Author: Callum Insull
New York Jets tight end CJ Uzomah took part in a major event in London earlier this month, where he and Chase Claypool of the Chicago Bears helped to launch the first ever NFL Girls Flag Football League in the United Kingdom.
The new league will see the two NFL franchises represented by various schools throughout a spring tournament, exclusively for young women.
Speaking at the event, Uzomah said: “To be able to spread [American] football overseas is great, I think football is the best sport in the world and to get women involved is amazing.
“I know the Jets, two years ago, started sponsoring eight flag teams and now it’s 162 I want to say. Over that span of two years, it’s exploded exponentially and that’s what we want to do over here.
“I’m very excited that I have been able to be a part of this process.”
The growth of American Football in the UK has been getting bigger year on year, especially with the international series held at both the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Wembley.
Although, this unveiling of a Girls Flag league will continue to help the sport grow and will also go a long way in Britain, and it’s something Uzomah thinks is already ‘perceived’ well here.
The Jets number 87 said: “I was a little stunned at the boos when I went to watch my team Chelsea play, but it’s amazing to see how our sport and the one I think is the best in the world perceived so well over here.
“As well as how the NFL is over here now, I think it’s important in general. I got to talk to Fran Kirby [Chelsea Women’s player] a little bit while on my trip in London and we talked about how each nation uses their schooling as a pathway to sport.
“Just in terms of getting all aspects of sport out there and accessible for women is amazing and some of my favourite athletes are female sports players.”
The creation of the Flag league gives girls equal opportunities to access American football and know that they can play it if they want to and Uzomah insists it’s ‘huge’ for females, for the sport and for the international growth of the game generally.
“Yeah, I think it’s huge,” said Uzomah.
“I mean don’t get me wrong I wasn’t born into this lifestyle, I didn't grow up here, so I’m not sure how everything works but in terms of what I call soccer, you go through academy.
“When I was young, I was able to pick a part, put on some boots and just play. We had different leagues in different areas, where you could just throw a kid in.
“For the most part in the UK, you usually must go through that academy system. I remember when I was younger, I was used to seeing boys playing on one field and girls playing on another, that’s what I grew up with.
“That’s why it’s such an important event and it’s important to me that we are doing this because you don’t really see that with Football.
“It’s amazing that in the two-year span in and around the New York area, we have 162 teams now. To be able to grow that, even just half of that here is massive.
“When we come over here, we don’t have a great amount of time so it’s amazing. To be here now to spread the news about the best sport ever is amazing.”
Moving away from the event itself, the former Bengal spoke about how much he enjoys the international series of games the NFL holds in both the UK and Germany.
Uzomah said: “I think it’s huge, the fact that Chase [Claypool] is over here, the fact that - the more players you get involved in them is great.
“The series has stretched to Germany now. I pray that I can play in Germany, I think that’s just brilliant. We also have a game in Mexico, so I think things like that are just great for the sport and for the growth of it over here.
“The beautiful game as you call your football is played globally because all you need is a ball and a couple of goals. So, I think as long as we keep pushing the conversation as a league, I think the sky’s the limit for our sport.
“The Jets just had me at, ‘do you want to go over to London?’ Then, as soon as I had the details as to why, I knew about the expansion and the 162 flag teams we sponsor and I had heard of the idea the Jets had, but once we got into the details, I was like you want me to go over.
“I am truly honoured, and I’ve not taken my time over here for granted at all. I’ve got to go to a lot of different cool events, but I know why I have been here, that focus has never left my mind.
“This has been the most memorable trip I’ve had.”