Bristol Aztecs: Meet the American football team among the best in the UK

  • Watch Naryan Branch's report

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

Bristol Aztecs play in the sport’s Premier Division and the side regularly compete at the top end of the league.

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

Chris Powles, the head coach, believes people are drawn in by the excitement of American football and its ability to cater for people coming from all shapes and sizes.

He said: "It's a lot of razzmatazz as you'd expect from American sports but it's really exciting and what I would say is anything can happen on any given play.

American football teams feature 53 players with a range of specialisms, so players come in all shapes and sizes Credit: ITV West Country

"A touchdown could be scored in a second so it's really exciting.

"One of the good things about American Football is because it's so specialised, there's a position for pretty much anyone.

"Small guys, fast guys, big guys, really big guys. People that have played other sports like rugby, basketball, football, can all transition to American Football."

The team owes its success to its academy, Bristol PRIDE, which has nurtured young players who have gone on to play at the highest level.

Alex Jenkins from Bath is one the academy's former players who wrestled his way to the NFL with the New York Giants.

Alex Jenkins (left) and Tigie Sankoh (right) both played in the NFL after coming through the Aztecs' academy Credit: PA

Tigie Sankoh is another PRIDE graduate who realised his American dream thanks to the Aztecs' academy and secured a contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Powles added: "The academy runs teams that have been very successful, have played against European opposition even beating the French national team.

"It provides pathways for their guys to go on to play in Europe, to play in the States, to play college football in the States and even get as far as the NFL."

Both the team and its academy are supported by South Gloucestershire and Stroud college, which has invested in state-of-the-art facilities at its campus in Filton.

Tapiwa Craig, a running back for the Aztecs, has developed his talent at 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 you have the ball or don't have the ball.

The Aztecs in a team huddle at the end of training Credit: ITV West Country

"Weather can be super hot and you could be out here or it could be snowing and you'll still have a game.

"You could literally be playing any time and it's insane. It's just so exciting, it's just crazy."

The Aztecs also have a second team, Bristol Apache, who play in a lower division and the side welcomes recreational players.

Christian Cinnige, who plays for the Aztecs, believes anyone who is curious about getting involved ought to try the sport out.

He said: "People see all the pads and stuff and they might think it's a bit scary but just take a shot at it.

"Even if you're a bit unsure maybe just come out and find your local team and just give it a go, you're never gonna know until you give it a go."