The whole NFL Europe experiment didn’t quite pan out too well the first go-round but a recent KickStarter program chronicling the attempt to bring American-Style Pro Football to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka may prove that the sport isn’t as dead in the water as we all originally thought.
The concept of the documentary Birth of a Sport is “what is America’s most popular sport was introduced to the world’s second most populous nation?”.And the Director/Producers of the documentary are Evan Rosenfeld and Jenna Moshell, who both worked on some of ESPN’s highest rated programming in Broke and The U. Both Evan and Jenna were able to following the very first training camps and very first season of the new league.
“Birth of a Sport will be a feature documentary chronicling the Elite Football League of India (EFLI), the first professional American football league in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Founded in late 2011, the EFLI was started to create new opportunities for athletes in the region. The first season began just about a year later and is being broadcast throughout South Asia on one of the leading sports networks, Ten Sports. The league consists of eight teams, five located in various cities across India, two in Sri Lanka, and one from Pakistan. There are some big names behind the league, including NFL Hall of Fame members Kurt Warner, Mike Ditka and Michael Irvin, as well as Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg.”
Even though the story of the start up of the league is compelling, the real story is with the players who have stated playing this sport has already changed their lives for the better. Some are able to feed their families or in some cases, an entire neighborhood off of one check they made while playing in the league.
Here is a quick snippet of story from one of the players in the EFLI:
July 25, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: It is a blisteringly hot day at Sugathadasa Stadium as Amit “Happy” Lochab steps on the field for the first ever professional American Football game in South Asia; he has come a long way at this point. The field where he learned to play this game was one built with his own two hands. Happy is the leader of his team, the Delhi Defenders, and when they didn’t have a field to practice on, he gathered his villagers and teammates, borrowed a tractor, and spent day and night clearing the field, laying grass down, and painting lines on it. Of course, the field could never be complete without one final touch: stamping DEFENDERS across the end zone. Happy grew up poor in Auchandi Village. Just 11 months ago he picked up a football for the first time. But now, Happy is moments away from making history.
Considering just one of the countries in the league has over billion people, you are bound to get players from all walks of life. Which is why this documentary can tow the line of being both relatable but also give us circumstances and back stories that no American would ever face in their day to day life.
Take the fact that hated rivals (for reasons other than football obviously) India and Pakistan each have a team in the EFLI.
With 111 million television viewers, the 2012 Super Bowl was the most watched show in US history. By contrast, a 2011 India-Pakistan cricket match was estimated to attract an audience of over 500 million. The history between India and Pakistan is long, documenting a relationship colored by infamous complexity. India and Pakistan were, at one time, a single country under British rule. In 1947 Britain dismantled its Indian Empire and partitioned the sub-continent, creating a fierce South Asian rivalry, which has lasted ever since. The roots of this animosity stem from religious difference and even further conflict over the states of Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, this conflict has escalated into a frightening nuclear arms race. This rivalry isn’t constrained to just geopolitical affairs. The competition between the national cricket teams of India and Pakistan is one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world. A standard India-Pakistan cricket match attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, and defeat is just plain unacceptable to fans of both teams. The EFLI is hoping to bring these two countries together in peace through this vicious contact sport. Can players from these two countries, competing with the same goal of demolishing each other on the field, come together as brothers off of it? Birth of a Sport will chronicle this as it’s happening.”
500 MILLION potential viewers of this new sport! Can you imagine the power of the NFL if it’s fan base quadrupled instantly? The numbers, history between the countries and frankly the preview below has me hooked on this documentary already. Watch it to see for yourself.
To get more information on the league and Kickstarter funds needed to fund the post production of the documentary, head on over to the donation page and see how you can help!