• The Amman based gridiron team have "become brothers" according to coach Peter Laffoon. (Krystal Mizzi)
The quintessential American sport has found a home in Jordan.
By
Lucy Slade

Source:
The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour
22 Dec 2017 - 3:21 PM  UPDATED 24 Apr 2018 - 10:02 AM

For a country with not a lot of green grass, the Applied Science University stands out on the hills on the outskirts of Jordan’s capital, Amman. The vivid green artificial turf of the university's sports field is usually used for soccer but on Friday nights it's the domain of gridiron.

With his tall and broad shoulders, Hussam Yaseen, looks like a typical American footballer. He is president of the Jordanian American Football League and is busily chatting to all the players, coaches and associates before his duties as a referee begin.

Yaseen took the initiative to start a league in Amman after returning home from American College in Lebanon.

The league started in 2015 with eight players and has grown to five teams and 180 players. The main focus of the sport is not scoring touchdowns, it is about creating a welcoming community for the youth of Jordan and teaching them other life lessons though organised sport.

“We are trying to create a brotherhood and a trust between these people.”

Yaseen says the sport has created a community in which the players want to socialise and get fit, and one of the benefits is that smoking rates within the teams have plummeted. (The Jordanian government is running a campaign to reduce smoking, with Ministry of Health statistics showing half of high school and university students are hooked on the habit). 

Peter Laffoon is the coach of one of the five clubs, the Amman-based Vipers. He is from North Carolina and played American football growing up. Laffoon says the team is “like a fraternity” because the sport has brought together a lot of guys who “become brothers”.

“We are trying to create a brotherhood and a trust between these people.”

Laffoon loves the sport but even more than the game, he loves to have conversations with young people about what they are struggling with and their hopes for the future. He likes to help them navigate this uncertain time in their lives.

“We just really believe in the people of Jordan and these guys are future leaders here within society,” he says. 

 

This group also welcomed Australian Faris Shuwayhat into their community. He plays for the Vipers and is from Parramatta in Sydney.

He moved to Jordan almost a year ago for family reasons and was sad to leave behind his friends in Australia. But once Faris joined the team he met a lot of new people and is enjoying living in Jordan. He also likes the sport because you can “be any size” to play but like most of his teammates, he had never played before joining the league.

Yaseen says no one knew what they were doing when he started the league. "It was just a sport they watch in movies or on TV”. 

His dream is for American football to be the biggest sport in Jordan. He would like to have a big league with under 16s, universities, high schools and adults.

“Sometimes it’s about how you can help the community and the people.”

Video by Donal Sheil

The author travelled to Jordan as part of The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour, a joint program between the University of Technology, Sydney and Swinburne University supported by the Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR).  

RECOMMENDED
Kicking goals for women's sport in Jordan
Jordan recently hosted the first FIFA tournament to take place in the Middle East, marking a milestone in the development of women’s sports in the region.
The Middle East’s first self-defence gym for women
She Fighter is empowering its students through martial arts, with a mission to end domestic violence in Jordan, and a letter of approval from Barack Obama.

The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour is a joint UTS and Swinburne University project, supported by the Commonwealth through the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.