Bristol Aztecs: Meet the UK’s top American football team

The American football season has started in the UK and Bristol is home to one of the best teams in the country.

The Bristol Aztecs play in the sport’s premier division and the team regularly compete at the top of the league.

American football is one of the most watched sports in the United States and is growing in popularity there.

Head Coach Chris Powles believes people are drawn to the excitement of American football and its ability to accommodate people of all shapes and sizes.

He said: “It’s a lot of razzmatazz as you would expect from American sports, but it’s really exciting and what I would say is anything can happen in any given game.

American football teams have 53 players with a range of specialties, so players come in all shapes and sizes. Credit: ITV Western Countries

“A touchdown can be scored in a second, so it’s really exciting.

“One of the great things about American football is that it is so specialized that there is a position for just about everyone.

“Little guys, quick guys, big guys, really big guys. People who have played other sports like rugby, basketball, soccer, can all switch to American football.”

The team owes its success to its academy, Bristol PRIDE, which has trained young players who have played at the highest level.

Alex Jenkins of Bath is one of the former academy players who made his way to the NFL with the New York Giants.

Alex Jenkins (left) and Tigie Sankoh (right) both played in the NFL after going through the Aztec academy Credit: Pennsylvania

Tigie Sankoh is another PRIDE graduate who made his American dream come true through the Aztec academy and secured a contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Powles added: “The academy is leading teams which have been very successful, have played against European opponents even beating the French national team.

“It allows their guys to play in Europe, play in the United States, play college football in the United States and even go all the way to the NFL.”

The team and its academy are both supported by South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, which have invested in state-of-the-art facilities at its Filton campus.

Tapiwa Craig, a running back from the Aztecs, developed his talent in the academy and embraced the intensity of the sport.

He said: “It’s exciting. Literally every two seconds of the game anything can happen whether or not you have the ball.

The Aztecs as a team at the end of training Credit: ITV Western Countries

“The weather can be really hot and you could be here or it could snow and you will still have a game.

“You can literally play anytime and it’s crazy. It’s so exciting, it’s just crazy.”

The Aztecs also have a second team, Bristol Apache, which plays in a lower division and welcomes recreational players.

Christian Cinnige, who plays for the Aztecs, believes anyone curious about getting involved should give the sport a try.

He said, “People see all the tampons and stuff and they might think it’s a little scary, but give it a go.

“Even if you are a little unsure, maybe come find your local team and give it a try, you will never know until you try.”

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