Blog

The Seahawks called a different Sunday afternoon tune for Simon

Not for the first time have we interviewed someone for our London Series blog posts who discovered the game of American Football thanks to those Sunday afternoon games shown on Channel 4 back in the 80s. But Simon Hatcher, coach of the University of Hertfordshire Hurricanes and a Seahawks fan it was the greatest appeal of four TV options that drew him in.

“Let’s be honest back in the days of Channel 4 football there wasn’t a great deal to choose from! Pitched up against Songs of Praise I was more than willing to give this new game a go!”

And he soon became hooked but while others have signalled family connections, Madden or the first game they watched as the inspiration behind their NFL team choice, Simon’s punt towards the Seahawks was very much by chance.

“I got into watching the game and of course, being a competitive league you want to find someone to root for. The Seahawks has a player called Kenny Easley who I really liked. As a result I started to follow them but trust me they weren’t good for a long time! They were interesting to watch though but now they’re a perennial play-off team and as a result have a lot more UK based fans.”

The Seahawks will be making their first London series appearance this Autumn and with many fans we speak to the first time is something they have been very much looking forward to. Simon is a little more reserved in his judgement about how great the occasion may well be.

“I’ve seen the Seahawks play before but that was in a pre-season rather than a regular season game so it’ll be good that there is more hanging on the outcome of the game. However it is a very different atmosphere in the UK than in the US as you get fans from all 32 NFL teams and that has an impact on how the sound and feel of the game is than if it was just the two playing teams. I’m not saying it’s bad, more it’s just different.”

Simon even believes that the famous Seahawks fan noise, often referred to as the 12th man, will be loud but not to the decibel level at home, again as it will be diluted by fans from 31 other teams. But one thing that Simon was looking forward to is seeing the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium. The Seahawks against the Raiders is the first game of this year’s London series and was due to be hosted at the new stadium. However the complexity of the build has seen a delay to proceedings with no date as yet as to when any fixtures will take place there.

“I’d seen pictures of Russell Wilson visiting the stadium and it looked amazing. It’s a real shame that the Seahawks won’t get the chance to play there but maybe they’ll be back to play there in the future.”

When Simon first started following the Seahawks there wasn’t a great deal to shout about and no one would accuse him of being a glory hunter!  But having won the Super Bowl in 2013, there is certainly recent history to celebrate. Does Simon think that they could be repeating their fortunes in 2019?

“One thing I really love about the NFL is how balanced it is. Truly any team can win. For the Seahawks we have a really strong culture and a great coaching staff so it’s very much about the rookies standing up and taking the opportunities and for returning players to stay well. We start off with hope.”

 

Despite the ups and downs over the years and the single Super Bowl win, some people may be surprised to hear that the Seahawks have had some true greats of the game play for the side. Simon will list  the man who started his following for the Seahawks – Kenny Easley as one of those greats alongside Walter Jones as his favourites but includes the likes Steve Largent, Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Shawn Springs and Dave Brown, as a few in a long list.

But what of the team coming to London, if you happen to catch the game who in Simon’s eyes should be the players to look out for?

“Russell Wilson is the key man on offence, and it will be interesting to see rookie RB Rashaad Penny as the Hawks like to run the ball. We wonder what Brian Schottenheimer does with the offence, but I suspect Pete Carroll will insist on being able to run the ball. On defence you have the great story of the Griffin Brothers, but the big story is the return of Ken Norton Jr as DC, teaming up again with Bobby Wagner. I hope he can help develop a brand new secondary into LOB part 2. And lastly, because we just hosted him at University of Hertfordshire American football, I will be watching Neiko Thorpe and hoping he develops into a key player.”

For Simon getting behind a team is all about learning the players and the personalities and not just the on field performances. With that in mind how would he get others to support the Seahawks?

“I wouldn’t! No seriously, I like being in the minority! We’re not one of those glamourous teams that manage to get more and more people following them each year. You need to get under the skin of the team, and once you start to see the personalities of the player it becomes addictive. Of course when your team has an exciting young quarterback and a defence that keeps games close in 99% of games then it’s easy to stay with the side! But seriously, whatever it is for you, the style of play, the players, the uniform, take time to choose that team.”

Simon’s love for the game is apparent for the time he devotes to it on a domestic level, and he cites that winning the national championship with the University of Hertfordshire as coach was one of the coolest moments for him in the sport as well of course as the Seahawks finally winning the Super Bowl. But there is a little more to the game that really stands out for Simon.

“The big wins and the championships are of course fantastic, but for me the human stories are the best part of sport. Seeing our players’ successes, and Seahawk players leading the way in the community, it shows there is more to sport than a team winning, what it means to individuals and what it allows them to make of their lives. That’s really rewarding.”

We couldn’t agree more. As for the Seahawks? Let’s see what the season, and London, brings.

 

Exiles Women a force to be reckoned with in just one year

Earlier this year we spoke to the Kent Exiles women who were formed at the end of 2017 and were heading into their first Sapphire Series determined to make their mark on Women’s football.

And they most certainly did! They had an emphatic opening season winning all their games until the final of their division where they came up against a powerful Oxford Saints side. But for a team who were only in their first few months of play they did themselves and their club proud.

We went back to speak to coach Carl Alexis to reflect on the season and to discuss their plans for 2019? continue reading…

Gridiron around the world – Going long in Hong Kong

We’ve seen huge growth in American Football in the UK and have been speaking to teams across Europe to understand how their growth has been but what about further afield?

Over in Hong Kong the game is steadily building and thanks to the efforts of Ben O’Neill and Alpha Chia who’ve been running the Passing Play youth programs, the game is certainly on the rise. But how has this come about and what are the plans for the future? We spoke to Ben O’Neill at length to understand a little more about football Hong Kong style. continue reading…

When a late introduction starts a huge passion for football

Jonas Bengtsson would be the first person to admit that he came into American Football late in life and perhaps missed opportunities as a player. But it opened up his eyes to the world of coaching and he’s not looked back.

 

Jonas was in his forties when he first played for the Vasteras Roedeers but a move to Stockholm and his age saw him hang up his cleats after just one season. He had gone along in the first place as his wife had been invited to a tryout but he got into coaching when he read a team had started locally. continue reading…

Ville is far from “Finnished” from growing the women’s game

The first Nordic Women’s Football Camp took place recently with players and coaches from across Scandinavia descending on Stockholm. The game is growing year on year and the strength of skill on show at the camp was testament to that.

We caught up with a number of coaches who were involved in this inaugural camp and our first feature is with Ville Korhonen a former Finnish international player who started his first Women’s team back in 1989. He’s seen a huge amount of changes in the sport and he tells us about the development in the last 30 years and the plans for the future. continue reading…

Window on the Women’s World – how American Football is in Denmark

From our blogs focusing on women’s football we’ve met some real trailblazers of the game and people who have travelled to numerous places developing both their game and the sport.

Sidsel Anderson has been playing flag football for around nine years but came into the sport desperately wanting to play tackle football. You probably won’t be surprised to hear there weren’t any around. Going for the next best thing, and having been persuaded by friends to give it a go, within a year she was part of the first even women’s national team for flag, competing in the World Championships in Ottawa in Canada.

continue reading…

Super Bowl LII preview

It is almost the end of this year’s NFL season which must mean the Super Bowl is close. For some people it’s the chance of a lifetime, the one shot of taking home the Vince Lombardi trophy. We say for some, for the New England Patriots Super Bowl Sunday is all too familiar. We speak to Gur Samuel, AFD’s Vice Chairman to give us his thoughts about this weekend’s game.

continue reading…

Kent Exiles aiming to take the women’s game by force

The Sapphire Series starts again this weekend and many eyes will be focused on the Premier Division and whether the all conquering Birmingham Lions will be heading towards their fifth consecutive crown.

But as the women’s game continues to grow year on year, so too does the amount of women playing and one of the heartening things to see is the rise of a new program in Kent, as the Kent Exiles Women prepare to do battle in their first official tournament. And believe me, they’re not just here for the experience or to make up the numbers!

continue reading…

Wildcard round whips up some interesting contests!

The wildcard weekend on the road to this year’s Super Bowl took place this weekend and the cast of twelve has been reduced to eight. Four different games took place and while four teams start their preparation for next season, for other teams, they live for another round. We take a look at the four games and what lies ahead. continue reading…

The Playoffs are here!

After one of the most exciting NFL seasons to date, week 17, the last week of the regular season provided us with non-stop, play-off dream making or dream crushing for far more than the eventual 12 teams whose seasons continue.

Of the teams that made it through to the playoffs in the NFC, half actually come from the same division, the NFC south, being the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons. The playoff teams in this division, where the only team that did not make the playoffs were Tampa Bay Buccaneers, all have at least 10 wins this season. It must be noted that three years prior to this impressive feat, the team with the most wins in the division had 7, losing 9 and having a negative win/loss ratio. continue reading…

Primary school thoughts on flag

We love getting feedback from schools and hearing how much the children we coach love playing American Football.

One of our primary schools in Buckinghamshire asked their Year 4 pupils to provide us with some feedback on their most recent block of coaching and it was lovely hearing how much they are learning.

Getting training!

“In American Football we played quite a few interesting games. Our coach’s name was Matt. In our warm up we had to do a lot of exercise including running backwards! Once we also had five areas and in them we did lot’s of different things. We played sharks and fish,everyone’s it, we played mini matches and we practised throwing the ball. The ball is shaped like an oval and looks a bit like a rugby ball. There are lines at each end of the ball that are like bumps sticking out a little bit from the ball. You can put your fingers between these lines and that is how you hold the ball then you can throw the ball. The way you can catch the ball is you have to make a diamond shape with your fingers and then the pointy end of the ball is caught through the diamond.”

We’re back next term to teach another year group and hope to bring another new group of enthusiastic young players!

Bryant, Bills and Great British success – a look at 2017 with Phoebe Schecter

Ever thought you had a busy footballing life? Then spare a thought for Phoebe Schecter who this year has been a real trailblazer for women in the sport.

 

After leading the GB Women’s team to a 4th place at the World Championships, she took up a coaching intern position at the Buffalo Bills, returned to be part of the Women’s GB Flag Football squad which gained a bronze medal at this year’s European champs before heading out to a coaching role with Bryant University. And the year hasn’t even finished yet!

continue reading…

Colts loss is a definite gain for the Vikings

Like many people who will be coming into American Football this season, they may well pick their team based on the strength of who they see performing on TV in the London series.

That’s certainly something that a young Adam Chapman would be able to relate to as it was a chance football game, not long after he started playing the sport itself, that led him towards the Vikings. continue reading…

Feeling ‘Browned’ off at the not always lovable Cleveland losers

Paul McFadyen doesn’t mince his words when it comes to talking about his favourite NFL team. And for many people reading this blog who are strong followers of the NFL, they would think nor should he.

For being a fan of the Cleveland Browns, for thirty years (no really) he has seen plenty of lows and lows and plenty of opportunities that got away. In fact that was the start of his love affair with the sport, when the Browns were in their hey-day but just weren’t able to get over the line. Literally. continue reading…

Rams charged at the Bears to become David’s first love

David Stead’s love for the LA Rams started back in the mid eighties when he made a conscious decision to not follow the herd and go with a completely different team. The Chicago Bears were the hot favourite at David’s school fielding legends of the game such as Walter Payton, Jim McMahon and William ‘The Fridge’ Perry, but David decided to be a little less fashionable.

 

“Everyone at school became a Bears fan because they were such a great team then. But I decided to go with the Rams as they had a great running back in Eric Dickerson. Typically they were shut out of the NFC Championship Game by the Bears which was disappointing but I’ve stuck with them ever since.”

continue reading…

How Tom became ‘Madden’ enough to build a birdgang

How many hours have you spent on Madden and how has it affected your football choices over time? Well for Tom Donlan, who is a big Arizona Cardinals fan, it helped cement in his mind the NFL team that he was to follow.

 

“I hadn’t any particular affiliations to the Arizona Cardinals but they happened to draft the player I had in Madden 09 and that seemed as good a reason as any to follow them. It worked out well, I do love supporting the team and five years ago I set up the British Bird Gang (@BritishBirdgang) to find likeminded Cardinals fans in the UK.”

continue reading…

Late night video request leads to long term sport love

Late one evening back in 1985, Chris Fellowes’ brother in law asked if he’d tape a show on Channel 4. It was the weekly NFL highlights show and very quickly a 13 year old Chris was transfixed.

 

One of the teams being profiled was the LA Rams who had played the Green Bay Packers and one particular player, Ron Brown had returned two KO’s for scores as well as a deep pass for a score. In that moment, the Californian sunshine and the blue and gold uniforms of the Rams had secured another fan.

continue reading…

How a splash of TV coverage turned to a Dolphins following

It will come to no surprise to football fans of a certain age that Channel 4 had a lot to do with getting people into the game. And Chris Fells is one of those people. Back in 1991, 10 year old Chris came across the televised game of Miami Dolphins against the New England Patriots. The Dolphins were victorious on that occasion with a 20-10 result and for Chris the deal was done. A Dolphins fan he would be.

continue reading…

As the Saints marched into Idris’ life and never left

For many of the fans that we have featured during our London Games season, their journey into supporting their team came almost by accident. A chance late night television viewing it would seem for many, but for Idris Lawal it was a completely different set of circumstances.

Idris used to live in America and as a boy spent many years living in Louisiana and so became a Saints fan due to them being his home team. So for Idris he grew up with the game as his main sporting choice and he brought it back with him when he came to the UK. But for him the differences are still quite clear between the two countries.

continue reading…

A ‘Walker’ on his high flying date at Wembley

For Ravens fan Joe Walker, the date of the 24th September is a day he’s been waiting half his life to happen. Finally he will see his beloved birds, the Baltimore Ravens play a live game of American Football and it couldn’t come soon enough.

 

He’s seen them play loads of time, he’s even influenced the way they play. Well haven’t all Britball fans who’ve played Madden? Because that for Joe, like many other people in the game fell upon a team almost by chance, by being one of the first teams they both encountered, and liked. continue reading…

No bandwagon for Matt as he finds the Wright team to support

The Jacksonville Jaguars are fast building a fan base in the UK as one of the mainstays of the London Games as the NFL rolls back into London next week. But for Matt Wright, his support of the Jags goes back much further, when a trip to America in 2003 resulted in him starting his love for the side.

 

“I’d been to the States and among my souvenirs I had a Jags hat and a Tampa Bay Jersey. After doing some research when I got back home I discovered that Tampa had won the Super Bowl the year before. I didn’t want to be a bandwagon fan so I decided to go the way of the Jags.”

 

Clearly plenty of NFL fans will be reading this now and having a little chuckle as the Jags history is certainly not one for the bandwagon fans – so in that respect Matt made a good choice! But in recent years, with the Jags clear interest in the UK market, it’s a good decision as he’s had the opportunity to watch them four times already.

continue reading…

What will the NFL bring to London this season?

Gur Samuel

This year’s London Games is just over a week away and we know that with each NFL season that passes, especially with the games played in London, that a new wave of American Football fans come along.

 

For those who aren’t so close to the game or just taking their first steps we’ve got the perfect London Games preview for you courtesy of AFD’s Managing Director Gur Samuel. He gives us the lowdown on the teams, who to look out for, and how much has changed since the first game in 2007.

 

 

continue reading…

Focus on Flag – Louise Lee

We asked members of this year’s BAFA Women’s side for the European Flag Football Championships to share a little more about their likes and dislikes.

Name: Louise Lee

Nickname LouLee

Year of GB Debut: 2015 with GB, 2013 with EWP.

Number of years playing: six years playing.

Favourite food: wagamamas

Favourite film: Walk The Line / The Blindside

Best football memory: gametime = interception against Israel in Euros 2015. out of gametime = going up to get our trophy at Euros with the rest of the teams chanting “sexy football” at us!

Sporting hero: Charlotte Edwards, former England Cricket Captain.

Work outside playing football: Primary/Elementary school teacher