American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron football, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end.
The offense, the team with possession of the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with the ball or passing it, while the defense, the team without possession of the ball, aims to stop the offense’s advance and to take control of the ball for themselves.
Normal play consists of two teams of 11 players on the field (one on offense and the other on defense) competing during four 15 minute quarters and there are usually three time-outs per half for each team, with 12 minutes half-time interval.
The game has been in Uganda since 2015 under the American Football Federation of Uganda which is fully registered by the government of Uganda and fully recognized by the National Council of Sports (NCS).
The Federation is also affiliated to the International Federation of American football (IFAF) and they are working towards being affiliated with UOC.
The Touchline Sports caught up with the AFFU president Steven Okeng in an exclusive interview on the future, challenges, and what is needed to play the sport.
Okeng says the biggest contributing factor to the game’s existence is the interest and commitment to play and support the sport.
“It takes interest and Commitment for one to join American football and after that, we help to prepare all those interested mentally as they take on this new journey.”
On if there is an American football league in Uganda, the AFFU president says they had that in their plans for this year but the Coronavirus pandemic stepped in.
“We had plans to start up a mini-league mid this year but due to COVID-19, we haven’t been able to do that and lots of our activities have been affected,” he says.
On the availability of facilities where training activities can take place, the President says they are working hard to make sure they can have ;
“We have been working on several partnerships with many stakeholders and institutions. We have several fields where we conduct training like in Kyambogo, Makerere, Gulu, Karuma, Kiryandongo, Lira, Mbarara, and among others,” He says before adding “We are planning to construct the first American football field in Uganda at Kyambogo University which will be ready by December this year.”
Okeng goes on to reveal the challenges the team has passed through since inception in Uganda.
“Our biggest challenges remain with equipment for the game which is very expensive. This equipment includes helmets, shoulder pads, gloves, shoes, and thigh, and knee pads, mouthguards, and jockstraps.”
“The AFFU has not yet been in the position to receive any funding from the international body, but we hope soon that will come to be.”
American football is a dangerous sport due to the nature of contact associated with its practice. However, Okeng says the federation does quality assurance on all the stakeholders involved.
“As AFFU it’s our mandate to do quality assurance especially on the pieces of training we offer to our Athletes. We believe with such undertakings, our players are protected from any form of danger.”
On how the Coronavirus pandemic affected the development the games;
“The sports industry is one of those that have been highly affected by the COVID-19. So there’s no way we wouldn’t have suffered from it but we have continued to engage virtually with all our stakeholders.”
“More virtual training sessions have also been conducted during the lockdown with these training directed to coaches and referees.”
The Ugandan American football team won the 2019 East African Flag football championship in Kenya defeating the hosts in the finals.