ACCRA, GHANA — Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kwity Paye wants to put American football on the map in Liberia, the soccer-loving nation where his family hails from.

Paye was born in a refugee camp in Guinea to a Liberian Krahn mother after the family was torn apart by the First Liberian Civil War. When he was six months old, he moved to Providence, Rhode Island with his mother and his brother, Komotay.

Liberia is a soccer-loving country and their president, George Weah, is the only African to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or awards. The former AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City star leveraged his national hero status in the 2017 elections to become state president in January 2018.

Paye told the media of his homeland’s sporting preference at an NFL Africa event in Accra this weekend: “I think right now, the focus is soccer [in Liberia].

“A lot of the funding that they get from other places for the sports teams goes all to soccer. There are other sports in Liberia and I would like to bring American football to Liberia.”

Paye was speaking after he assisted with the NFL’s first official camp in Africa last week, at Ghana’s Right to Dream Academy, along with fellow stars of African descent in Ghana’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Cleveland Browns) and Nigerians Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Houston Texans) and Uchenna Nwosu (Seattle Seahawks).

Also involved were African NFL legends Mathias Kiwanuka (Uganda), Roman Oben (Cameroon) and de-facto camp leader Osi Umenyiora (Nigeria).

There were 49 prospects at the camp, aged 16 to 22, vying for positions in the NFL International Player Pathway programme and the NFL Academy.

The vast majority were from Ghana and Nigeria, while three prospects were South African, two Senegalese and one Congolese.

If Paye had it his way, Liberian talent will soon be present at such events: “I definitely want to come back and make some new memories.

“This trip has been inspiring. I’ve been thinking the whole time about what [football] projects I can do back in Liberia.”

Paye, who earned a scholarship to the University of Michigan through football, views the NFL’s involvement in Africa not only as an opportunity for youngsters to find a pathway into the league, but also as a potential gateway to education and overall prosperity.

He added: “I feel like a lot of Africans are very proud of where we come from and we get to where we are to inspire generations after us to get to where we are.

“I think that’s kind of my main thing – or our main thing – inspiring people after us. With this game, I was able to take care of my family. That’s what we want to see – we’re here to give these kids an opportunity to get a job and education, so that they can take care of their families.”

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