Saturday Night Football: Ukraine Edition


| LAST UPDATE 08/08/2021

By Eliza Gray
ukraine american football leagues

Globalization and increased ex-pat presence in the former Soviet Union have brought some quintessential American customs over to the nation of Ukraine. One of which has grown significantly in popularity over recent years.

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According to National Geographic, American football has been around in Ukraine since the lead up to the 21st century. Its arrival in the country coincided with the crumbling of the Soviet Union and loosened borders. As the Iron Curtain fell, places like Ukraine were met with a wave of Westerners, who came with their own languages, customs, and pastimes. And from there, the football spark was born. In the years following, many men and women found delight in the sport, both as players and spectators. And its presence has only continued to grow.

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In the face of the rise of interest, attempts at a national league were made to regulate the teams and players. Most recently, the Ukrainian League of American Football has been overseeing the sport since 2016, while relying heavily on American guidance and expertise. One of these figures in the league is Alfie Williams, the current coach of the Kyiv Patriots. Williams relocated from the States to Ukraine's capital for work and quickly fell into the small but dedicated American football crowd in Kyiv that was in desperate need of guidance. "I saw a lot of things being done wrong," Alfie recalled after seeing the men on the field for the first time. But what they lacked in skill, they made up for in determination, and Williams soon found himself coaching one of the nation's biggest teams.

As of today, there are eight "super league" teams, including Alfie's team. Others include the Lviv Lions and Vinnystia Wolves. In addition, there are eight rookie teams playing at a lesser division. Plus, with most men's teams, there are women's flag football teams in growing numbers. Throw in cheerleaders and spectators, and this new national pastime has grown exponentially in just two decades. However, finances continue to act as an obstacle, as equipment and sponsorships prove to be hard to come by in the modest economy. But it seems like nothing can break their pigskin spirit.

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