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Okoye unites NFL players for football in Africa

Posted Mar 10, 2011

Texans defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, a native of Nigeria, is working with USA Football and others to help establish the first American football federation in Africa.

A group representing USA Football, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) and the Amobi Okoye Foundation will visit Nigeria from March 12-22 as part of a continuing initiative to further advance football’s burgeoning popularity in Africa.

Among the key events to occur during the trip is the formal establishment of Nigeria’s national football federation on March 13 – the first such national federation dedicated solely to football in Africa.

The traveling party is led by IFAF President TOMMY WIKING, USA Football Executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK, IFAF Development Director for Africa MARC-ANGELO SOUMAH and representatives of the Amobi Okoye Foundation.

The group includes four current NFL players: AMOBI OKOYE and CONNOR BARWIN of the Houston Texans, JAMES IHEDIGBO of the New York Jets and FRANK OKAM of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The players will help lead the fourth-annual C.A.T.E. (Changing Africa Through Education) program run by the Amobi Okoye Foundation, which includes the C.A.T.E. scholarship program, a Books Abroad donation and free medical clinics. The foundation also plans to build a college prep school for students who excel at both academics and athletics.

The Amobi Okoye Foundation is leading the establishment of Nigeria’s football federation. Through the work of the Nigerian-born Houston Texans defensive tackle, the Nigerian federation and IFAF plan to start two high school tackle football leagues of six schools each as well as a youth flag football program.

“Seeing American football played in Nigeria and in other countries in Africa is a dream come true for me,” said Okoye, who moved to the United States at age 12 and was the youngest player selected in an NFL Draft when the Texans picked him in the first round (10th overall) in 2007 at age 19. 

“In wider terms, it will benefit communities and young people by teaching the values of teamwork and dedication and create opportunities to succeed.”

USA Football is the sport’s national governing body in the United States and is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, each of its 32 teams and the NFL Players Association.

“USA Football is proud to join Amobi, his foundation and others who are inspired by Nigeria’s long-standing passion for football to make this trip and its outcomes become reality,” USA Football’s Hallenbeck said. “This is an exciting and significant moment in football history.”

Former Augustana College head coach JIM BARNES and West Virginia Wesleyan College special teams coordinator/linebackers coach WILLIE ROBINSON will conduct two football coaching clinics and two player camps during the visit. Nigerian coaches attending the clinics will receive a USA Football Coaching Handbook – a 150-page book to help teach football fundamentals and drills as well as run organized practices. USA Football’s coaching handbook is employed by youth football coaches across the United States.

During the visit, IFAF will discuss plans aimed at establishing an African continental federation to govern the game in Africa with its headquarters located in Nigeria. IFAF has also initiated introducing the game to Senegal and the Congo.

At present, 59 countries spanning five continents possess national federations dedicated solely to football. All are IFAF members. The sport’s formal foothold in Africa satisfies one of many requirements necessary to apply for International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition. 

“American football continues to push new boundaries, and this is arguably IFAF’s greatest and most exciting challenge in spreading the game’s popularity,” said Wiking of IFAF. 

The joint IFAF/USA Football/Amobi Okoye Foundation visit to Nigeria will be chronicled from March 12-22 through IFAF social media with video and written updates available at www.IFAF.blogspot.com, www.IFAF.org,