Former football captain Carl Ehrlich ‘09 left the United States recently to continue playing football in Spain for the Valencia Firebats. While this may be old news, it is important to analyze the ramifications of such a move.
Ehrlich is currently playing for La Liga Nacional de Futbol Americano, a fairly recent league that started up in 1995 after gathering several organizations that had previous football experience. One of those teams was the Valencia Bats, a team composed mainly from the roster of the failed Cullera Giants team. The Bats joined the American Football League (not to be confused with the AFL that was merged into the NFL in 1969) and had a moderately successful season.
Competing with the AFL was the Catalana Football League, and so Spain’s football organizations realized that in order for football to even have a chance in Spain, the leagues needed to be united. The LGNA was created and has been a fairly strong organization since its inaugural season, adding five more teams for the 2010 season. Along with the league’s inception, the Bats changed their name to the current moniker. (More on the Firebats history can be found here, though you may need a translator).
Ehrlich joins a team that in recent years has made major strides to excel on the European football stage. The Firebats won the last three out of four LNFA titles, only failing to win it in 2008.
Because the LNFA is Spain’s top flight for football, the winner and runner-up get the chance to represent the league in the European Football League, the equivalent of the Champions League for soccer. The Firebats’ successes haven’t translated onto the big stage, though, and they have failed to win against many major European opponents. Austria’s Vienna Vikings and Swarco Raiders Tirol have captured the crown for the majority of the past decade, not letting any other country get the title since 2004.
The Firebats are looking to change things around by adding Ehrlich not only to their defensive line but to their offensive line as well. According to Valencia’s website, Ehrlich had a solid effort on both sides of the ball in his first Spanish game, getting a lot of action in its 14-6 victory at home. But it’ll be crucial for Ehrlich to adapt to the different tactics of the Firebats and the scrappy play and strict officiating of European football—he was ejected from his first game for clotheslining an opponent.