To clarify how he got here to be in late October standing inside Wembley Stadium sporting a Giants blue Saquon Barkley jersey above a standard Scottish kilt — earlier than a recreation between the Broncos and Jaguars — Kevin Eddison has to take you again to 1987.

As a 14-year-old rising up in Aberdeen, Scotland, Eddison was grappling with a maddening case of rooster pox. He sat on the sofa, unable to sleep. The solely factor on TV late that evening in January: Super Bowl XXI between the Giants and Broncos.

“I got enticed by Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor and all that,” he mentioned of the celebs who helped the Giants that evening to a 39-20 victory. “It just started off from there.”

The NFL final Monday wrapped up a strong, five-game worldwide schedule with the 49ers beating the Cardinals, 38-10, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The league staged three video games in London earlier than that — the aforementioned contest at Wembley and two at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — and likewise held the first-ever regular-season recreation in Germany, a 21-16 Buccaneers victory over the Seahawks in Munich on Nov. 13.

A standard scene that linked all these video games: Fans sporting jerseys — of gamers each well-known and obscure — from groups throughout the league. A few laps across the concourse at Wembley earlier than the Broncos’ 21-17 victory on Oct. 30 was all essential to examine every of the 32 groups off the checklist. On any given Sunday at an NFL stadium within the United States, you’ll see a handful of jerseys that don’t characterize both workforce enjoying, however the bulk of the fan wardrobe is both within the colours of the house workforce or these of the infiltrating guests.

When the sport reaches the worldwide stage, the aesthetic is much totally different.

“When games come over here, it’s our way of celebrating our love of the sport,” mentioned Paul Jhon, a younger fan from Germany who flew to London for the Broncos-Jaguars recreation and arrived at Wembley sporting a teal Dolphins jersey with former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s identify on the again.

Jhon started watching the game as an adolescent eight years in the past, and he’s spent the final two years enjoying on an newbie soccer workforce in Germany as an offensive lineman, however he has by no means gravitated towards a particular NFL workforce. Instead, he picks his jerseys primarily based on iconic moments the gamers sporting them have produced.

For instance, Jhon was watching a Dolphins recreation towards the Raiders in late December 2020. Fitzpatrick, making an attempt to guide the Dolphins on an unbelievable game-winning drive, had his face masks yanked by a Raiders defender and nonetheless managed to finish a 34-yard move to Mack Hollins, establishing Miami for a successful area purpose.

“He completes the throw, and it was just incredible,” Jhon mentioned. “I just couldn’t resist it. After that game, I immediately went online and bought the jersey.”

In the playoffs a couple of weeks later, when Washington backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke dodged almost the complete Tampa Bay protection on his technique to an 8-yard landing run, Jhon positioned one other order, this time for a burgundy and gold No. 4 jersey.

“You just get so caught up in the moment,” he mentioned.

At a bar referred to as Augustiner Stammhaus earlier this month, the Seahawks’ designated watering gap in downtown Munich, the place was full of Seattle followers. But even there, followers sporting different jerseys had been a part of the combination. One man named Tobi was sporting a Patrick Mahomes jersey.

“I started watching NFL really intensively in 2016 and 2017. I never had a team; I just loved the sport,” Tobi mentioned. “I used to watch Patrick Mahomes, and it just (caught) me because it was spectacular, and it never let me go. I just started to watch Patrick Mahomes going on and on and on, and he (caught) me.”

His good friend Josaph had a equally easy rationalization as to why he was sporting a No. 99 J.J. Watt jersey from the All-Pro defensive lineman’s days with the Texans.

“I think the player is legendary,” mentioned Josaph, reveling within the atmosphere forward of the NFL’s first recreation in Germany. “His mentality, he’s such a great player. He’s awesome. He’s one of the greatest that played football. That’s all I can say.”


German NFL fan Josaph purchased a J.J. Watt jersey as a result of he considers Watt “legendary.” (Photo by Michael-Shawn Dugar)

A standard thread amongst many worldwide followers, most of whom weren’t born or raised within the geographical footprint of an NFL workforce, is the random nature of how they got here to help one of many 32 groups — and finally put on certainly one of its jerseys.

Georgina Sewell, from Sheffield, England, acquired a free trial for the Madden online game on her Xbox a couple of years in the past. When it got here time to select a workforce to play with, she created some particular parameters.

“I worked in Florida for a while for Disney, so I knew I had to pick a Florida team,” mentioned Sewell, who got here to the Broncos-Jaguars recreation in a No. 17 Jaylen Waddle jersey. “I like blue, so I knew it was Jacksonville or Miami, and I liked the Dolphins as an animal, so I picked that. So then, I started watching the Dolphins.”

Standing subsequent to Sewell was her husband, Scott, who was sporting a No. 10 Mac Jones jersey within the Patriots’ navy blue colour. He wasn’t a lot of a soccer fan earlier than 2018, however that February, he and a good friend had been invited to a late-night Super Bowl social gathering.

“My mate picked the Eagles, and I picked the Patriots,” Scott mentioned. “My mate has supported the Eagles ever since, and I’ve supported the Patriots ever since.”

“That makes us rivals,” Georgina mentioned with fun.

No matter how they got here to personal the jerseys they put on to worldwide video games, it’s protected to imagine many of the numbered shirts characterize an genuine, passionate fandom. Eddison, whose spouse, Julie, is a Lions fan by means of household who dwell in close by Windsor, Ontario, and wore the jersey of former receiver Calvin Johnson to Wembley final month, has been to all three video games the Giants have performed in London since 2017 — together with this season’s 27-22 win over the Packers at Tottenham. He additionally has been to 3 video games in New York through the years, all Giants victories.

“I’m the lucky mascot, I guess,” he mentioned.

International followers additionally get factors for creativity. In the Munich recreation earlier this month, a Seahawks fan wore a modified Russell Wilson jersey, the previous quarterback’s identify on the again changed by tape that learn “2-First-Round-Picks,” a reference to the premium draft capital Seattle acquired when buying and selling Wilson to the Broncos.

The kilt worn by Eddison? It is, partially, a nod to the Giants’ particular groups duo of kicker Graham Gano and punter Jamie Gillan, each of whom had been born in Arbroath, Scotland.

“It’s cool to have that connection,” he mentioned.

It is connections like these and the eagerness they produce, on full show throughout this season’s worldwide video games, that specify why the NFL’s progress past its home borders would possibly solely be getting began.

— Michael-Shawn Dugar contributed to this report

(Top photograph of followers exterior Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: Bradley Collyer / PA Images through Getty Images)



Source link