NFL Stars, American Football Without Barriers Teaching Football to Youth in Turkey

Four years ago, Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge and Breno Giacomini created American Football Without Barriers (AFWB). So far, it’s been a smashing success.

The goal of the non-profit organization is to spread American football to other countries while teaching kids the camaraderie and other life skills the sport brings to the table. Every year for a week in the spring, NFL players tag along with Barnidge, bring equipment for the youths to keep and train adults on coaching techniques so that football will be able to thrive there once the players leave.

afwbYear 1, the camp was held in China. Year 2, it was Brazil. And earlier this week, AFWB arrived in Istanbul, Turkey.

Accompanying Barnidge are fellow Browns teammates Alex Mack, Barkevious Mingo, Jordan Cameron and Johnson Bademosi. Fresh off the tough Super Bowl loss, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and Cooper Helfert also are part of the entourage. Longtime Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams also made the trip to the Middle East. Thomas Keiser and Will Stuvek, also NFL linebackers are part of the group.

The United States’ consulate, Charles Hunter, welcomed the Browns players Thursday for a dinner party.
In addition to teaching football, Mack will be joining the NFL USO Tour to hang out with members of the Military. Mack was awarded the Browns’ NFL Salute to Service award in November and has several family members who served in armed forces.

Day two in Istanbul was day one on the field. The players hosted the University Football Federation and Turkish American Football Federation teams. The morning consisted of non-contact drills and the afternoon was full contact.

The highlight of day was when a Turkish reporter asked to have a “taste” of American Football. He was suited up, signed two waivers, and sent him straight into a tackling drill. Check out the video below of the encounter.

Check out American Football Without Barriers for more in-depth coverage of Barnidge and the Browns.


John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.