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The Uprise Flag Football League (UFFL), in collaboration with the NFL, has emerged as a transformative platform for young boys aged between 15 and 20, propelling their American Football skills to new heights. With its commitment to developing and promoting the sport, this exhilarating competition spans over 7 weeks and offers an impressive prize pool of 5 million Naira.

Emulating the structure of the NFL, the UFFL proudly boasts its own distinguished league commissioner, none other than Osi Umenyiora, an NFL veteran and Two-time Super Bowl champion. Elevating its appeal, the league comprises four franchises, each owned by NFL players.

Let’s dive deeper into the teams and their esteemed owners:

  • The Chiefs, owned by David Njoku, Tight End for the Cleveland Browns.
  • Naija Lions, owned by Emmanuel Ogbah, Defensive End for the Miami Dolphins.
  • Tigers Flag Football team, owned by Romeo Okwara, Defensive End for the Detroit Lions.
  • Yellow Trumpets, owned by Maurice Jones-Drew, former NFL player.

When asked about the player ownership model, Osi Umenyiora, emphasized the need to raise the profile of African players, stating:

“We realized that a lot of people in Africa don’t know who these players are and there are over 100+ from Africa. We need to start raising the profile of these players and we see this as a better way of doing this”

Following the NFL’s blueprint, the league kicked off with an official combine, showcasing various drills such as the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle run, three-cone drill, and broad jump. After the combine, aspiring players entered a draft pool from which they were selected by the four franchise teams.

Out of over 100 players, 40 talented individuals were drafted across 10 rounds, showcasing the immense potential within the league. The inaugural game of the UFFL commenced on June 25th, 2023, marking the beginning of an exciting journey for both players and fans of the sport in Nigeria.

Osi Umenyiora further elaborated on the league’s objectives, stating:

 “We aim to expose the game to Africans and provide them with the opportunity to take their talent to the next level. This is why we have a prize money of 5M naira to motivate these kids and indicate the seriousness of the league. Moreover, we want to recruit the highest level of athletes and create pathways to the NFL Academy and the NFL International Pathway Program.”

He added, “Eventually, this will be a win-win for everyone, as the NFL players will get more visibility, the game of American Football gets popularized in Africa, the talents in Africa get a platform to showcase, take their talent to the next level and also, win prizes for themselves and their family”

While the UFFL runs parallel to the Uprise Academy initiative, Osi Umenyiora envisions a future of complete flag football saturation across Africa through strategic partnerships. On this and the question of sustainability, he added that:

“Complete saturation of flag football across Africa through different partners. We are currently looking for these partners and we started with Nigeria due to my familiarity with the space.

We are also going to welcome more players that are open to owning teams and expanding the league and this is something that will come with time”

Reflecting on the league’s first day, Umenyiora acknowledged both the successes and areas for improvement, saying, “Of course, there were some mishaps on day one, which was something that I expected due to how new this initiative is, and we are definitely going to get better. My major takeaway was the talent, and from what I saw, they played really well. We are going to get everything else sorted out to make the league even better.”

Looking ahead, Umenyiora outlined their vision for success of season one of the UFFL, saying:

“The league is in discussion with SuperSports to have the Championship game streamed live across Africa and then, get some of these talents to the NFL Academy or the NFL IPP program and just majorly opportunities.”

Looking towards the future, Umenyiora outlined the strategic direction of the UFFL, stating:

“Given the resources available, we are going to be sticking to Flag Football to be able to identify talent in the future. Although, we know that certain types of talents might not be found through flag football, and that is where the Uprise Academy itself comes in, which will be running side by side with the UFFL.”

He further elaborated on the long-term vision saying:

“The long-term vision is to help talents and also create a business ecosystem around it for everybody. I also realize that we are many many years away from this but with the UFFL, we are also watering the ground for what is to come through the NFL. What is to come is that 100 percent, there will be an NFL game in Africa very soon and I predict that in 10 years, this will happen.”

Umenyiora further supports his prediction by highlighting the favorable macroeconomic conditions in Africa, stating:

 “With the way things are going, I would be surprised if this does not happen in 10 years time. From just a mental standpoint, all the macro-economics virtues going on in Africa make Africa very viable in the next 10 years. If about 15% of your players come from Africa, then it makes sense for it to happen.”

It is our own view that beyond the immediate excitement of the league, this initiative holds significant commercial and developmental opportunities for Nigeria and Africa as a whole. 

By bringing the sport of American Football to the region, the UFFL opens doors for aspiring athletes, fosters local talent, and cultivates a passionate fanbase. Moreover, the league’s affiliation with the NFL amplifies its prestige and enhances the exposure of African athletes on the global stage.

You can watch a full flag football league game below:


Stephen Ojo
An avid lover of sports.

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