New England Patriots Owner Wants to Bring American Football to the Middle East

Billionaire Robert Kraft is slowly but surely exporting the game to Israel, his second home.

New England team owner Robert Kraft
New England team owner Robert Kraft, center left, jokes as he stands with Israeli Finance Minister and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, during an event promoting the Israeli flag football league with New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2005. Kraft is in Jerusalem to re-open the Kraft stadium, which was partially built through his donations. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

Robert Kraft is no stranger to amazing comebacks. This past February, his New England Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit in the second half of the Super Bowl to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.

But a potentially even bigger comeback occurred this past June when Kraft returned to Israel, this time with a delegation of 18 Pro Football Hall of Fame players.

According to the Los Angeles TimesKraft, who is Jewish, has been heavily interested in Israel both financially and emotionally. He is close friends with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Times notes that Kraft acts as an ambassador for the sport in the region. During his most recent summer trip, he opened the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem, a 25-acre, multi-sports venue that includes the first three regulation-sized football fields in the Middle East.

“My life is about trying to, at this point, only do things I love and I’m passionate about, and be with people I love and feel connected to,” the 76-year-old Kraft told the Times. He was joined at the ribbon-cutting ceremony by three of his four sons and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Among the players accompanying Kraft were pro football icons Jim Brown, Joe Montana and Roger Staubach, as well as Lem Barney, Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter, Dave Casper, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Mean Joe Greene, Willie Lanier, Andre Reed, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, John Stallworth, Andre Tippett, Aeneas Williams, and Ron Yary. Greeting them at the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem were at least 1,000 fans.


Football has gained popularity in Israel in recent years, and Kraft has played a large role in that, according to the Times. Kraft recalled that his late wife Myra used to always tell him that until he started building football in Israel, he would not win anything with the Patriots. Her advice came in in late 1999, he noted, and two year later the Patriots finally won their first Super Bowl.

“Now we have five championships, and I can’t ignore the connection between our continuing to support development in Israel and our great accomplishments,” Kraft said. 

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