In a recent interview with the Nigerian Football Federation president, he revealed that the NFL has been in talks with them to broadcast games from Nigeria to the Philippines. This is a major development for both countries as they are finally getting international exposure.
Jon-T Vergara sat a few seats back in a tiny Manila courthouse the week before Christmas in 2018, watching a hearing unfold in front of him. Vergara, an intellectual property litigation attorney, had some free time before his next case, so he downloaded a fantasy football app on his phone.
Vergara spent the time by going through the list of free agents, eventually snagging New York Jets receiver Robby Anderson. Vergara won his league title by four-tenths of a point thanks to Anderson’s 20 points.
On a Zoom conversation from the Philippines, Vergara remarked, “Gotta love those fractional points.”
Fantasy football may have originated in the United States, but it has grown into a global pastime.
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Vergara has been playing fantasy football for the last 18 years from the Philippines, watching the game evolve around him. According to estimates, over 40 million individuals in the United States participate in fantasy football. According to Business Wire, another 20 million people in India play fantasy sports, with that figure expected to rise to 150 million by next year. In the Philippines, Daryl Michael Lim, who plays in the same league as Vergara, believes that there are “safely in the thousands” of Filipinos who play fantasy football.
Despite the fact that the number of fantasy football players across the globe continues to rise, it remains a niche industry. Only around 5% of the fantasy football participants on ESPN are from outside the United States. The game was mostly developed on foreign territory by expats, and its development has been fueled by the NFL’s growing popularity in other nations.
To understand about fantasy football cultures across the globe, ESPN spoke with players in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Africa, Germany, the Philippines, Guatemala, and Canada.
Problems with time zones
In Lagos, Nigeria, a fantasy football draft party was held. Onwuka Chuma
In general, fantasy football isn’t much different in other countries as it is in the United States. Commissioners must determine whether to utilize PPR or traditional scoring, players fret about the waiver wire, and players plan about where to choose a quarterback or running back against a wide receiver. Players must pay to play with naira, shekels, quid, euros, quetzal, or the Philippine peso.
However, for those playing in Europe and Africa, as well as the Middle East and Asia, the time difference may be a nightmare.
There is a 12-hour time difference between the Philippines and the United States’ East Coast. Vergara is typically up when the 1 p.m. ET games begin, having slept through the 1 a.m. opener. He’ll remain up through the first part of the 4 p.m. games to watch the inactives for the early window of games since they’re in by 11:30 p.m. his time. However, if the attempt fails, he risks retaining a player in his lineup who may not be able to play.
“I’m toast if I’m not ahead and I don’t sit a dubious, uncertain guy,” he added.
It may be very aggravating.
Bryan Nicol, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa, which is six hours ahead of the East Coast, stated, “You tear your hair out because you lose occasionally in the head-to-head fight with the men because you couldn’t fast make a change before the game.”
During the epidemic, Lim’s current league expanded to 20 clubs. The majority of the managers are Filipinos, although one is from Los Angeles and the other is from the Bay Area. Lim will discover 30 or 40 messages in the league’s Facebook Messenger group conversation if he wakes up around 2 or 3 a.m. to use the toilet.
“It’s all in good fun,” he said. “We discuss fantasy football, the NBA, MMA, politics, and anything else. So it’s essentially like being a part of a family. It’s kind of great to have a group like that.”
Because of the six-hour time difference, Malisa Pfeifer, who resides in Frankfurt, Germany, can easily watch the first window of games. But she’ll sleep with her fingers crossed on Thursday and Monday nights, since an 8 p.m. ET start means it’s 2 a.m. in Germany. She’ll have to wait till the following day to find out the results since it’s too late for her.
David Wiseman, an Australian who relocated to Israel in 2005 and began playing fantasy football around seven years later, refuses to check on his team before going to bed on Sundays since Israel is seven hours ahead of the East Coast. The workweek begins on Sundays in certain countries, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, keeping football fans at their offices or keeping track of their sleep schedules while games are being played. Wiseman, who plays in a 12-team league with a majority of American players, understands that he has no influence over what happens with his team at that point, so he’d rather get a decent night’s sleep than toss and turn all night worrying about his fantasy result.
“If I’m ahead, I’ll feel anxious, as if I’m wondering, ‘What’s the lead?’ I’ll be apprehensive about it “According to Wiseman. “And if he’s ahead, I’m like, ‘I’m not interested in knowing about it.’ So, when I wake up on Monday morning, I’ll simply gaze at it without thinking, as if I were riding every pass, every run.”
The time differences may drive some international fantasy football players insane, especially if they are in several leagues with people from all over the world, which seems to be the standard.
Chuma Onwuka, a native Nigerian who resided in London but now resides in Saudi Arabia, participated in four or five leagues in 2023 with players from Nigeria, England, and the United States, he can’t recall at this time. He was often looking at his watch to see what time it was.
Living in Saudi Arabia provided him a few of hours of advantage over the East Coast, since he is seven hours ahead of them, while England and Nigeria are just five. Those two hours may be really useful.
“I start going on there before these guys wake up when I hear about some news, whether there’s free agency, waiver wires,” he added. “Which is a good thing for me.”
The drafts were a nightmare, according to Onwuka, since the commissioners conducted them at their leisure. This year, he’ll drop down to two or three levels to make things simpler for himself.
“On draft night, the London guys prefer to meet really late because they usually meet up at a bar or like they’re having a late-night drinks thing,” Onwuka said. “As a result, it ends up being very late at night their time, which is super early in the morning my time, and the same thing happens with the Nigerian men.”
“So I end up staying up late on draft night, for sure. It’s impossible to prevent.”
The flavor of the world
In Cologne, Germany, a fantasy football draft party was held. Pfeifer, Malisa
Steve Janikowski walks from his flat in Cologne, Germany, to Weinhaus Vogel, a 123-year-old tavern in the city center, in approximately five minutes. As the epidemic ebbed and flowed in Europe in August, Janikowski and eight other members of his fantasy football team picked a big table in the outside beer garden and settled down. They had their draft kits on the table in front of them, as well as their traveling trophy, which was on show for everyone to see.
They had a four-hour writing session ahead of them.
“I think for me, the draft is one of the most beautiful days of the year,” he added.
But first, there was food to be had. And don’t forget to drink. Quite a bit.
Food and beverages, like virtually every other fantasy football draft conducted in person, are just as important as cheat sheets and computers. Janikowski’s table in Cologne drank Kolsch type beer out of tiny glasses that night — a lot of it, he claimed.
“The beer is the most essential part,” Janikowski added. “We have our own beer in Cologne. It’s a Kolsch, to be precise. Those spectacles are a little on the tiny side. So we drink a few of these, but they’re really refreshing and don’t make you too buzzed.”
Pfeifer, who is in the same league as Janikowski, said they eat “standard pub food.” Schnitzel, sausage, Mett (minced raw pork on half a bun with onions, sauce, and pepper on top), fries, and perhaps a salad as a side dish.
Local specialties, such as suya in Nigeria, a thin strip of beef grilled and rolled onto a stick like a kabob and wrapped in newspaper, may be found at in-person drafts all over the globe.
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However, according to ESPN’s poll of fantasy football players from across the globe, the most popular meal at their draft parties was as American as fantasy football itself: wings.
The sauces are sometimes classic American, such as buffalo or barbecue. They aren’t always accurate.
Buffalo sauce is too costly to buy in Nigeria, according to Bimbo Bankole, but mayonnaise and ketchup, as well as a curry, pepper, and garlic spice combination, are two popular methods to flavor wings.
Chicken is the simplest meal to order in Lagos, according to Bankole, making it the most popular draft choice.
Jose Andres Ardon bought wings from Pollo Campero in Guatemala, a business that started in Guatemala in 1971 and has now spread to the United States.
Local beers, such as San Miguel in the Philippines, which costs around a dollar a bottle, Gallo in Guatemala, and Star in Nigeria, typically rule supreme. Non-Nigerians are typically served Heineken during Bankole’s draft parties, which is a safe bet for visitors from other nations.
The draft party seems to be expanding throughout the world, no matter where they are or what they are offering. Fantasy football for the NFL is “more popular than you think” in Canada, according to Paul Guilbeault, and it “dominates the Canadian sports discussion until around October,” when hockey begins.
In 2003, when Vergara began playing fantasy football, he calculated that his league was divided 80-20 between foreigners and Filipinos. Now it’s more of a 50-50 split, with more individuals becoming engaged who had no previous connection to the game.
“That’s really taken me off surprise these last several years,” Vergara remarked. “I’ve been in a keeper league for almost ten years, and the majority of the players are Filipinos from the area. They’re now expatriates in another nation, living in the United States, but virtually none of them have any real playing experience or are just fans of the game, and it all began in the Philippines.”