In 2005, Julio Adeodato left his native Brazil for a year of secondary school in Louisiana, a U.S. state where many people are devoted fans of American football. But Adeodato was not interested in the sport.
“The little I had watched of football in movies, I hated,” he said emphatically. “It looked like a lot of men jumping and hitting on each other.”
The teenage son in the home where Adeotato was staying insisted Adeotato learn the basics, and it wasn’t long before the Brazilian became hooked, even playing for his U.S. school team.
Ten years later, Adeodato plays American football in Brazil. What started out as pick-up games on the beach with friends has evolved into Adeodato starting for the Recife Mariners, the first semi-professional team in northeast Brazil.
“A lot of people thought it was a waste of time to put so much effort into something that wasn’t even known here,” Adeodato said. But he ignored them and made the effort, even traveling to New York to learn more about the business of sport through Sport for Community, a State Department and Partners of the Americas exchange program.
Now the battle to import American football is easier to wage: Brazil has two semi-pro leagues, along with several youth and women’s teams. Adeodato’s Mariners are taking time to groom the next generation of players by teaching football to Brazilian children in their physical-education classes.
American football and the world
The sport is spreading elsewhere too. “Football started in Finland due to exchange students returning and wanting to continue playing,” said Roope Noronen, of the International Federation of American Football, which has 64 member nations from Mongolia to Ireland.
Noronen was one of those students, having done a year of secondary school in the U.S. state of Minnesota during the early 1990s. But for today’s teenagers, who increasingly are getting exposure in their native countries, the trend has taken a twist: The students now look to study in the U.S. in order to play football.
“Kids start nowadays in many countries to play as early as age 10,” Noronen said. “We’re starting to see players wanting to go to play secondary school football in order to gain access to playing college football and maybe even to play in the National Football League.”
Internationally, more people each year watch the Super Bowl game, the biggest sporting event in the United States. (One in three Americans watched in 2014.) The game is broadcast in more than 100 countries. You can learn football basics with the help of the National Football League before this year’s Super Bowl on February 1.