61,000 spectators filled Tottenham Stadium on Sunday, October 2, to watch the New Orleans Saints – Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, the professional American football league in the United States. Not a friendly, an official regular season game. The news is that 5 stadiums like the White Hard Line would have been filled if it had that capacity. The queue for ticket sales on the official website was more than 200,000 people. And so for every game that the NFL schedules in Europe.
The love for American football does not stop growing in the old continent. It is shown in the television audiences of each country and, above all, in the games that are played here. Two years ago, franchise owners and the players’ union agreed to increase the regular season from 16 to 17 games per team. The medium-term goal is to play 8 games at home, 8 as a visitor, and that seventeenth outside the United States (You could also play in a North American region or city that does not have an NFL team).
This year three games are played in London and one in Munich, in addition to another in Mexico City, which shows that the expansion of the NFL is not only focused on Europe. On Sunday, October 2, the first of the 3 London matches was played. The Minnesota Vikings won 28-25 over the New Orleans Saints in a very even game resolved in a heart-stopping ending with a field goal, a 61-yard kick, which hit a post and the lower support of the sticks in an epilogue heart attack If they had entered it would have meant a tie and extra time (Americans don’t like to tie).
A Tottenham Stadium with adn de la NFL
The game kicked off at 2:30 p.m. London time. At 10 a.m., four and a half hours before kickoff, the High Road was a trail of NFL franchise jerseys headed for Tottenham Stadium. This beautiful stadium, remodeled with partial financial support from the NFL, is in North London and almost everyone arrives by tube. Fans stream from the two nearest stops on the High Road, lined with information boards and vendors selling scarves and official match programmes.
The loyalty of the NFL fan and the desire to acquire merchandising from the different franchises is worthy of study. It may be because they don’t have it at hand or because buying online is not the same as in a store, but access to the NFL Store, the official NFL store at Tottenham Stadium, is always with a queue like any theme park. At 9 in the morning there were already 500 or more people waiting to access and buy that jersey, that hat or that souvenir of their favorite team.
Among the fans, the majority, logically, were those of the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, protagonists of the game. The most veterans at the London Games say that before it was a festival of disparate shirts. Of the Patriots, of the Packers, of the Dolphins… And now more and more it has ceased to be a multicolored spectacle to become a more traditional match (two teams, two fans). With nuances, there are still jerseys from all the teams but infinitely more from the leading franchises.
Kamara’s Saints and the eternal Brees
By the way, the police were adorning, in a good way. There was no problem between the hobbies. Respect, colleague, complicity, friendship. Photos of each other, laughter, toasts… everything that sport should always be. The majority were black and gold fans. They were local and their members could access the game with their annual subscription. Of course, the trip from New Orleans is paid for by each fan and that is why there were only a few thousand members of the Saints. Almost all dressed in the 41 shirt of Alvin Kamara, the absolute star running back of the city of carnival and who, unfortunately, did not play the London game due to a last minute injury. Kamara’s 41 only competed with the 9 of Drew Brees, the veteran quarterback who retired two seasons ago but who made history in New Orleans for his game and for his charisma and commitment to the city when it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The Casa Saints, the Spanish saints
Among the “saints” there were about twenty Spaniards, the Casa Saints, a group of kids between 20 and 40 years old who are fans of the NFL and the New Orleans team who began to share passions thanks to a chat and that now connects them live where they live. Madrid, Vitoria, Murcia, Seville, Barcelona… There are 58 but only about 20 were able to get a ticket for the London match. “Who dat Saints”, they shouted proudly on the terrace of a tavern located at the door of the old White Hard Line.
Josep María tells us that they are “very excited” to see each other for the first time. Many did not know each other except through the Telegram chat. The majority of fans are men in the stadium and among the Casa Saints as well. There is only one girl. Her name is Saray Rodríguez and she tells us that she “got hooked on the NFL” because of her partner, José Antonio Fábregas, a Sevillian passionate about the Saints. They both wore gold and black. He in the Brees jersey, she in the New Orleans team jersey, scarf and hat.
“If the NFL comes to Spain, El Moro shaves his beard“
Guillermo, whom everyone calls Moro, tells us that he is very optimistic about the arrival of the NFL in Spain. “I think that Florentino Pérez is going to get it sooner rather than later”. “When Moro passes, he shaves his beard,” jokes Sergi, an illustrious fan, one of the promoters of Spanish Bawl, a reference for Spanish fans of the North American football league.
In the group there is also another well-known follower for the NFL community in Spain. It is David Formentín, an absolute guru in fantasy matters, the virtual leagues where each participant chooses their players in their fantastic team and depending on their performance they get more or less points. There isn’t an NFL fan who doesn’t play various fantasy leagues. Formentín, a Saints fan, directs the Las 1001 Fantasys podcast and collaborates on the El Capologist macro project, one of the essential podcasts for Spanish football fans.
The pre match, spectacular
Everything that the environment promises outside crystallizes inside the stadium. Grandstands full of public devoted to entertainment and sport. With those “Americanadas” that are no longer so familiar. The respect with which the anthems, the American and the English, were heard contrasted with the explosion of red, blue and white fireworks, the colors of the flags of both countries.
The game is much more intense than on TV. First because, despite the noise, you can almost feel the tackles. The strength and speed that these super athletes demonstrate in every offensive or defensive action is amazing.
Another advantage of direct is that you don’t get bored. On TV, the breaks, the time-outs, are for commercials, but on the field you can take the opportunity to look at the number of extra-sports details that surround the pitch. The populated benches (the templates are 53 players plus those of the practice team that can be summoned if necessary). The animation groups, now mixed since many male dancers have joined the usual group of cheerleaders. And, of course, the stands. Full of the most peculiar fans who sometimes dance, other times they kiss when the famous Kiss cam focuses on them and above all they eat and drink, without stopping.
Justin Jefferson Exhibit
The game (don’t let the connoisseurs get angry because of the shallow review) was what Justin Jefferson, the Vikings’ star receiver, wanted. He did what he wanted despite being covered by one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league, cornerback Marshon Lattimore. His duel was spectacular but it was clearly won by Jefferson, first opening spaces for his teammates Thielen and Osborn, and sentencing the later with some reception worthy of what he is, one of the 3 or 4 best receivers in the league.
The defenses were very good and many times forced the kickers, Viking Joseph and Saint Lutz, to shoot field goals. These kicks add 3 points, a good loot when you have impossible to reach the rival’s end zone. Crossing it gives you 6 points and the possibility of an extra point with a very close and affordable kick. Saints kicker Wil Lutz had the equalizer in his right leg but his shot, as we have already said, hit two of the three goal posts to end up going out of it.
With adrenaline through the roof, the pubs next to the stadium once again filled with fans eager to share in the excitement. At 7:30 p.m. there were still thousands of American football fans around Tottenham Stadium. The game lasts approximately 3 hours and a quarter, but the experience extends beyond 9 hours. Much more, many years, in the memory of those who have lived it.
Very soon, everything indicates that before 2025, that American experience will arrive in Spain and the fans who go up the High Road today will do so through the Castellana, filling Madrid with Seahawks, Rams, Patriots, Giants jerseys, of the Ravens… or even of the Chargers (that there are some).