Efe Obada says that the NFL has become part of “British culture”; Russell Wilson amazed by international growth | NFL News

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Washington Commanders defensive end Efe Obada says his status in the UK is growing and people are recognizing him while shopping!

Washington Commanders defensive end Efe Obada says his status in the UK is growing and people are recognizing him while shopping!

The growth of the NFL in the United Kingdom can be measured in television figures, in ticket sales, in purchased shirts, in participation in Flag Football, in followers on social networks or, in the case of Efe Obada, in recognition in supermarkets .

Obada and his fellow International Player Pathway products are often asked if they wish they had been introduced to soccer as young as children in the United States; the answer is yes, always, unequivocally, yes.

The Washington Commanders defensive end returned home this offseason to be greeted with more advances toward that reality, Obada spent the week witnessing Efe Obadas hopefuls attend NFL Academy tryouts and compete in the National Championship. Flag Football at Loughborough University.

The result was a raspy voice from training and interaction, and a telltale sign of their investment in bridging the gap.

“I’m excited, I wasn’t around, to have this exposure at this age to a game that changed my life, I just imagined the opportunities it can have for these kids, to simplify them from going from here to the NFL, it’s exciting to watch,” he said. obada sky sports.

Efe Obada grants Little Ealing Primary School its plane ticket to Las Vegas (Image: NFL UK)

Efe Obada grants Little Ealing Primary School its plane ticket to Las Vegas (Image: NFL UK)

“What’s really exciting about coming home now is that the NFL is becoming part of British culture, and it’s very exciting to see. This wasn’t real, this was nothing.

“Now we’re in Loughborough, the Academy is going to be here, the IPP program, the London games, Flag Football, and I’m being recognized.

“They recognized me at Tesco, I’m surprised! He said: ‘I know you’. I asked him if he was sure and he said: ‘Yes, you are Efe!'”

West London’s Little Ealing Primary School ran out winners in Wednesday’s 12-school tournament, beating Manchester’s St Mary’s Hall Stonyhurst 7-6 in extra time in the final to secure a once-in-a-lifetime place in the Championships. the NFL flag at the 2023 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas.

They represent one of 300 schools playing Flag Football across the country, with the non-contact version of the game aggressively seeking inclusion in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Obada talks to players at the Flag Championship (Image: NFL UK)

Obada talks to players at the Flag Championship (Image: NFL UK)

Could Obada be tempted by a possible opportunity to win a gold medal? He admits that he might be too big, though he jokes that he could be a quarterback.

“I think it should be an Olympic sport, yes,” says Obada, who hails flag football as a necessary “springboard.”

“There were times in my early years where I wish I had that opportunity, because it was such a condensed growth that I needed to do, I wish I had gone to college and been able to develop my style of play.”

He puts an emphasis on the ‘options’ he offers. Options he and others may not have had when he was the age of those racing at Loughborough.

Wilson: Flag football can spread the game

Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who will manage the Denver Broncos against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley next season, was on hand on the day as an NFL flag ambassador.

If the thousands of fans who queued to meet him on Carnaby Street on Tuesday failed to amplify the NFL’s popularity in the UK, flag football day will have done the trick.

“It’s been amazing to see the growth of the NFL flag, I’ve been to China, I’ve been to Brazil, I’ve been to London a couple of times,” he said. sky sports.

“[It’s great] just to be here, and see all these amazing kids playing soccer and how much they’ve loved this game.

“The surprising thing is that when I was in Brazil, these children told me: ‘when we see this game, it is difficult for us to play’ and I said: ‘what do you mean?’ They said, ‘well, it’s expensive, helmet, shoulder pads, all of that.’ And it hit me, flag football, globally, it’ll show everyone.

“It’s been great to be able to create this opportunity for kids all over the world.”

Bell: The popularity of the NFL no longer surprises me

Few have been as closely associated with the rise of the NFL in the UK as Jason Bell, who cites former New York Giants teammate Osi Umenyiora playing in the London opener in 2007 as a reflection of the venue. long-standing league in British sport. scenery.

By now you are no longer surprised by the depth of knowledge.

“These kids play video games, they know these complex plays and they know how things happen,” he said. sky sports.

“I watch a team, they had all their plays on the wristband. I was like, ‘I didn’t have that in high school, I was winging it!’

“You see they understand the game because they play it, they see it, they get into it, so when they come out they’re very familiar with what’s going on.

“I tried to make a lot of them laugh today, but they were too serious about the game, so I said, ‘I’m going to back off, I get it!'”

“I think I was surprised, I hadn’t heard much about football in other countries. They’re playing ball, they’re out here competing, they’ve got some talented players, they know players, they know dances, we’re out there Griddying, they’re playing the game, so that’s really good.”

Vikings wide receiver KJ Osborn on Flag Football in the UK

Bell encouraged the eventual addition of Flag Football to the Olympics and believes it comes as another major bow to the league’s international ventures.

“Anything that you can easily adapt to that can become an Olympic sport, you have to be able to pick up a ball and go. That’s what the flag allows you to do, you just pick up a ball, you have a field and you can go.

“I think now, because of the way you can watch the passing game online and how that happens, and people can watch the highlights anywhere in the world, you can see what the players are doing and mimic that.

“I think that is what will help the growth of the game as far as the flag is concerned and give us a chance to be in the Olympics.

“Now the NFL is going to have to continue to push internationally with NFL Flag, but that’s the key, that’s the driving force, even in youth sports.”

‘The next generation of fans and players’

The NFL’s new UK general manager, Henry Hodgson, who has worked in the NFL’s Los Angeles office for the past 12 years, has been a key figure in driving the league’s growth abroad.

He takes up his post in London with the presence of the game in a place he admits he “could only have dreamed of” from the start.

“The flag event, this is the next generation of fans, I think,” Hodgson said. sky sports. “You know how much kids who play the sport get them involved, so these guys have a great opportunity, first of all, to represent the UK in the Pro Bowl, whoever wins, which is exciting.”

“But even more than that, they are going to be the next generation of fans and players.

“The Academy here yesterday was also here for their tryouts, again another great program which will help move the sport forward in the UK and Europe given that there are players from all over Europe as well.

“Just seeing that line of kids that can make it to college, hopefully some of them make it to the NFL, it’s very exciting.

“We could only dream of getting here, but I think there is a lot of room for growth and we want to continue to grow NFL fans across the UK and keep the momentum going.”

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