Troy Deeney and Efe Obada inspire youngsters at BIGKID and NFL event

In partnership with the NFL Foundation UK, The Greater London Authority and The BIGKID Foundation, Britain’s longest-serving NFL star, Efe Obada, hosted an amazing youth camp, giving kids an opportunity to explore the sport.

The event, which took place in Crystal Palace, aimed to showcase that anything is possible. After all, Obada himself came from a difficult background and, through grit and determination, managed to work his way to the pinnacle of the game.

Efe Obada is an inspiration

Having overcome adversity, the Washington Commanders icon, who’s an ambassador of the NFL Foundation UK and the BIGKID Foundation, has developed a passion for giving back to his people.

With palpable charisma and commendable enthusiasm, he got stuck into the action, throwing the ball around with the 150 children, giving them all a memory they’ll never forget.

After engaging in workshops, NFL Flag training drills and an NFL Flag football game, he said: “I grew up in South London, so this is a homecoming for me, and I’m able to give something back to my community. I only began playing American football at age 21, so working with the NFL Foundation UK and the BIGKID Foundation to help provide more opportunities in a sport that I love, especially with flag football, brings me a lot of joy. The future looks bright, and I love seeing the positive impact it can make on kids’ lives. I can’t wait to see more South Londoners in the NFL in the future.”


The event, which was also attended by former Watford striker, Troy Deeney and Top Boy actor, Nicholas Pinnock, went down a storm. And there’s one person to thank for it all coming together.

NFL star Efe Obada adores BIGKID

The BIGKID Foundation is a community charity with the goal of ending social exclusion and youth violence in London.

In a bid to engage children from all ethnic backgrounds, they have been offering leadership programmes, mentoring support and much more.

Their popular Flag Football initiative runs in 24 schools, working with over 2500 young people, 79% of which said the project boosted their well-being. The heart of BIGKID stems around giving young people opportunities and keeping them on the right path.

The organisation was started by Shaninga Marasha, who’s delighted to have Efe onboard.

Speaking exclusively to Sporf, he said: “Efe is just a big kid, if you excuse the pun. He was a gentle giant. The dude is absolutely massive. He came down to the youth club off his own back. We thought he was going to just do a tour. But he just wanted to hang out with the kids. Just playing on the PlayStation, playing table tennis with them, bantering with them. The kids fell in love with him.”

He continued: “Efe’s had a tough upbringing, a tough background, but he’s managed to persevere through it, showing resilience. People like him prove you don’t have to go down a negative path. He hasn’t just done good things for himself, but the community too.

“They say, ‘You know what? You’re just like us. You might be a few feet taller and wider than us, but you are just like us. You know exactly where we’re coming from’. Efe knows how difficult it is to live on these estates or try to avoid this stuff. In addition, he shows if you work hard and you have positive people around you, who are trying to push you, you can do it. He tells that story really well. The kids just cling on to that.” 

BigKid does fantastic things in the community to grow NFL

While some kids have the talent to make a genuine run in the NFL, others aren’t quite at that level. However, BIGKID strives to offer help to anyone that needs it.

Marasha beamed: “There are all sorts of skills that you learn. There are opportunities for competition. We run our own league called the Cage Flag League. We are also part of the Battle Flag League, and we are partners with the South London Renegades. We’ve got an under 19 and under 17 contact Team.”

He added: “Our girls go over to the Warriors women’s team, so there are loads of opportunities. We’ve had kids going over to unis as well. But there are opportunities beyond the elite-level stuff, which is great. There are a small amount of people that go to the NFL Academy, but loads come for the social aspect. They just love being around the vibe that we’ve created. That’s cool.

“As a charity, we offer loads of other opportunities around sports engagement, whether it’s sailing, basketball or football. We get them qualified as referees. Also, we’ve got a youth club where they get employability skills and training. They get opportunities to volunteer with us, whether it’s at our community centres or within the sport in our schools’ programmes at after school clubs. There are loads of things for all young people.”

BIGKID’s inspiring story

While BIGKID is thriving, it took a lot of work from Marasha to get it to where it is today.

He reminisced: “I started this a long time ago, man; it was when I was in sixth form, that was 22 years ago. When I was 18, I started a mentoring scheme in my school. There was a group of young people in my college; about 10 of them, who were about to get kicked out for behavioural issues.”

“I came up with the idea of mentoring them. We didn’t really know what we were doing. We were just a group of kids from South London who were in leadership positions in the school. And we were like, ‘I don’t think this is the best thing for these young people. How can we try and support them? How can we help’?

“We worked with them for a couple of years, meeting with them every break time and just tried to guide them, coach them, advise them, and that’s where the kind of bug came. That’s where the social purpose thing kind of germinated. The rest is history. 15 years later, we’ve got this registered charity, great partnerships with big brands and big funders, and work with around 4500 young people across London, and it’s growing. It’s been an awesome journey.”

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Shaninga Marasha revealed his inspiration to start BIGKID

From a young age, Marasha always dreamed of changing the world, and through BIGKID, he’s done just that; saving the lives of countless young people.

In a testament to his authenticity, he gave us an insight into his reasons behind starting the charity.

He explained: “I was the first black head boy of my school, and my dad challenged me. He said, ‘What legacy are you going to leave at school? It’s not good enough that you’re just a black head Boy. What are you gonna do’? I just thought, ‘Wow’.

“I’d done a lot of informal mentoring stuff with my friends with their little brothers, cousins, and nephews and just trying to keep them regulated. But when this opportunity came and the fact that our Head Teacher was willing to back us and support us, we thought this was something we could really do.”

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He concluded: “My family have always been big on giving back and supporting people. I’ve always seen my dad do it throughout his life, and I think it helped me having a male role model in my life. I knew a lot of kids who didn’t have that. Can we provide something like that for them?

“It’s the right thing to do, and it levels the playing field a little bit more for them. It makes you feel good about doing it and makes a tangible difference in young people’s lives. Telling someone, ‘Don’t do that. Try and do it this way because when I had the opportunity to do that, I chose not to’. You see them take the advice and apply it, and their life changes.

“It’s amazing. You’re absolutely winning. There’s no money that could pay you enough to get that feeling. It’s in my genes. My great-granddad was the same. He was massive on community, massive on people supporting others and trying to elevate them into positive pathways.” 

The Efe Obada Youth Camp is a partnership with the BIGKID Foundation and the NFL Foundation. To find out more about the NFL Foundation and its commitment to supporting young people, please visit, For more information on the BIGKID Foundation and its mission to end social exclusion and youth violence, please visit,

Featured Image Credit: NFL