Thursday, September 20The Voice of London

How we celebrated NFL’s 10th anniversary in London

Sunday’s clash between the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings rounded up the 10th year of NFL London games. So how did it go?

London this year has seen a record four games of American football at its two historic stadiums, Wembley and Twickenham. Although not all of them kept spectators at the edge of their seats, there was enough drama on and off the pitch to make them memorable.

From the very first kneeling protests against Donald Trump, to cross-sports emotional encounters; the Voice of London has taken a look at how we celebrated NFL in the British capital this year.

The games tagged #NFLUK on social media kicked off with the audacious and divisive kneeling protest during the first game at Wembley, won by the Jacksonville Jaguars 44-7 against the Baltimore Ravens. The players showed their dissatisfaction towards systemic racism in the USA and president Donald Trump, who called out NFL and NBA players for disrespecting the American flag, anthem and… probably him.

However, Shadid Khan, the owner of the Jaguars as well as London’s Fulham FC, chose a different way to protest.

A week later, NFL turned up at Regent Street, which is splendidly decorated on the occasion every year, showing its already immaculate popularity in London.

 

Wembley welcomed the second NFL game, between the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins with a bang. Less so, the two teams entertained the crowd as the Saints made an easy job of their opponents in a 20-0 drubbing.

Therefore, there was only one legitimate candidate for the ‘man of the match’ award.

On the bright side, Dolphins’ London-born running back Jay Ajayi had his own emotional moment when he met his childhood hero, Thierry Henry. Ajayi has since been traded to the Philadeplhia Eagles, so actually that was a really positive afternoon for the NFL star.

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What a moment! 📸 Tim Ireland/AP

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The third game, at Twickenham, saw even a larger margin between the teams, with one also finishing scoreless, as the LA Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 33-0. Cardinal’s back-up quarterback Drew Santon didn’t turn out to be the superhero he’d claimed to be during warm-up.

The game, however, will be remembered for the tribute to the legendary Kevin Cadle, Britain-based American NFL presenter working for Sky Sports, who unexpectedly died on October 16.

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RIP, Big Kev.

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The final curtain came with the clash between Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings felt the London vibe straightaway, as their wide receiver Adam Thielen showed his affiliation to one of the London football clubs before the game.

The game was competitive, at least until half-time, and finished with the Vikings extending Browns’ horrific run to 0-8, defeating them 33-16. It was a much anticipated encounter, it seems.

The future for NFL in London has never been brighter. Soon, it will be hosted at a third sports arena in the capital once Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium is complete. The league’s commissioner visited the site and checked the progress of the construction works.

In December, new fixtures for 2018 London games will be announced, and the NFL owners are planning to bring over teams that haven’t visited London yet, like the famous Green Bay Packers or the New England Patriots.

Until then, Wembley and Twickenham can put away all the NFL branding and U-shaped crossbars before they’re needed again next year.

Words: Damian Burchardt | Subbing: Reuben Pinder

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