The National Football League hosted its first ever NFL Africa Camp this week, an event that lasted for several days as athletes from various African countries practiced American football skills and drills with hopes of competing professionally.
The training camp hosted 49 participants from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The event gave these men the opportunity to potentially earn themselves invites to the NFL’s first ever International Combine, which is “an invitational scouting showcase, designed to discover and evaluate potential NFL talent.”
“It’s a big deal for several reasons. There are 100-plus players in the NFL who were born in Africa or are first-generation, and all of them want to do something back home. Then we know in Africa, you have some of the best athletes, and we’re not giving them the opportunity to showcase that talent to make better lives for themselves,” said Osi Umenyiora, a former NFL Star born to Nigerian parents of Igbo descent.
Osi Umenyiora was born in London but lived in Nigeria from ages 7 to 14, a period of time that he credits as instrumental in his development into a man. While Umenyiora has donated to his home country of Nigeria for two decades, he recently started a humanitarian program called The Uprise.
The program is intended to help create opportunities for Africans while simultaneously growing the game of American Football in Africa. Through this program and the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, three Nigerian players have already signed to play for NFL teams ahead of the upcoming season: Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka (New York Giants), Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi (Arizona Cardinals), and Kehinde Oginni Hassan (Kansas City Chiefs).
“We also know the demand for that type of talent is in America, and we know the supply is in Africa, so it’s a matter of connecting the two. We believe the future of the NFL is in Africa,” continued Umenyiora
In recent years, the National Football League has emphasized a push to promote the sport around the globe. NFL teams have even played games internationally in both the United Kingdom and Mexico.
While American football is not widely played or watched around the world, it is the most viewed sport in the United States. In February of 2022, there were 112.3 million total viewers that tuned in to watch the Super Bowl.
“If I could make it to this extent, then it’s possible for everybody,” said Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi, a Nigerian athlete that was signed in April to play football for the Arizona Cardinals.
The NFL Africa Camp was part of NFL Africa: The Touchdown, a week-long event that is intended to gain fans and grow the game of American Football in Africa.
“When getting to know the athletes at the NFL Africa Camp, we learned that a lot of them played other sports, such as rugby, soccer or track and field, and they learned American football by watching videos on YouTube. They might not have been overly familiar with football coming in, but these guys are pure, raw athletes with a ton of potential to develop into really good- even great- football players and continue growing Africa’s representation in the NFL,” said Maurice Jones-Drew, former NFL player and instructor at the camp.