Nigeria has a rich sports culture and has made significant contributions to the world of sports. Football or Soccer as some call it, is the most popular sport in Nigeria. The country has a passionate fan base and has produced many talented footballers who have achieved success both domestically and internationally.
The Male and Female Nigerian national football teams, known as the Super Eagles and Super Falcons, have had notable achievements in continental and global competitions. The West African nation also participates in a variety of sports, including athletics, basketball, boxing, tennis, table tennis, wrestling, and more. Nigerian athletes have excelled in these sports and have represented the country in various international tournaments, including the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games.
However, Nigerians are turning heads and making waves in a sport that isn’t rooted in the country. Sports that name cause controversy amongst Africans and English/British individuals.
Over the years, Nigerians in the diaspora have made notable contributions to the National Football League (NFL) in the United States. Many athletes of Nigerian descent have found success in the NFL, showcasing their talent and skills on the football field. Here are some examples: Nnamdi Asomugha, a cornerback who played for the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles, and Osi Umenyiora, a defensive end who played for the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. Both players had successful careers and earned Pro Bowl selections.
In recent years, there has been a growing presence of Nigerian-born athletes making their mark in the NFL.
One notable example is the increased participation of Nigerian players through the International Player Pathway (IPP) program. The IPP is a program established by the NFL to provide opportunities for international athletes to showcase their skills and potentially earn a spot on an NFL team’s roster. Through this program, Nigerian athletes have been able to pursue their dreams of playing professional football in the United States.
Some Nigerian players who have emerged through the IPP or as undrafted free agents include Efe Obada, Ifeadi Odenigbo, and Osa Odighizuwa. These players have made significant contributions to their respective teams and have gained recognition for their talents.
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On May 4, 2023, the National Football League announced the names of eight players added to NFL rosters for the 2023 season through the NFL International Player Pathway (IPP) program. One Australian, one French, and six Nigerian players from the 2023 IPP have been allocated to NFL clubs, the highest number in a single year since the program’s inception.
The names of the Nigerians are; Roy Mbaeteka, Kenneth Odumegwu, Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi, Chukwuebuka Godrick, David Ebuka Agoha, and Basil Chijioke Okoye.
In an interview with BOUNCE, Chukwuebuka Godrick who got signed by Kansas City Chiefs via the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program revealed how he got on board the program, adding that he started his career in sports as a Basketballer.
“I was born in Nigeria and I also grew up in the country. I had my primary and secondary education in Lagos Nigeria and then I proceeded to Afe Babalola University in Ado-Ekiti where I studied Anatomy. all those while I used to play basketball due to my height.
“ However I got introduced to football Through educational basketball. They were scouting for The Uprise initiative which is run by Osi Umenyiora and he is the head of a football scouting camp in Abuja. About six of us were then invited to attend the inaugural NFL Africa talent camp held in Ghana last year. Afterward, we were then invited to the International Combine in London.
“For about 10 weeks, they were taking us through Football lessons, and from there I guess the Chiefs liked what they saw and picked me up.”
Talking about transition, the 22-year-old disclosed that he has faced and is still facing challenges in moving on from being a basketball prospect to an American footballer, emphasizing the importance of skill and strength of black ballers.
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“The transition has not been exactly easy But then basketball is also a sport that requires Training dedication and having your body in tip-top shape so I never had a problem with the training technique and physicality. The hard part for me was learning the rules of the game cuz I never played American football and I’ve never seen so much of it like the Americans do. I think I only watched the Super Bowl twice but I was never really a football Guy. So learning a new game was the hard part for me.
“The transition has not been so bad, just have to pay your dues, which is watching football games and learning about the rules. It hasn’t been easy but it is possible”
CHU as he’s fondly called decried the few NBA opportunities available for aspiring pro basketballers in Nigeria, going on to state that he decided to grab the NFL International Pathway Program with both hands as opportunities rarely come your way twice.
“I always knew that I wanted to become a professional athlete and I know as well that people from Nigeria barely get opportunities. To get an opportunity like I got, the chance to get to the NFL is something I couldn’t just let pass me by. As much as I would have loved to be a professional basketball player, thinking about the opportunity to play in the NFL was also mind-blowing.
After being drafted by an NFL team, the next steps for an NFL draftee typically include
Rookie Orientation: Attending an NFL-provided program to learn about league rules and resources.
Rookie Mini-Camp: Participating in team mini-camps to familiarize themselves with coaches, playbooks, and teammates.
Offseason Training: Engaging in physical conditioning, strength training, and skill development programs.
Preseason and Training Camp: Competing for a roster spot through practices, scrimmages, and preseason games.
Season: Making the final roster and participating in team activities, practices, meetings, and potentially seeing playing time in games
In reaction to the upcoming season with Kansas City Chiefs, CHU has stated that he is looking forward to proving himself as a rookie and walking his way to the pecking order.
THERES A NEW CHIEF IN THE KINGDOM ????????????
CHU IT UPPPPP???? pic.twitter.com/xJD71F70cS
— JASON ‘CHU’ GODRICK (@Ebuka_G) May 4, 2023
“I didn’t go to college in the state although I’m not using that as a disadvantage. But in my rookie season, I’m looking forward to proving myself by learning. They (fans) haven’t seen anything I can do as I haven’t put anything on film in terms of on-field work. I’m looking at this season as a challenge for me to put myself out there and show that I know what I’m doing and why I deserve to be a Chief.”
Kansas City Chiefs currently have a decent number of Naija boys on their payroll and that has prompted the Lagos-born American footballer to praise his latest employers for having a contingent of Nigerians at the club.
“I love the Chiefs to be honest, on the Chiefs we’ve got other Nigerians aside from me. They drafted a Nigerian in the first round. For me in my position group, I have Prince Tega, he’s a homeboy from Nigeria and he’s been so welcoming. Having him there has been so awesome, he’s made me so comfortable, cause I have someone who understands me, where I am coming from, and what Nigerians like. We can always speak pidgin, there’s a difference between when you can speak your language with somebody and also a different feeling when you can speak pidgin with someone out here”
American football is a minor sport in Nigeria with a little contingent of its citizens playing in the National Football League but CHU has set his sights on improving the popularity of the game in Nigeria and also partnering with the Chiefs to bring a training camp to Nigeria.
“There are a lot of Nigerians in the league although they were not born in Nigeria. Those from Nigeria have what it takes to play in the NFL Due to our physical attributes, we are big, strong, and fast. The only way I can inspire Nigerian-born athletes to play in the NFL and make it a popular sport in Nigeria is to stay successful because if people see that an indigenous person is succeeding it will motivate them.
“It will motivate them, telling them that it’s a big dream but it is very much achievable. In the coming years, I’ll partner with Chiefs to bring camps to Nigeria and we then have a fanbase. Giving back to the community is my thing and little things like this makes Football grow”.