Wednesday, March 9, 2011

IFAF Takes Football to Africa

IFAF delegates meet to discuss the forming of an African federation.

The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) is taking steps towards establishing a continental federation to govern the game in Africa.

The sport of American football is currently governed by IFAF through four continental federations - Asia, Europe, Oceania and Pan-American - and in addition to spreading the appeal of the sport internationally, establishing Africa as a fifth territory would satisfy one of the many requirements necessary to apply for International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition. 

The IFAF Executive Committee has appointed Marc-Angelo Soumah as the IFAF Development Director for Africa.

Former French national team and NFL Europe wide receiver Soumah has already begun the process of introducing American football to his native Senegal, where he lived before playing American football in France.  He is now the President of the French Federation of American Football (FFFA).

"There are many players in the NFL with African connections who were either born there and moved to the United States when they were young, or who have family ties to Africa," said Soumah.  "Their success shows that there are many athletes in Africa who are capable of playing the game at the highest level."

"I am excited and honored to have been given the responsibility in this IFAF role to help develop the sport in Africa, where I believe American football can become popular played both as a recreational activity and as a sport that can produce potential NFL players."

At a meeting held in Austin, Texas, last week, officials representing IFAF, the Amobi Okoye Foundation and national federations who will drive the African initiative discussed plans that will introduce the sport of American football to Nigeria, Senegal and the Congo before expanding to additional countries.

Houston Texans defensive linemen Amobi Okoye has made several visits to his ancestral home of Nigeria and in addition to giving hope to kids and communities around the world, his foundation is also establishing American football there in conjunction with IFAF and USA Football.

"We believe that once youngsters in Nigeria are exposed to the game of American football, they will be eager to play themselves and then the popularity of the sport will spread very quickly," said Okoye, who was the Honorary Captain of the World Team when they faced Team USA in Texas last week.  "We have made good progress with every visit to Nigeria and although there are challenges, we are excited to be helping to establish American football in Africa."

Patrice Majondo-Mwamba of the Mwamba Family Foundation is leading efforts to establish American football in his native Congo.  Mwamba was educated in Belgium and played football at Texas Tech, in NFL Europe and with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

IFAF President Tommy Wiking will travel along with Soumah, USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck and other IFAF representatives to Nigeria in March.  In association with the Amobi Okoye Foundation, the group aims to further establish the foothold the sport has in Nigeria towards the goal of establishing an African federation.

"The IFAF initiative is very positive and we feel we are making steady progress in establishing American football on the African continent," said Wiking.  "We will meet with community leaders and elected officials to work with them to make the game accessible to people of all ages in Africa."

Attending the IFAF Africa federation planning meeting held in Austin, Texas, were:  Tommy Wiking, IFAF President, Augustine Okoye, Director of the Amobi Okoye Foundation, Marc-Angelo Soumah, President of the French American Football Federation (FFFA), Patrice Majondo-Mwamba of the Mwamba Family Foundation, Frank Drey of the Mwamba Family Foundation, Scott Hallenbeck, USA Football Executive Director & IFAF Treasurer, Dr. & Prof. KK Park, IFAF Vice President, Roope Noronen, IFAF Vice President, Michael Ryan, IFAF Executive Committee member, Jack Reed, IFAF Development Manager,  Michael Eschlboeck, President of the Austrian American Football Federation (AFBOE), Michael Preston, IFAF Public Relations Director.

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