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Beyond borders and gridirons

Drake University Bulldogs triumph in the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl, but the success went beyond a football game

American football crossed a new international border on May 21 when the Drake University Bulldogs and CONADEIP All-Stars from Mexico met on the first-ever gridiron painted on African soil.

Drake triumphed in the matchup against a team of Mexican all-stars.

Thanks to a second-half comeback, Drake beat the All-Stars 17 to 7 in the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl, the first American football game played on the African Continent. The event, presented by the Tanzania National Parks Association and attended by more than 11,500 enthusiastic Tanzanian spectators at the Sheik Amri Abedi Memorial Stadium.

The game was observed by Alfonso Lenhardt, American ambassador to Tanzania, and Lazaro Nyalandu, the nation’s deputy minister of industry and trade, and a procession of dignitaries.Masai tribesmen entertained the crowd where cheerleaders would have danced in an American stadium.

The game also featured a halftime show of touch football by groups of local youngsters.

Bigger than football

“This game was the realization of a dream of many people and we are humbled to have not only brought a football game to Africa, but also to have created friendships that will last a lifetime,” says Patrick Steenberge, event producer and Global Football President. “In sport there has to be one team that loses, but today every single person in this stadium was a winner, I have no doubt about that.”

The Kilibowl

Chris Creighton, Drake head football coach, expressed his approval for the team’s performance and sportsmanship and emphasized the significance of the game.

“I’m so proud of you guys, each and every one of you, on so many levels,” Creighton said. “This is so much bigger than a football game and it was phenomenal. Do not let this moment and what we just did slip away from you.”


Service, a climb and camaraderie

The players from Drake and CONADEIP — 110 in total — continued to work together the week following the game to build an addition to an orphanage and complete other community services projects. On May 25, both teams embarked on a climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro — the highest point in Africa at 19,341 feet.

Seventy of 74 members of Drake’s climbing party, including Drake University President David Maxwell, reached the summit. Maxwell kept a blog, titled “Peak Performance,” during the trip.

“A number of the players had tears in their eyes as they stood at the summit, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the experience and the view in front of them,” Maxwell wrote.

The Drake and Mexican teams, staff and alumni pose before setting off to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

Drake created a photo gallery to showcase the game and other activities related to the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl, including youth football clinics conducted by the Bulldogs and their Mexican opponents. The Global Kilimanjaro Bowl Facebook page chronicled events with updates, photos and fan commentary. Sophomore Cameron Good posted original video clips and photos on his website.

Student-athletes from Drake and CONADEIP also attracted press coverage from the Associated Press, with the story reprinted by ESPN, Yahoo!, USA Today, MSNBC and other national news outlets.


Beyond athletics, the Tanzania trip was about global citizenship.