Allgäu Comets: German Football League’s British stronghold

In many of the European top division American football clubs you will find a smattering of players from all over Europe, but for the Allgäu Comets, the overwhelming majority of their imports – seven – come from one place, Britain.

Top British athletes have always found a football home in Finland, in all corners of the country. Teams such as the Seinäjoki Crocodiles, Helsinki Roosters, and Hämeenlinna Huskies have always been more than willing to house a few Brits trying to make a name for themselves on the European circuit. 

But as British politics ushered in a Eurosceptic sentiment, a shadow loomed over the future of those wishing to ply their trade across Europe. At 23:00 (GMT) January 31, 2020, Britain officially left the EU, along with its unilateral relationship with each of the EU’s member states. From then on, if you wanted to play football in Finland as a Brit you were going to count as a non-EU – of which you are only allowed three on the roster (that are usually reserved for Americans).

Although there were a number of operational difficulties introduced into the GFL playing as a Brit, there were no roster limitations imposed on bringing them in. With the introduction of the European Football League (ELF) and a number of Germans leaving the GFL, a door that had typically only been slightly ajar for those who had already earned their stripes now became wide open. And one of those doorways to one of the highest levels of football in Europe was in Kempten, Germany with the Allgäu Comets. 

Allgäu Comets British LB Jonell Pelie #3 leaping teammate to make a tackle Photo: Sarah Philipp

The initial Brit – linebacker Jonell Pelie – had already been there for four years,  He began his career in 2013 with the London Blitz but signed for the Comets in 2017 in search of a higher level of football and a change of scenery. He subsequently stayed on and in 2021 had the opportunity to bring two of his old Blitz teammates along for the ride; running back Glenn Toonga, who just went undrafted in the CFL’s Global Draft and has a ton of European experience, and young defensive back Chad Walrond, who has two more years of university left and currently plays for Great Britain’s national team.

Toonga is happy to have teammates from home:

“I love it. I think in the past, the talent in the UK has been overlooked, I guess because our league isn’t as popular/established as its EU counterparts like the Maple League or the GFL, people don’t really understand how much talent there is in the UK. So it’s good to see so many British guys on the team, getting the chance to put their skills on display.”

Following the signing of the Blitz trio, the team added four more Brits – quarterback Sam Huxtable, running back Canice Gonzague, wide receiver Lewis Kirby, and defensive lineman Joshua Olaiya – to make it six. Huxtable and Gonzague played together at Swansea University in Wales.

Allgäu Comets British DB Chad Walrond Photo: Sarah Philipp

And it seems that the British players have not only filled in the gaps but also performed optimally with Toonga ranking second in the league in rushing, Pelie third in total sacks. In fact, the Comets now boast the third stingiest defense in the league. This has led to a 5 – 2 record and two very winnable games ahead of them to ensure a spot in the playoffs

Defensive back Chad Walrond:

“I think the last two weeks will show us who we truly are as a team”.

It is not only British NFL players like Efe Obada, Aden Durde and Tigie Sankoh who have paved the way for those looking for more than Brit-ball can offer, but also the likes of Pelie and Toonga who help to put British talent on the map internationally.

As American football grows in Europe, expect the role of British players in helping that trend to grow as well.

Watch the Allgäu Comets play the Marburg Mercenaries live on Game time is Sunday, August 29 at 15:00 CET (3 pm, 09:00 am ET).

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.