London hosts it’s 10th NFL International Series game this coming Sunday. The event never fails to bring the excitement and passion of the NFL to the heart of London, as the city embraces this increasingly popular sport on this side of the Atlantic.
It’s very rare that we are able to sit face to face with players we admire, yet Nike and the NFL endeavour to make what seems impossible a reality, by staging the ‘Suit Up For Sunday’ event on Tuesday night of game week. Nike Town in Oxford Circus was transformed into an NFL fan’s paradise, with all team jerseys taking pride of place on the ground floor.
This is the second year Nike Town has hosted this event and it gives fans the chance to hear first hand about the world of American Football. We were given the opportunity to hear how NFL compares with ‘European Football’ as described by Atlanta Falcons Running Back Steven Jackson, or ‘real football, the one where you actually kick the ball’ as Joey Barton of Premier League team QPR added.
A pre-selected group of NFL fans were able to sit down in a Q and A session held by Channel 4’s ‘The American Football Show’ host Vernon Kay. Vernon was joined by Steven Jackson (Running Back, Atlanta Falcons), Ndamukong Suh (Defensive Tackle, Detroit Lions) and Joey Barton (Midfielder, Queens Park Rangers).
Fans were able to hear about each of the players’ inspirations, the good times, the hard times and the general weekly routine. Talk of having a London-based NFL team always seems to be a popular topic of conversation throughout any International Series game week. When asked what their thoughts were on the subject, all the players were optimistic at the prospect and how they felt it was possible, with Steven Jackson adding ‘the only question I’d have is how would the taxes work?’.
Joey Barton, the self-proclaimed “closet NFL fan” offered a witty comparison between the sports with an evident admiration in the way the teams were organised. His first live NFL game was the 9th International Series game held last month between the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium.
When asked about his experience, he said ‘seeing how passionate the fans were and the range of jerseys on show I think there’s a really emerging market for it here. We were trying to work out which teams and players were the most popular by counting the jerseys. It was fun’.
One fan asked the panel ‘What is the hardest stadium to play at?’ for Steven Jackson it was Seattle, Ndamukong Suh said Green Bay, whereas Joey Barton’s response.. ‘Nowhere, I always get booed wherever I go’
The evening was a great way for fans to interact with the players on a smaller stage, and discuss topics dear to them in an oasis of American Football. The transformation of the ground floor in London’s Nike Town really is spectacular. So, if you haven’t yet got your jersey for Sunday, head down to Oxford Street and take a look at all the NFL merchandise on offer.
Sunday’s game will be played at the earlier time of 1:30pm (GMT) which is 09:30am (ET). The early games in the US usually begin around lunch time so this will be a new experience for many football fans stateside. We wonder whether beer with breakfast will work? We’ll soon see come game time
Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons – 1:30pm Sunday 26th October – Wembley Stadium