The National Football League (NFL) made a touchdown in Cape Town, South Africa this month, featuring a weekend of fan events to celebrate the commencement of the new 2023 season in the US.

Cape Town-based NFL supporters celebrated the new season, which kicked off earlier this month with defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Detroit Lions, through a series of fan events on September 16-17.

The events formed part of the NFL Africa programme, which is a long-term, multi-market commitment to growing and expanding the game at every level across the continent. The NFL held its first official NFL Africa event in Ghana, in June last year. In that instance, ‘NFL Africa: The Touchdown’ included a talent identification camp, a fan event and a flag football clinic.

Immersive football fun

Local fans were able to have the full NFL experience, 15,000km away from the action on the pitch in the USA, with activations allowing participants to test their skills, learn the history of the league and take part in NFL Flag activities in Cape Town. Authentic NFL merchandise was available for fans to peruse, with guests able to show support for their chosen team.

To complete the NFL celebration, the iconic Vince Lombardi Trophy – awarded to the winning Super Bowl team every year – was displayed among NFL memorabilia. To take the immersive feel even further, visitors were able to play the newly released Madden NFL 24 video game and be fully involved in the football atmosphere with the VR (virtual reality) Pro Era game. Fans also had the opportunity to check out authentic player jerseys from Mitchell & Ness and apparel from Kingdom & Co.

In collaboration with broadcaster ESPN Africa, an NFL Viewing Party took place at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre to round-off the weekend of NFL celebrations.

Attendees were able to play games at the party, with the chance to secure prizes and participate in numerous giveaways centred around American football. NFL Legends and local South African personalities were present to watch and cheer on a game from week two of the 2023 NFL season.

Former British-Nigerian New York Giants defensive end and two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora was present to celebrate alongside fans. Umenyiora has been a leading figure within the NFL’s expansion efforts in Africa.

Earlier this year, Umenyiora supported the NFL Africa programme in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, with a talent identification camp and NFL Flag football showcase.

At the latest event, Umenyiora was joined by South Africa’s very own NFL Legend Gary Anderson, who featured in the NFL for 23 seasons. Anderson was the country’s first player to feature in the NFL, and spent the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans.

The two were further accompanied by fellow NFL veteran Kenny Stills, who featured for the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and the Buffalo Bills.

According to the NFL, more than 125 players of African descent (born in Africa or first generation born in the US) from 15 countries across the continent played in the NFL last season.