NFL to touchdown in Africa with inaugural camp

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Osi Umenyiora (left) and Devin Thomas (right) of the New York Giants celebrate winning the 2012 Super Bowl.Osi Umenyiora (left), who is helping organise the inaugural NFL Africa Camp, won the 2012 Super Bowl with the New York Giants

The next generation of NFL stars could be discovered in Ghana after the NFL announced that it is to host its first events in Africa later this month.

A host of current NFL players with African roots will be in the capital Accra for the inaugural NFL Africa Camp, which will take place from 21-22 June.

The week of activities - labelled 'NFL Africa: The Touchdown' - will also feature a fan event and a clinic about flag football (a simpler non-contact version of NFL).

Forty players have been selected after participating in regional camps led by Osi Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl winner born in England to Nigerian parents.

The NFL legend, now 40, has established a football programme in Nigeria - called the Uprise - and has held recent camps there as well as in Ghana and South Africa.

"This is a truly remarkable initiative," Umenyiora said of the NFL's plans.

"This camp is not only giving opportunities to great African athletes, it is also highlighting the incredible African athletes already in the NFL. The positive impact of this cannot be overstated."

At present, over 100 players of African descent - whether both on the continent or elsewhere with African parentage - are involved in the NFL.

These include some of those set to be in Ghana later this month, such as Seattle Seahawks Uchenna Nwosu and Houston Texans Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (both with Nigeria roots), Cleveland Browns Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Ghanaian) and Indianapolis Colts Kwity Paye (Liberian).

"We look forward to hosting our first camp in Ghana and will look to activate in Nigeria and other African countries in the future," said Damani Leech, NFL Chief Operating Officer of International.

"We want to provide an opportunity for the next generation of African prospects to showcase and further develop their talent.

"As we continue to look for ways to strengthen the pipeline of international players, we hope this camp, and future camps, provide a path for aspiring players from across the continent."

This year, three players that were discovered through Umenyiora's Uprise programme have signed with NFL teams - Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka (New York Giants), Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi, (Arizona Cardinals), and Kehinde Hassan Oginni (Kansas City Chiefs).

The NFL is belatedly following in the footsteps of the NBA, which has been hosting such camps in Africa for nearly two decades and which has also staged exhibition games on the continent.

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