The National Football League, through its programme dubbed NFL Africa, has touched down in Kenya aiming to invest in growing the game at all levels across the African continent.
The expansion into Kenya will see the NFL host a talent identification camp and NFL Flag football tournament in Nairobi on April 10-15, underscoring a long-term, multi-market pledge to develop more ways to serve a growing NFL fan base in Africa.
Head of NFL in Europe and Africa Brett Gosper expressed excitement at having to expand into Kenya, explaining the importance of the sport to young and upcoming athletes in the country.
"Growing the NFL globally is a major strategic priority for the League and developing our footprint and fandom in Africa is an important part of this vision," said Gosper.
"We are excited to expand NFL Africa into Kenya and look forward to creating opportunities for the next generation of African players and fans there to engage with our sport. From NFL Flag inspiring young people to play the game around the world, to building pathways for more international athletes to play in the NFL, there is a place in our sport for everyone," he added.
Over 125 African-born or first-generation African-American players are currently active in the NFL, hailing from 15 different countries on the continent. To further expand the talent pool, an event in Kenya will provide an opportunity for young African athletes to showcase their abilities.
The talent identification camp, modelled after the NFL Combine, will feature 29 promising prospects between the ages of 16 and 21 from countries including Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Senegal, aiming to impress scouts and secure a path to a professional football career.
Several NFL players, including Brian Asamoah of the Minnesota Vikings (Ghana), Arnold Ebiketie of the Atlanta Falcons (Cameroon), Paulson Adebo of the New Orleans Saints (Benin), Ikem Ekwonu of the Carolina Panthers (Nigeria), and Emmanuel Ogbah of the Miami Dolphins (Nigeria), will be present in Kenya to participate in the upcoming events.
The NFL is also organizing an NFL Flag football showcase, with the aim of introducing the sport to young people from 10 schools across Nairobi. The NFL will conduct training clinics for local teachers and the Kenyan Federation of American Football in tandem with the showcase, intending to develop coaching skills to teach NFL Flag football and boost participation across the country.
"The Kenya Academy of Sports (KAS) is honoured to be partnering with the National Football League to further the sport of American football through the introduction of NFL Flag football in schools. As part of a mandate to develop sports talent across the country, KAS together with the NFL have engaged 10 schools through the Ministry of Education from the Kasarani area to participate in a 12-week NFL Flag football program, culminating in a tournament later this year. KAS is delighted to bring this new sport through the school talent pathway," said Dr. Doreen Odhiambo, Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Academy of Sports.
George Alwanga, president of the Kenyan Federation of America Football (KFAF) also expressed delight at the partnership, hoping for more schools to embrace the sport.
"We are delighted to be partnering with the National Football League to showcase and deliver a Flag football program for young people in Kenya. This partnership will have a positive impact on the future growth of Flag football in the country, encouraging more schools and communities to embrace and enjoy the sport, and aligns with KFAF's objectives to develop the sport across the country and provide an opportunity for young Kenyans to learn and play the game," said Alwanga.
Prospective players at the event will have the opportunity to compete for invitations to prestigious programs such as the NFL International Combine, the NFL International Player Pathway Program, and the NFL Academy in the UK.
These initiatives are part of the NFL's ongoing efforts to enhance the pathways for international athletes to pursue professional careers in American football. The players were invited to the event by Osi Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl champion of Nigerian descent who was born in the UK. The initiative, known as "The Uprise," has already held scouting events in six countries and identified over 200 athletes, paving the way for promising young athletes to showcase their skills on a global stage.
The events this month will take place at the Kasarani Sports Complex, Nairobi with the support of the Government and Kenya Academy of Sports.