The African Influence in Global Sports: Interview with Folorunso Fatakusi

The African Influence in Global Sports: Interview with Folorunso Fatakusi

Pulse Sports Team 10:05 - 27.03.2024

In recent years, Africa has emerged as a powerhouse in the world of sports, capturing global attention with its exceptional talent, resilience, and passion for athletic excellence.

From the grasslands of Kenya to the bustling streets of Nigeria, the continent is witnessing a remarkable surge in sporting prowess, transcending boundaries and inspiring generations.

At the heart of this phenomenon lies the untapped potential and unwavering dedication of its athletes, who are redefining the landscape of international sports.

Folorunso (Foley) Fatukasi is a prominent NFL defensive tackle of Nigerian descent currently playing for the Houston Texans. Born on March 4, 1995, in Far Rockaway, New York, Fatukasi stands tall at 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 318 pounds.

He played college football at the University of Connecticut, where he showcased his talent and was eventually drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.

Throughout his career, Fatukasi has demonstrated exceptional skills on the field. He has been a key player in various games, making impactful plays such as sacks, tackles, and quarterback hits. In 2021, while playing for the New York Jets, he started all 15 games and recorded impressive stats including 46 total tackles, 5 tackles-for-loss, and 6 quarterback hits.

Beyond his achievements on the field, Fatukasi is the founder of Rock the Block Foundation, a non profit organization whose mission is to empower youths to unlock their creative potential and build confidence through innovative programs and mentorship.

In this exclusive interview with SWA Sports, Fatukasi discusses his family/cultural values that played a role in shaping him as an athlete, the sports he believes to have the most untapped potential in Africa, the business prospects in African sports and his plans to use his experiences and resources to make positive impact in his home country of Nigeria. 

Briefly describe the value that being a professional athlete has brought to your life.

Playing at such a high level brings a profound sense of pride and inspiration to me and my family. I try my best to be mindful and a positive influence, because I have younger brothers following in my footsteps and kids who look up to me.

How have your cultural roots contributed to your athletic journey?

Both of my parents hail from Yoruba land, and the bedrock of my cultural heritage has greatly contributed to shaping my path. The values instilled by my parents have been instrumental in propelling me towards my goals.

They have consistently emphasized the importance of hard work and diligence, teaching my brothers and me that achieving our ambitions—whether it's being a doctor,  lawyer or pro athlete—requires unwavering effort. The sense of honor that comes from pursuing a goal and ultimately attaining it is a principle deeply ingrained in me. I carry with me the weight of this honor and responsibility and my cultural roots serve as a guiding force throughout my journey.

What were the major hurdles/issues you encountered while striving to achieve success in your career?

In high school, I faced numerous injuries that hindered my ability to perform at my desired level. However, I am grateful for the redemption I found through God and faith that helped me to overcome these setbacks. Upon entering College, I prioritized staying healthy while striving to showcase my abilities at a high level because I wanted to play in the NFL and that served as my primary motivation during this time period.

From your perspective, which sport do you believe has an untapped potential in Africa?

In my view, combat sports hold considerable untapped potential in Africa. Athletes such as Israel Adesanya, Francis Ngannou, Anthony Joshua, Kamaru Usman, and emerging boxers from Senegal and neighboring nations have demonstrated remarkable progress.

Additionally, track and field, basketball and Football show great promise thanks to initiatives like the NFL’s IPP and NBA Africa playing a significant role in talent development across the continent.

What best strategy do you believe would help attract major sponsorships to the African sports sector?

There’s so much untapped potential and market opportunities for sports in Africa and many players are doing such a remarkable job with so little resources.

Investing in elite training facilities and infrastructure is vital to unleashing the full potential of the abundant local talent pool.

Social media also serves as a powerful amplifier, bridging global communities.

Leveraging platforms like X, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram etc to showcase competitive sporting events can attract global brand sponsorships and partnerships from various sectors including consumer packaged goods, banking, streaming networks, gaming organizations, and more.

What strategies can international organizations and private entities do to collaborate effectively in investing in sports infrastructure in Africa, to boost grassroots development and high level competition?

To enhance grassroots development and high-level competition in Africa, collaboration between international organizations, government and private entities is key.

This can involve investing in infrastructure development, integrating sports into education and even backing sports-related agencies that can help nurture raw talent and encourage elite training for African youth to help them compete on a high level. These efforts can help elevate Africa’s sporting landscape and global exposure.

Being of Nigerian descent, do you have plans to drive any sports projects back home?

God willing, I’d love to be able to be a steward of resources and contribute to fostering positive change someday in the future in Nigeria.

As a kid, I remember how invaluable it was for me to have access to facilities and the guidance of certified strength coaches who elevated my training to higher levels. I hope one day to inspire the next generation of Nigerian athletes to reach their full potential on both local and international stages.