By Pearl Allison Lo
London – The San Francisco 49ers will be playing their third international game, second at historic Wembley Stadium, while the host Jacksonville Jaguars will be playing their first, when the two teams meet on the field Sunday, October 27th at 5pm London Time. This is a part of the NFL’s International Series with the help of the Mayor of London.
Re the scene before the game for the public, I haven’t seen much besides the Fan Rally, but there were glimpses. I’ve seen ads in the subway, on street vehicles and banners hanging between buildings. There were multiple going-ones during the week though.
Yet to be back in San Francisco, after arriving in London Monday, the team got together with the famed Tottenham Hotspurs for a community event encouraging young ones to be more active. Both sporting teams got to indulge in each others’ respective sport.
NikeTown hosted an evening on Tuesday that centered around Jacksonville Jaguars’ players.
After 49ers practice on Friday, re the yet to win Jaguars, coach Jim Harbaugh said his players “respect the team…They play with great effort, very physical, so I’ll just say that. I haven’t had to say anything along those lines. They’ve seen it on the tape.” Re his own 5-2 team, Harbaugh expressed, “hopefully we play our best football. That’s what we’re looking for. We’ve played good football, but I think we could do better…”
When asked about plans for London, Harbaugh pulled out a list that included Marble Arch, Park Lane, Buckingham Palace and Parliament Square to received laughter. He grinned while inquiring afterward; “think we’re hitting the right spots?”
NFL jerseys started popping up Saturday on the day of the fan rally on the train, before the Commisioner’s Fan Forum and after the rally elsewhere. They were most prominent, however, with the 49ers heavily supported, decorating the invited fans at the forum who were to be bused to the rally after Q&A. Commissioner Roger Goodell, 49er quarterback legend Joe Montana and former Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive Tony Boselli, who sat in a circle in the middle of the fans, were the other components of the equation.
Eager questions surrounded the possibilities of Monday and Thursday night games, 2015, women in the NFL and the Super Bowl to a collective intake of inhaled breaths and gasps. When asked if a Los Angeles franchise or a U.K. franchise would be first, Goodell stated, “it doesn’t matter to me. I would like to be able to continue to expand our game,” but moreover, emphasized “success” and “doing things right…Ultimately, I would love to see us doing both.” Goodell also mentioned the possibility of women in the NFL as referees.
Bare chested young men sported painted letters, numbers and symbols during the off part of off and on rain at the rally, with a message that read, ‘U.K. Franchise in 5 years? Odds 8/1.’
We’ll see Sunday if the game can help with the “success” Goodell emphasized during the forum, thereby improving the odds and the possibility of more burgeoning American football fans not only in the U.K., but Europe.
NOTES: My experience being in London so far is that people are pretty nice, friendly and helpful. The roads being reversed and other oddities like the light switches being the opposite way, cell phone stores being called car phone warehouses, a lot of hookah bars, the European smoke and free wifi in telephone booths provide additional interest. The UK accents are quintessential.