The most important date in a calendar of National Football League (NFL) in United States of America is the Super bowl contest. The Super Bowl XLVI maybe a local event but it has a global influence and flavor due to cultural heritage diversity of its players. Three Nigerian athletes of Igbo heritage will be playing in this important game event between New England Patriots and New York Giants. These formidable athletes of Nigerian heritage are James Ihedigbo, Osi Umenyiora and Prince Amukamara who will be playing against each other. While Umenyiora and Amukamara are playing for New York Giants, Ihedigbo plays for New England Patriots.
Many Americans and Nigerians are not aware of Nigerian presence at the Super Bowl XLVI. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, moderator of GPS show did not mention Nigeria as a nation with presence in the super bowl when he was naming countries that have presence in the event that is fast becoming an international event.
Writing about the heritage of these formidable athletes, Jim Slater (AFP) wrote: "Patriots safety James Ihedigbo’s parents moved to America from Nigeria in 1982, the year before James was born.Ihedigo admires Giants rookie safety Prince Amukamara, whose mother was a Nigerian Olympian in 1984, and defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who was born in London to Nigerian parents."
Speaking about his fellow Nigerians, Giant’s Osi Umenyiora was quoted saying, "I’m definitely honored to be one of the many Nigerians in the NFL They are great players. It’s the athleticism, guys that are big guys that are able to play versatile positions and do more and be athletic. It’s awesome."
One great thing about these gentlemen is that they have not forgotten about their heritage and they have always return home to contribute to social and civic development of Nigeria especially in the field of education empowerment for the less privilege of various communities. Last time Osi Umenyiora returned to Nigeria, his father’s home town Ogbunike, where his father is the Royal Traditional Ruler bestowed to him a crowned prince and chieftaincy title.
On the Super Bowl media day James Ihedigbo who lost his father Apollos Ihedigbo to kidney failure at age of 17, reminiscence about his late father. James Ihedigbo moving words were documented in Mary Paoletti’s Comcast page:
"[I think about my dad] a lot. I get emotional thinking about it. A lot. I know he would be, and he is, very proud of where I got to and the point that I’m at. It’s taken a lot of years, a lot of hours of working out and training and film study and preparation to get to this point. I often think about . . . all the time . . . his hard work. He could come from Nigeria, a third-world country, and be successful in the United States and earn his PhD in education. He went from picking cans [off the street] to being an academic advisor [at UMass]. That’s a true story. I feel I’m here in the United States and there’s nothing that I can’t accomplish."
And James Ihedigbo concluded with these powerful words, "I’ve been blessed to have one of the greatest games as a platform to do other things, to touch other people’s lives. I think that’s what I was blessed with. I’m a firm believer that I was blessed so I could bless others. That’s what I’m trying to do. I just want to educate — give people opportunities that they don’t have — in any way that I can. Give people what they need to be successful like I am."
Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization. Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. http://afripol.org. [email protected]