Saturday, March 19, 2011

Football Camp: Lagos

IFAF and Amobe Okoye Foundation welcomed over 200+ local American Football players to Lagos State Stadium for a day long flag football clinic.  The camp was an excellent opportunity for its newly trained African coaches to get their feet wet, and use the knowledge they've learned this week at the IFAF Coaching Clinic.  They represented well, mixing it up with NFL Players and IFAF Coaches.  Here's a few pictures from immediately following the event - much more to come from Africa! 

Coach Jim Barnes shows the way

Amobe Okoye

Frank Okam breaking 'em down

Willie Robinson leading a drill

Learning to throw is difficult - but we saw much progress!  In fact, the scoring for the Flag Football game opened with a 40 yard scoring strike -- the first in continental history?

Friday, March 18, 2011

IFAF Coaches Clinic: Lagos

Team IFAF held its first official American Football Coaching Clinic on the continent of Africa, welcoming over 20 local coaches from the city of Lagos, Nigeria to a 3-day clinic.  Coaches were versed on the rules of the game, positions, strategy, and fundamentals.  After two rigorous classroom sessions with Coach Jim Barnes, formerly of Augustana College, and Coach Willie Robinson of West Virginia Wesleyan, the coaches hit the field to put their knowledge into action.

Jack Reed, IFAF Development Manager, came away optimistic about the sessions, "The response from the coaches has been very encouraging. Their enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge of the game has made the last two days productive.  We are very excited about the future of American Football here in Nigeria."

Joining the coaches on the second day of camp were NFL Players Amobi Okoye and Connor Barwin from the Houston Texans, and Frank Okam of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Their first hand knowledge of the game helped bring the on-field portion to life.

In a twist that only happens on such international trips, a late addition added a little spice to the mix  - a potential coach discovered by the coaching staff at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lagos.  The man, who had previously spent 7 years in Germany and was familiar with the game, saw the coach's shirts and asked what they were doing in Nigeria.  A few minutes later, he was signed up for the clinic and just might prove to be a factor in shaping the game in Africa.
Nigerian Coaches listen intently as NFL Player Connor Barwin explains the game. Two coaches were so excited to see American Football equipment that they wore them for the duration of the three hour clinic. 
Coach Jim Barnes uses the 2008 Fiesta Bowl as a teaching tool to explain the game. Before the conference, just a handful of coaches had seen a college football game.
Coach Willie Robinson gave a fiery speech on Defense that appealed to the Nigerian coaches.

IFAF Development Manager Jack Reed welcomes Nigerian Coaches to the camp.
Coaches Manuals from USA Football proved to be an essential tool for explaining the game.
Starting from the basics, the 4-3 Defensive Alignment was used to discuss the different positions on defense and overall strategy.  Coach Willie Robinson spiced up the discussions by using visual analogies for each position, including a "Cash Cow" for the Rush Defensive End and "Man on an Island" for the Cornerbacks. 
Coach Jim Barnes lectures the importance of the quarterback position.

Amobe Okoye, who grew up in Nigeria, shows a local coach how to throw the football.

Nigeria Press Conference

Thursday, March 17, 2011

School & Clinic Visit

The mission of the Amobi Okoye Foundation and IFAF in Nigeria extends far beyond the football field, and on Monday team members traveled outside the city of Abuja to a small health clinic where a team of a dozen doctors were giving out free medical care.  Free cancer screenings, blood pressure readings, and medication distribution were just a few of the services offered.

An adjacent school led to an impromptu school visit, where NFL Players Amobi Okoye, James Ihedigbo, Connor Barwin, and Frank Okam chatted with the students and gave them an afternoon they won't soon forget.

Amobi Okoye speaks with local students outside of Abuja, Nigeria

Long before he took the field for the Houston Texans, Amobi was a student at a similar school in Nigeria.  The Defensive Lineman spent from birth to age twelve in his native land before moving to America.
The faces of Africa are unforgettable - such as this woman receiving medical attention from volunteer doctors

The school chalkboard displayed the Tower of Babel story as well as a lesson on Business Models - proving that the lack of air conditioning and power would not stop these determined students. 

Nigerian Federation Press Conference

Nigerian Minister of Sport dons the IFAF Helmet to mark the government's support for American Football in Nigeria, as presented by IFAF Treasurer Scott Hallenbeck

The National Sports Stadium Press Room in Abuja was packed for the press conference

IFAF's whirlwind tour of Nigeria continued with a large press conference at the National Sports Stadium in the capital city of Abuja.  The Minister of Sports in Nigeria proudly hosted the event, welcoming various local leaders, including those involved with growing sports at the grassroots level.
It was a key moment in the foundation of the sport in the Nigeria, as the event was aired live on television and publicly showed the government's support. "I am very familiar with American Football," said the Minister of Sport, "In fact, I attended Oklahoma State University. I'm a Cowboy!"

IFAF Treasurer Scott Hallenbeck greeted the crowd and assembled press, as well as made a ceremonial gift of an IFAF Helmet.  Amobi Okoye, whose work in the country through his own foundation has been well documented, presented the minister with a Houston Texans jersey.  The partnership between the Amobi Okoye Foundation and IFAF has created a strong team with a common goal of launching the sport.
"I'm a Cowboy!"  IFAF has a great ally for American Football with the Nigerian Minister of Sport - who proudly declared his own affinity for the game by proclaiming the mascot of his alma mater, Oklahoma State University.

IFAF and Amobe Okoye Foundation representatives pose with local leaders after the meeting

Sunday, March 13, 2011

IMAGES: Clinic #1 in Abuja

After roughly 24 hours of travel, the IFAF & Amobe Okoye Foundation delegation arrived safely to Nigeria and settled into their first home base - the capital city of Abuja.  They immediately went to work, running a four-hour clinic for 200 children outside the National Soccer Stadium. The camp was incredibly well-received, and marked a strong first step on this trip.  Here's a look at some first images:

Houston Texan teammates Conner Barwin and Amobi Okoye tell the campers to enjoy the game.

Running back drills teach kids the fundamentals like grabbing the flag - and learning to tuck the ball away.

Not all the kids even had shoes - but they all had great attitude and effort

Tampa Bay Offensive Lineman Frank Okam gets mobbed by his flag football team.

New York Jet defensive back James Ihedigbo gives a little gun show - but gets some help. James has his own cause - the HOPE Africa Foundation that focuses on Education.

Conner Barwin gives an impromptu lesson on everything from American music to quarterback styles. "I  know they are getting a lot from us," he said after the clinic, "But I feel like we're the ones who are really getting something out of this."

Lining up to play the first game - and getting the first game face on.

The first half hour was spent doing Nike Sparq training such as ladders, cone drills, and parachutes.

Campers were all smiles - as was IFAF Treasurer & USA Football President Scott Hallenbeck as he addressed the Nigerian Media.  The media was very curious about the game and how it could grow in the country.

Camp photo - a very successful day!

Photo Credits: Jason Johnson.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Amateur football leaders and the Amobi Okoye Foundation join forces with players from Texans, Bucs and Jets to push international gridiron boundaries

A group representing the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), USA Football and the Amobi Okoye Foundation will visit Nigeria from March 12-22 as part of a continuing initiative to establish the sport of American Football in Africa.

The traveling party is led by IFAF President Tommy Wiking, USA Football Executive Director and IFAF Treasurer Scott Hallenbeck, IFAF Development Director for Africa Marc-Angelo Soumah, IFAF Development Manager Jack Reed and representatives of the Amobi Okoye Foundation.

The group includes four current NFL players - Amobi Okoye and Connor Barwin of the Houston Texans, Frank Okam of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and James Ihedigbo of the New York Jets.  They will spearhead the fourth annual C.A.T.E. (Changing Africa Through Education) program run by the Amobi Okoye Foundation, which will include 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.

Former Augustana College head coach Jim Barnes and WV Wesleyan College special teams coordinator / linebackers coach Willie Robinson will conduct two coaching clinics and two player camps during the visit to introduce the basics of American football to Nigerian coaches and athletes.

“We will hold train the trainer coaching clinics to teach the fundamentals of American football,” explained Barnes, who like Robinson has coached previously overseas.  “We will be educating first time football coaches to empower them to continue to develop the game in Nigeria. 

“When I have coached overseas before, I have always been welcomed by a passion and enthusiasm for American football and am excited to be a part of taking the game to new territories.  I am sure that when we put a football in the hands of a Nigerian coach or player for the first time, it will spark that same passion.”

The Amobi Okoye Foundation is leading the inauguration of a national federation in Nigeria.  On Sunday, March 13, the Nigerian-born Houston Texans defensive tackle plans to create history when he confirms the birth of Africa’s first American football federation in his home country.  Once established, the national federation and IFAF will initially plan to start two high school tackle football leagues of six schools each and a youth flag football program.

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

“In wider terms, it will benefit communities and young people by teaching the values of teamwork and dedication and create opportunities to succeed in a sporting environment.  If we can establish school leagues and interest among the children here, the game will thrive.”

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.

The sport of American football is currently governed in 59 countries by IFAF through four continental federations – Asia, Europe, Oceania and Pan-America.  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. 

“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 IFAF President Tommy Wiking. 

“Other continents have thrown a football for the first time because they have seen the game on television, but we are entering territory that has not been introduced to American football in that way.  So we really are starting from the beginning.”

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 and at, and 

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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

C.A.T.E. : Changing Africa through Education

IFAF's trip to Nigeria in 2011 stems from a program called C.A.T.E. - Changing Africa through Education.  This program is a part of the Amobi Okoye Foundation, led by Houston Texan Defensive Tackle Amobi Okoye.  Amobi grew up in Nigeria until he was 12, and since being drafted with the 10th pick overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, has made it his mission to give back to his homeland.

Amobi Okoye

The mission of the Amobi Okoye Foundation, Inc. is to Give Hope to Kids & Communities by fostering programs and services that encourage achievement, promote community stability, and help kids and young adults reach their full potential.

As you follow our journey, you will get to meet Amobi and the other NFL players who have made a commitment to Africa, and see firsthand how this group of dedicated people are making a difference in the lives of others, and proving again how the sport of American Football can have a positive impact on the lives of those involved.

For a look at last year's trip, check out the following video:

IFAF: The Blog

Welcome to the official blog of IFAF, the International Federation of American Football.  It is our mission to grow the game of football worldwide, and the formation of this blog coincides with a major step forward towards that aim: Launching football on the continent of Africa.  

Over the next two weeks, members from IFAF & USA Football, including IFAF President Tommy Wiking, will journey to Nigeria in an effort to introduce the sport through a number of camps, clinics, and meetings with dignitaries.  This blog will be the best source for information on this historic event, including high-resolution pictures and documentary-style videos.


The International Federation of American Football was formed in 1998 by founding nations Australia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Sweden and Spain. By 2008 IFAF membership had increased to a total of 59 countries governed by four continental federations.  For more information, visit the official website here.