Even as the National Football League (NFL) plans expanding American football to other countries such as Mexico and the United Kingdom, one player, Ghana’s Ziggy Ansah is highly confident of Africa being the next continent to host the NFL.
In what seems to be an overly optimistic statement, Ansah is quoted on the official website of his team, the Detroit Lions, stating:
“I would love to see a game in Africa. That would be good, and I think there’s a lot of potential back in Africa. I know that one day the NFL will have a game out there just like we do in London.”
In 2015, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) announced the inclusion of the Kenya Union of American Football into the federation. Africa Chairman for IFAF Ben El Cadi expressed satisfaction over the extent to which several African nations were registering their interest to be part of American football, an urge he has described as promising.
“An increasing number of nations across Africa are seeing a rise in interest in American football. Our colleagues in Kenya have shown a real willingness to work with other nations to share good practice in order to develop as an organization and support the growth of the sport. They will be a welcome addition to our continental federation and to the IFAF family as a whole,” El Cadi revealed in an interview with americanfootballinternational.com.
High hopes aside, some say an American football game in Africa is far from possible. According to NFL media analyst Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, for example, Africans are more into basketball and soccer than football. Gbaja-Biamila argues that the absence of a local football league raised much pessimism over the possible outcome of the continent ever embracing the NFL.
“I’ve traveled to nine countries over in Africa. The first thing they say when they see me is, ‘Basketball, basketball, basketball. Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan. That’s from Egypt to Morocco to Nigeria to Senegal to South Africa. Basketball has more of an international footprint than that of football. So when you say football, there’s the language barrier. You have to gesture like tackling or helmet. It clearly doesn’t have the same footprint. There’s a lack of influence. But once there’s influence – in Africa, they do look up to a lot of the Western culture – so whatever becomes popular here, they want to emulate it. If you have that exposure, you would see a lot of people going out to play football,” he opined.
Just about 15 NFL players come from Africa, compared to huge number of Africans playing soccer for major teams. The continent’s crave for this internationally popular sport continues to be a major barrier to American football. Only time will tell whether or not the continent has the needed potential to integrate this genre of sports.