Michael Palmer recently visited with a Serbian football team. From his reports it looks like football still has a long way to go in Eastern Europe.
Americans absolutely love football. There is no better feeling than waking up on Sunday knowing your team is playing (at least in my mind). Unfortunately for the NFL, that's not exactly a recurring theme in the rest of the world.
Football, at least "American" football, is played in a fair amount of countries outside the U.S. You'd be surprised at the number of teams/leagues around the globe (scroll down to leagues by country) that are for the most part unheard of here. It might be gaining popularity, but no one takes football as seriously as Americans do.
The International Federation of Football (IFAF) has a dream of one day getting football approved as an Olympic sport. That might seem like a fanatical delusion at first mention, but it's something that's been discussed for quite some time now.
Take a jump and I'll go into a little more detail of how realistic this goal of the IFAF really is.
Alex Marvez of Fox Sports wrote an intriguing article that caught my attention today. It's a bit lengthy, but it's worth the read. To sum things up, football has plenty of support from multiple sources, but there a just as many obstacles standing in the way of it making the ultimate global stage.
A football World Cup, which I had no idea even existed, has been played since 1999. The IFAF World Championship of American Football is held every four years. The U.S. only competed in two of the four competitions, and big surprise, they won both times with teams comprised of no-names. Cody Hawkins was the QB for the 2011 squad. You've heard of him, right?
Regardless of how popular football is in other countries, America is miles ahead of everyone else. Such a complex game takes quite some time to completely grasp.
Steve Specht, who is the head coach at Cincinnati high school powerhouse St. Xavier, traveled to Brazil in April as part of a USA Football contingent that included former NFL linebacker Rocky Boiman and 2012 first round draft pick Luke Kuechly. Specht said the game remains in such infancy there that he quickly scrapped plans to open the clinic with a power-point presentation detailing such intricacies as blitz schemes and fire-zone pass coverage. Specht and another acclaimed high school coach (Chris Merritt of Miami Columbus) were instead asked to explain tackling basics and even how to properly grip a football to throw.
This accurately portrays what it's like in countries just now picking up the sport. A general consensus from the comments I read on Marvez's article basically said, "Why not just give the United States the gold medal if football is included?"
Falcons tight end Michael Palmer was mentioned in this as well, as he recently ventured to Serbia and worked with the Kralijevo Royal Crowns. Serbia apparently loves American football, and the sport is the "fastest-growing game in Eastern Europe."
Palmer admits to being surprised at the quality of football in Kraljevo and that there "were quite a few kids we thought could definitely play in college." But he added that the Serbian programs are "very much behind on the mental game like why you call certain plays and pass and run concepts."
Also noted is the fact that the equipment over there isn't the up to the NFL's standards "Palmer said the teams he met with in Kraljevo didn't wear pads their first two years of existence," writes Marvez. That's not going to help the IFAF's cause.
As great as it would be to see football in the Olympics, we seem pretty far off from making it a reality. Mike Florio wrote about this same issue back in 2010, talking about the NFL's plans to make the sport global. I'm sure we'll see plenty more articles like these in the coming years as well.
I wouldn't mind seeing football become an Olympic sport, but it just doesn't seem possible anytime soon. It feels like we're still decades away from a movement like that. What do you think?