Schools from across the UK gathered for the first ever competitive NFL matches at Tottenham Hotspur's stunning new stadium, with teams going head-to-head in the national NFL Flag Championship to reach the international tournament in Florida at Pro Bowl in 2020.
NFL UK's flag football programme, presented by Subway, reached its season pinnacle yesterday (July 3), as the 2019 NFL Flag Championships took place at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Twelve schools from up and down the country congregated at the stunning new arena, with 180 young athletes playing their part in the stadium's first ever competitive NFL games.
After another hugely successful season of NFL Flag in UK schools, family and friends watched Wednesday's grand finale unfold inside the ground, as children between the ages of 8-11 represented their regional schools on this memorable occasion.
The competing teams were all coached and encouraged by eight NFL stars who acted as honorary coaches for the day: Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals), Akiem Hicks (Chicago Bears), Tahir Whitehead (Oakland Raiders), Samson Ebukam (Los Angeles Rams), Johnathan Joseph (Houston Texans), Mario Addison (Carolina Panthers), DJ Chark (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Cameron Brate (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). All eight NFL players in attendance will be playing in the NFL London Games later this year.
In a tense and thrilling competition, there were wild celebrations at the final whistle as Houghton Primary School from Godmanchester beat Ysgol Gwynedd School from Flintshire 32-31. The team from Houghton Primary School was coached by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and earnt themselves the once-in-a-lifetime trip to the United States next February to compete at the 2020 Pro Bowl. There was disappointment for runners-up, Ysgol Gwynedd School coached by Johnathan Joseph, whose team included youngsters travelling outside their home town for the first time.
Akiem Hicks, defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears and honorary coach for the victorious Godmanchester side. He said: "It's great that my team won, I loved every minute of working with the kids. It's been fantastic for all of us players to be part of this year's NFL Flag Championships here at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The kids worked so hard and showed some serious skill, they will remember playing in this amazing arena for a long time to come. I can't wait to return in October and play here with the Bears!"
The attending teams at this year's NFL Flag Championships earned their places in the competition's season pinnacle by winning their respective regional tournaments throughout the year. The schools were:
John Johnson, Head Coach of the victorious Houghton Primary, said: "It's been a thrilling experience for the kids to compete at the 2019 NFL Flag Championships at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. We can't believe we'll be travelling to Florida next year to compete at the Pro Bowl! It's been a fantastic day meeting and competing with schools from all round the UK. It's made it extra special to come away with the victory."
NFL Flag football has seen growth across many regions in the UK as the NFL continues to introduce more young people to the sport. Following the recently launched NFL Academy that will open in Barnet & Southgate College for 16-18 year old's in September, NFL Flag is a further demonstration of American football's focus on helping to develop the characters of young people and fulfill their potential.
Jason Brisbane, Head of Community for NFL UK, said: "Today's event here at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been a huge success and further underlines the hugely positive growth of NFL Flag in the UK. I'd like to congratulate all the teams for getting this far and particularly the Houghton Primary for being crowned national champions. I wish them all the very best in Florida next year!"
NFL Flag Presented by Subway is currently operating in more than 300 schools across eight UK cities including Manchester, London, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol. More than 20,000 school children across the UK have been involved in the programme since its launch in 2014, with the NFL and Subway sponsorship aiming to help primary school children develop their characters by focusing on the NFL core values of respect, integrity, responsibility, resilience plus the importance of a healthy lifestyle and getting active through NFL Flag.