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    American Football in Nigeria - After God is Football

    AFFAM players meeting with HRH. Alh. (Dr.) Shehu Idris, the 18th Emir of Zaria in the Royal Palace of the Emir of Zaria. Idris is a supporter of American football in Nigeria.

    The Bear of Africa discovered American football at the age of nine, watching a televised game with his father. It was a simple moment - a father and son watching a game on TV - but it changed thousands of lives in Nigeria.

    Coach Amadi Chukwuemeka Innocent is the Bear of Africa, and the big man - who played defensive end during his playing days - fell in love with the sport that first moment, and years later, in 2010, he founded AFFAM - The American Football for Africa Mission. 

    "Our mission is to use football as a vehicle to reach out to the youths of Africa whom are among the vulnerable and defenseless in the society," said Coach Amadi. "Teaching them the game and helping them build their career."

    Once he began, Coach Amadi went to work spreading the game of American football throughout his country. Taking time off of his playing career (he is hoping to return to the gridiron eventually) he studied the game and received tips and lessons on how to teach and coach the game from a group of Americans. The group - the Nigerian Institute of American Football. 

    "I quickly took my initiative to gather the youths in my community to teach them the rudiments of the game," said Coach Amadi. "I was able to teach well over 300 youths from the ages aof 13-20 yrs old for the first year."

    At 6-foot-2 and more than 250 pounds, Coach Amadi says he is proud to be known as the Bear, and that those characteristics are required in his effort to bring American Football to Nigeria.

    "The characteristics of a bear, which is resilience, fierce determination and strength to survive," said Coach Amadi. "Its a foreign animal in a foreign land and it has to survive the tough times in its new domain in the midst of other established and indigenous mammals.

    "That is what football is over here. We need the determination, resilience, fierce and strength of the bear to claim a stake here in Africa where soccer, basketball and other sports is much popular," said Coach Amadi.

    Coach Daryl Hayes - one of the Americans who worked with Coach Amadi with the group, the Nigerian Institute of American Football - said he is impressed with how the game has grown since he and his group were there in 2011.

    "They have done a great job improving the sport there. Coach Amadi is working very hard, I am very proud of him," said Hayes.

    Taking things to the next level, Coach Amadi was a founder and is the head coach of the first American football team at a university in west Africa - the Ahmadu Bello University Titans football club. 

    Since the beginning of AFFAM, Coach Amadi and others have worked with thousands of young Nigerians, teaching them not only the basics of the sorts, but the teamwork and camaraderie that the sport of American football demands.

    The result has been impressive as young Nigerians are now not only playing the sport in their homeland, but have completely bought into the positive aspects of the sport, including discipline and teamwork. Some, like Peter Agabe, are getting to study and compete abroad due to their  prowess at the sport.

    Having been part of AFFAM since the beginning, Agabe now lives in Florida where he has had the opportunity to study and play on the football team at Orlando Christian Prep High School.

    "I started playing American football in 2010. I wanted to be part of something great, to make a difference, make history," said Agabe, a 19-year-old defensive end. "Coach Amadi helped me in so many ways. He made me understand what sacrifice was, held me accountable. He checks on me in school and life in general."

    In 2017, with a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, Coach Amadi and AFFAM were able to organize the first youth football league in West Africa, as they sponsored eight teams of players between the ages of 9 and 14. The league showcased how far the game has come, as each team consisted of 53 players and four coaches.

    Coach Amadi is planning a second season of the youth league, all the while working on a bigger prize - a large American football camp in July that will feature a game between Nigerian and American athletes, then a return game in the United States in September. The series promises to both help young Nigerians learn more about the game, but also expose Nigerian student-athletes to Americans,

    And while Coach Amadi, AFFAM and others continue the hard work of spreading the game, one need only look to the athletes to see that this experiment is a success. Because while the game has not even been thriving in this west African nation for a decade, young athletes are now dreaming of playing in the NFL or playing college football in the U.S. or Nigeria. But more than that is the love of the game.

    Kehinde Oginni celebrating a TD in 2017Kehinde Oginni is a wide receiver who scored twice in the first university game in West Africa. At 6-foot-6, Oginni has the body - and desire - to play at a higher level.

    "I am hoping to go to a junior college program for one or two years to gain experience, so I can get a chance to play for an NCAA team," said Oginni.

    Moreal Omale is a young defensive end and linebacker who lives in Abuja, Nigeria. Omale said when he was younger, American football reminded him of a game he played called "Touch and Run." Omale said the game appeals to both his strategic and aggressive sides, and that he often dreams of game situations.

    "Today I don't think I can do without football," said Omale. "After God is football, because after church, I go play football in the evening and it makes me happy, it gives me joy. 

    "Coach Amadi said that whatever you love doing gives you joy," added Omale. "That's what football gives me."


    More About American Football in Nigeria:

    American Football International
    U.S. Embassy - Nigeria



    For some reason I am reminded by your main photo of Garrett Morris's character Chico Escuela.

    When actually I should be reminded of a now deceased in-law who was a college football coach who late in career took to stints coaching American football in Germany and Italy when he couldn't find work in the U.S. anymore because of ageism and a lackluster record.

    But I liked Garrett Morris better because: it was the right mix of adoration of U.S. culture with making fun and being cynical about it. The inlaw, being a football coach type person: not so much. Me and him: got along, but like water and oil. laugh

    Morris' shtick in the end was giving the message: hey everybody out there, it's not true that the streets are paved with gold here, don't believe that Reagan shit about shining city on a hill.

    We have a "Golden Street" over here that everyone assumes means some royal route, but more harkens back to the days when outhouses were non-existent but small terraces open over the streets were common. Be careful with metaphors - they might mix themselves. My mother-in-law used to talk breathlessly about "God's Well", that was supposed to have all sorts of curative properties. They finally checked it in later years, and realized it was downhill from a cow pasture. Perhaps it was a miracle that more people didn't die or come down with dysentery.

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