Australian Football story is both unique and interesting. As the game continues to grow, hopefully, more people will fall in love with the sport just like Yonatan has.
Special thanks to Belushi’s for helping grow the game in Europe