Int’l players bring NFL some global attention

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Int’l players bring NFL some global attention

INDIANAPOLIS - Super Bowl Sunday is arguably the most American day in the calendar, but this year there is a distinctly international flavor to the National Football League’s title game.

At least five players in the Feb. 5 game in Indianapolis were born outside the United States and their involvement is attracting fresh interest from outside of the North American heartland of the game.

The New York Giants can thank Lawrence Tynes, born in Greenock, Scotland, for their place in the championship game as the kicker is playing in his second Super Bowl after kicking the game-winner in the NFC Championship game.

Tynes will line up alongside fellow Briton Osi Umenyiora, born in Golders Green, London, as well as a number of players with Nigerian roots, including Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara.

New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko was born and raised in Timisoara, Romania, before his family earned a ticket to the United States in the Green Card lottery and he discovered his punting talent in high school in Ohio.

German Sebastian Vollmer, once of the Dussledorf Panthers, will feature at offensive tackle for the Patriots - injuries permitting - and is one of the few players to have played the game abroad before moving to the States.

Completing a trio of foreign-born Patriots is safety Patrick Chung, a promising young soccer player at primary school in Kingston, Jamaica, and well known in the Caribbean as the son of reggae singer Sophia George.

Their accents may be American but the NFL’s imports have not forgotten their roots and they feel they will be representing their homelands in some way at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Absolutely, I’ve been told that numerous times this week in e-mails,” Tynes, who says he is a lifelong supporter of Glasgow Celtic football club, told Reuters. “I’m very well aware from all the newspapers and so on that the whole country is behind me and so that’s exciting.”

Chung, who had never seen an American football game until he moved with his family to California at the age of 12, says he has had plenty of messages from old friends in Jamaica.

“I know all my dudes in Jamaica are going crazy right now,” said Chung. “I feel a really full support.”

For the NFL, which has long craved a major international presence but lags well behind more global sports, the emergence of players with strong foreign links offers some potential. “There are a lot of things that are happening in a grass roots basis in international markets - we are getting kids playing at a young age which does then give them the opportunity to come and play in the league in the future,” said Briton Chris Parsons, the NFL’s vice president of international business. Reuters
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