32 Fans, 32 Countries is a look at the global reaches of the NFL. For this project we have attempted to interview 32 different fans of all 32 teams in 32 different countries all around the world (UK, Canada, and Mexico excluded). As readers will find, the paths to fandom are as varied as the cultures and customs of each country. Check back every day for a new profile. Next up: A Ravens Fan in South Africa
Rugby vs. football. In South Africa, it’s a debate with impassioned advocates on both sides.
But there may be no one better equipped to offer an objective verdict than Terry Ncube of Cape Town. No, really.
Ncube was an elite rugby player all through school, playing provincially, at a semipro level and for Rhodes University, which is the equivalent of playing big-time college football in the United States. If he wasn’t so intent on graduating with degrees in law, history and marketing, Ncube could have attempted to make rugby his profession.
He calls rugby “the greatest love of his life,” but it was a happenstance classroom placement as a 10-year old that paved the way for the “NFL and Baltimore Ravens to become a close second.”
In 1991, while in primary school, Ncube lived in Zimbabwe and formed an unlikely friendship with a boy whose parents were missionaries from Maryland. The two kids became best friends and Ncube would often visit his friend’s house for dinner. The friend’s father was a Ravens fanatic and would regale the young Ncube with stories of American football glory.
“Even then I was like ‘ok, American football, I don’t know what that is.’ Ncube recalled. While a big sports fan, his exposure was largely limited to rugby, soccer and cricket – the trifecta that dominates the South African sports landscape.
Still, Ncube’s friend and his family would travel back to their Maryland home and every time they’d return to Africa, there would be a new Ravens cap or t-shirt for Ncube. And that is how his affiliation with Baltimore began.
Yet it wasn’t really until the tail end of high school and the beginning of university that Ncube really became a fan, this time with assistance from another American – John Madden.
Ncube bought the Madden game for XBox and cannot extol its virtues enough.
“I don’t know if people in America know this, but Madden is a big source of getting people interested in the sport,” Ncube said. “It taught me the intricate mechanics of the game. And it’s a great entry point so if you sit down and watch an NFL game, you’ll actually know what’s going on.”
Ncube applied his Madden knowledge to his Ravens foundation and has now grown into the type of fan with a Twitter bio that reads “Baltimore Ravens till I die.”
Since falling in love with the NFL, watching games when available was not enough. (And sadly, NFL.com’s Game Pass has yet to be offered in South Africa, leaving Ncube with one game a week, and often not the Ravens.) Over the past 3-4 years, Ncube has satiated his thirst for football knowledge by turning to Wikipedia and printing off everything ranging from playing schemes to the history of coaches to stories of previous Super Bowls. And he follows all the latest Ravens news via Yahoo!, ESPN and NFL.
Speaking of Super Bowls, the most recent version started at 3 A.M. in Cape Town.
“It was a long working day on Monday, but so worth it,” he said.
Ncube had the middle-of-the-night of his life last February but doesn’t see a repeat
“It’s going to be an interesting season,” Ncube said. “As much as any Ravens fan wants them to repeat, it’s going to be hard.”
He is referring mostly to the extreme turnover that occurred in Baltimore in what seems like seconds after Ray Lewis hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. Luckily for Ncube, his favorite player “by a mile,” Terrell Suggs, has stayed put. Ncube calls Suggs his favorite because “he has so much energy and hates the Steelers with a passion.”
Suggs is also a freak of nature, which leads us back to the rugby vs. football debate. What say you, Mr. Ncube, the elite rugby player who is also deeply knowledgeable about American football?
“Football takes the nod for its sheer athleticism. You have men over 6 feet, that weigh more then 130 kilograms [286 pounds] and can run like Olympic sprinters,” Ncube said. “Guys that run at that speed are amazing.”
See also: A Pittsburgh Steelers Fan in Colombia
See also: An Arizona Cardinals Fan in Australia