The opening minutes of the first football game of the 2021 season would feel familiar to most Americans: Coaches pacing the freshly painted sidelines with nervous energy, muscular young men on the field in pads and helmets, and even a complement of cheerleaders jangling red pom-poms. Meanwhile, a gray sky threatened to unleash a downpour, suspending play and dashing the hopes of players and spectators alike. The only difference—granted, a big one—were the teams: The Lviv Lions and the Vinnytsia Wolves, facing off on a field behind a cluster of industrial buildings in the Lion’s hometown in western Ukraine.
American football is usually thought of as a uniquely national sport, with little presence in other countries. But