Sports play a massive part in the local culture wherever you go in the Middle East. Sports like soccer, wrestling, cricket, and tennis are examples Middle Eastern people like to follow in their spare time. One other sport that has grown in popularity in the Middle East is football – in particular, the NFL. This is not a surprise when you think that the NFL is the premier competition in pro football and plays host to the most well-known players/teams.
Sports betting and the NFL
As with other sports, many people in the Middle East also like to bet on NFL games and watch them. This makes matches more exciting to catch and gives you more personal involvement in the action. In addition, there are many secure online sportsbooks for people in the region to use now, and they come with many markets to dive into. If you follow the Houston Texans, for example, Texans prop bets give a new way to back your side.
The popularity of the NFL in Middle Eastern countries is not just down to how good it is to bet on or how awesome games are to watch. Many people also love seeing Arab players turning out for the top teams. But who are the 5 best Arab players to have lit up the NFL?
1 Oday Aboushi
Aboushi is not only one of the most prominent Arabic players the NFL has seen but also one that is still active. He is now a free agent after being released by the LA Chargers after the 2021 season. Before this, he had carved out a decent career as an offensive guard for multiple teams, including the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders. Aboushi is Palestinian-American by birth and the son of parents who emigrated to New York from East Jerusalem.
2 Ryan Kalil
Lebanon is a beautiful place that has plenty to offer – from stunning history to unique culture and the best hotels. In terms of the NFL, it has also been the primary source for Arab players. One Lebanese-American active in the NFL until quite recently was center Ryan Kalil. He turned out for the Carolina Panthers from 2007 until 2018 before spending his final season at the Jets in 2019. He probably would have gone on to play longer if it were not for numerous injuries cutting his career short.
3 Brian Habib
Although there is not a massive choice of Arabs playing in the NFL, there have been some standout players in the league’s history with this heritage. Brian Habib is a fine example and someone who came from a Lebanese-American background. This former offensive lineman first played for the Vikings before moving onto numerous sides in his career. This included a stint in Denver, during which he was part of the Broncos’ 1998 Superbowl win.
4 John Elway
Possibly the most famous NFL player ever with an Arabic connection is former quarterback John Elway. A Pro Football Hall of Famer from 2004, Elway has Lebanese-American roots and is mainly associated with the Denver Broncos. Now President of the team, he was an outstanding quarterback for them and took the Broncos to multiple Superbowl wins.
5 Abe Gibron
Another player with an Arabic background who lit up the NFL was Abe Gibron. A brilliant high school athlete, Gibron started playing pro football in 1949. This was for the Cleveland Browns – firstly in the now defunct AAFC league and then in the NFL. In Gibron’s 11 years in Cleveland, he helped the side win three championships from his position as a guard. This shows what a fantastic player he was and his impact on the NFL.
Arab players in the NFL have made their mark
Although currently active Arab players might be in short supply around the NFL, there is no doubt the impact people with this heritage have made over time. This is no surprise when you consider the overall sporting excellence of the Arabic world and the many famous sportspeople with Arabic connections who have made their mark.
When it comes to the NFL, there is no doubt that the players we have looked at above deserve their place in NFL history. We shouldn’t wait much longer to find new Arab players to create a new footballing account.