Five truths from the Carolina Panthers’ 37-26 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their NFL International Series clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
The NFL has found new London home
A week on from the enthralling opening NFL game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which saw the Oakland Raiders beat the Chicago Bears 24-21, the atmosphere delivered again for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ match-up with the Carolina Panthers.
A capacity crowd ensured that the Bucs and Panthers players enjoyed a very passionate reception as they emerged for the game and the noise was strong throughout the afternoon. Wembley, and formerly Twickenham, have provided good atmospheres, but the NFL’s newest London venue certainly seems to have hit the mark in a big way.
Fans arrive at the stadium ahead of the NFL game between Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
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Special features make stadium perfect for NFL
While NFL games can be shoehorned into many different venues, there is something special about the way the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been designed with such purpose and thought to host the UK international fixtures. From the retractable grass pitch which enables the games to be played on the synthetic turf underneath to the separate NFL changing rooms, everything appears to have been considered.
The entire workings of the stadium send the message that the UK is taking the NFL international games much more seriously, with the £1 billion state-of-the-art facility providing bespoke locker rooms and custom-built home and away press conference rooms suited to the sport.
An incredible day for Obada
Efe Obada returned home on Sunday, and it did not go unnoticed at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium from fans of all teams present. On a one-year contract with the Panthers he signed in January, Obada has to prove himself at every opportunity to keep his NFL dream alive - and given the adversity he has endured to get to this point, it is no surprise that he gives everything in order to do so. To have been involved in a convincing win for his team in London will have been the perfect way to mark the day.
Obada was trafficked at the age of 10 from the Netherlands to the United Kingdom, having been born in Nigeria. He was then abandoned on the streets of London with his older sister. Foster homes eventually led to the NFL, and it's been quite the journey. It was an emotional homecoming for the 27-year-old pass-rusher in the London match-up as he returned to his city in the most unlikely fashion. That he was made honoury captain for the day by coach Ron Rivera was a fitting tribute.
NFL fandom is still on the rise in the UK
In the past, the NFL may have been regarded as fairly marginalised in the UK, confined to a small group of hardcore fans, but this is most emphatically not the case, as was proven again on Sunday. Another packed crowd enjoyed every moment of the game, from tailgating hours before kick-off to roaring the players on as early as the warm-ups.
The variety of jerseys from all 32 NFL franchises show that fans just want to be involved in the festivities of the international series each year, but the atmosphere generated showed that they are both engaged and passionate about each match up – and the Bucs and Panthers were the latest beneficiaries.
Fans shop in the club store at the stadium ahead of the NFL game between Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
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Importance of NFL continues to grow in UK
It was noted by many that those in charge of drawing up the Premier League fixtures ensured that Tottenham played away from home to accommodate the NFL schedule for the international games, and this again shows just how important the sport is to the city of London and the UK in general.
The fact that a major London club in Tottenham sought to prioritise hosting the NFL in so many aspects of the planning for their new stadium spoke volumes. Rather than expecting the NFL to fit in with their stadium plans, ever detail was attended to in bringing the best possible experience to the sport’s players, coaching staff, media officials – and ultimately, the fans.