After days of travel complications, the Iroquois Nationals have finally arrived in Israel.
There were some minor issues with the team’s Haudenosaunee passports when trying to board the flight to Tel Aviv coming from Toronto, but once those hiccups were solved, Israel was elated to welcome the reigning bronze medalists.
Fans and members of the press from North America, Japan, the Philippines, Ireland and more greeted the Iroquois at the airport with cheers, high fives and smiles as soon as the team exited customs and out into the pavilion.
“Everybody was super excited when we got the word yesterday that we could make the trip and get here after waiting all day Monday and all day Tuesday,” said assistant coach Scott Marr. “I think when we finally got through the airport and came through the baggage claim, you could really feel the energy start to grow.”
In 2010, passport problems kept the Iroquois from competing in the World Championships in Manchester. Even with that history and the recent roadblocks, midfielder Franklin Brown said the team never felt making it to Israel was in doubt.
“I don’t think there was ever a moment where we were all panicking,” Brown explained. “The delay was just a delay. We just had to stay positive throughout the circumstances, and it all worked out.”
With the wave of relief comes the realization of being in Israel, a new country on the other side of the world. There were some surreal elements for Brown upon arrival.
“It’s definitely real,” Brown said. “The roots of modern civilization are right where we are. It’s good to be able to come over here and appreciate the culture. I’m here to play lacrosse, but anything that comes after that is a bonus.”
Still, knowing the journey is complete and all focus can be shifted to lacrosse is a weight off the team’s shoulders.
“It was really on the tournament, Israel and Canada to get us here,” Marr said. “It’s a sense of relief knowing we’re here and have a chance to compete.”
But the team can’t celebrate for too long. After leaving the airport around 1 p.m., the Iroquois had to be at Netanya Stadium in just a few hours later for face-off against USA at 9 p.m. to open up both teams’ campaigns. Coupled with the time difference and jetlag, it will certainly be a tough hill for the Iroquois to climb, but there’s nothing it can do but play with the hand it was dealt.
“Get to the hotel, take a nap, hydrate up,” Brown said of his plans after leaving the airport. “This team has got a good group of guys, a resilient group. These are guys who have known each other for a long time. I think the bond that we have as a team will come to work right now.”
With the circumstances being what they are, Marr said tonight’s showdown will be used as a barometer for where the team is at to better prepare for the Iroquois’s second game of the tournament against England on Saturday.
“We’re going to try to get everybody to use their legs tonight and try to catch up on the time switch here over the next 24 to 36 hours before we play England,” he explained. “We haven’t had the whole team together too many times, so it’ll be a trial run to see how we do. We’re going to just go out tonight, hope for the best and see where we’re at.”
All 46 teams have now officially arrived in Israel, and the latest edition of the World Championships can begin with the inclusion of the sport’s creators.