The National Football League (NFL) has set its sights on Africa as a source of both new talent and more fans for the League.
Beginning this month, the League will begin hosting events on the continent that will sift out talent and generate interest in American football.
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Africa could be full of unrealized talent
Up until this point, the NBA is the only American sports league that has made significant investments in Africa’s sports talent pool.
The NBA’s $1 billion relationship with the International Basketball Federation has helped the basketball business in Africa benefit from the federation’s management, equipment, and marketing.
Basketball Africa League, launched by the NBA in 2021, is evidence of this. The league has teams from 12 countries and sponsorships with:
- Air Jordan
Now that the NFL is on the continent’s scene, talented residents in Africa will get the chance to shine. Damani Leech, the NFL’s Chief Operating Officer of International said:
“We want to provide an opportunity for the next generation of African prospects to showcase and further develop their talent. As we continue to look for ways to strengthen the pipeline of international players, we hope this camp, and future camps, provide a path for aspiring players from across the continent.”
While the NFL events this month are debuting only in Ghana, Leech hopes that its success will allow the programs to spread. Leech said, “we look forward to hosting our first camp in Ghana. And will look to activate in Nigeria and other African countries in the future.”
NFL players of African descent getting involved
Leading up to the first official NFL events this month, two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end and NFL Legend, Osi Umenyiora started a football program called The Uprise. He said this about it:
“This is a truly remarkable initiative. This camp is not only giving opportunities to great African athletes; it is also highlighting the incredible African athletes already in the NFL.”
Regional camps occurred over the past several months under The Uprise program, in South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana. Gifted participants in Umenyiora’s regional camps received invitations to participate in the upcoming NFL camps in Ghana.
This year, three players discovered during The Uprise have signed NFL contracts:
- The New York Giants signed Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka
- The Arizona Cardinals signed Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi
- The Kansas City Chiefs signed Kehinde Hassan Oginni
Aside from Umenyiora, current NFL players are also taking part on-site in Ghana during June’s NFL events.
These players are among more than 100 NFL players who were either born on the African continent or are first–generation Americans.
NFL players taking part in June’s events include:
- Uchenna Nwosu of the Seattle Seahawks (Nigeria)
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of the Cleveland Browns (Ghana)
- Kwity Paye of the Indianapolis Colts (Liberia)
- Mathias Kiwanuka (Uganda)
- Roman Oben (Cameroon)
NFL’s first official events in Africa to take place in Ghana
The first-ever NFL Africa camp, “NFL Africa: The Touchdown,” happens on Jun. 21 and 22. It features 40 players from all around Africa.
The event will include a talent identification camp as well as a flag-football clinic. Leech commented:
“Top talent from the camp could be invited to participate in International Combines, the International Player Pathway program. And for those athletes ages 16 to 19, there’s the opportunity to attend the NFL Academy in London.”
Fun fan events also planned during Ghana’s NFL events
Not forgetting its African fan base, the NFL also has some fan events scheduled after the camp.
On Saturday, Jun. 25, the League will be at the Ghana International School hosting NFL FLAG Day.
Students from schools in the area can participate in the non-contact program to learn football fundamentals. This includes sportsmanship and teamwork, from past and present NFL players.
On Sunday, June 26, the League will be at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra hosting the NFL Fan Zone from 11 am to 6 pm. Fans will be able to get up close and personal with current players and NFL legends.
Fans can participate for prizes and other giveaways, and the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders are even appearing at both fan events.
When discussing the overall program, much celebration arose on how it will impact both athletes and fans in Africa. Osi Umenyiora praised the initiative and the NFL for their efforts, saying, “the positive impact of this cannot be overstated”.