It was almost 3 a.m. in London, and Harry Kane could not get up from his couch, could not even lift his head from his hands. This was three years ago, long before he was ready to carry the weight of English expectations as the youngest captain in the World Cup. On February 1, 2015, Kane remained motionless in his living room with the same thought as all Patriots fans: The Seahawks will hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch, and there's nothing New England can do. Super Bowl XLIX is over.
Two years earlier, Kane had been struggling to find playing time in the second tier of England and doubted his own future as a soccer player. Searching for inspiration on YouTube, he found The Brady 6 a documentary about Tom Brady's rise from the sixth round to the great quarterback of all time.
"I fell in love with history," Kane says: "What I had to do to prove that everyone was wrong, it was a situation similar to mine."
Soon he was posting photos of himself using Patriots equipment on social media and spending hours playing Madden with his future brother-in-law, Tom Goodland, a big NFL fan who helped Kane teach him the game rules. Since then, the English soccer star has become an American football addict, both he and his fiancee, Kate, have a dog named Brady. (If her Instagram post "Hate Sundays #redzone" is an indication, Kate is not that fanatical). Seeing only in that early morning of 2015, Kane had to save his celebrations for himself ( and Twitter ). ] when Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson and secured a 28-24 Super Bowl victory for the Pats, but now he is far from being the only football star to fall in love with the NFL.
In 2017, Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was present to watch the Patriots' most recent triumph in Houston. This season, English midfielder and Eagles fan Eric Dier could enjoy a one hour victory after putting on a dog mask in front of his teammate at Tottenham before the big game. Thanks in part to online games and international exhibitions, bromance is mutual.
While former Bears coach Mike Ditka said: "If God had wanted man to play soccer, he would not have given us weapons," NFL costumes are now full of players who use those weapons to play one of the best-selling video games in the world, FIFA that Electronic Arts created in 1993 after the success of Madden . In Green Bay, the offensive linemen commanded a rec room for their two-on-two battles FIFA . Although Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does not play often, he has his own teammate and tackle David Bakhtiari, because "honestly, Aaron is good at everything he does."
Ravens linemen Jermaine Eluemunor and Ronnie Stanley, along with wideout Chris Moore, form an online team, each controlling a tailor-made player in a shared Pro Club account. Eluemunor, an England tackle who fell in love with the NFL when he saw the first game of the London Series, in 2007, always plays as a midfielder to better control the action. In Washington, DC, cornerback Josh Norman is known to charge the contenders $ 200.
"You can not come from below and hope to be the best," he told The Ringer last November.
Receptors Jarvis Landry (Browns) and Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants) have been fans of Cristiano Ronaldo since before they were teammates at LSU in 2011, where they used to repeatedly simulate the Real Madrid vs. Real Madrid matchups. Real Madrid. While Madden is complex for newcomers (several soccer players say they enjoy the game but avoid online competition), FIFA offers a more accessible introduction to the global game. Soccer now extends to Sundays, from pre-game films to T-shirt exchanges after the game.
For 20 years, the American goalkeeper Tim Howard has seen the approach of two balls when playing in teams in the United States and the United Kingdom
"It's amazing to see the mutual respect that has grown," says Howard, who has a James Harrison Steelers Jersey hanging at his home in Memphis.
In the last 11 years, the NFL has hosted 21 games at London's football stadiums, with three more sets for October. These clashes have attracted fans like Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, Austrian defender David Alaba and English goalkeeper Jack Butland, who wore a Rodgers shirt in a Vikings-Browns game last season. In 2016, French midfielder Paul Pogba – a good friend of Norman's – was able to watch his first NFL game when the Redskins played against the Bengals at Wembley Stadium.
This summer, after the World Cup, football clubs from five European countries will play 17 games in All of the United States as part of the International Champions Cup Last year, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona drew 66,000 in Miami, and seeing Barça's 3-2 victory at Hard Rock Stadium, Landry became an even bigger fan. big.
"The skill set is on a different level," he says. "You can not imagine what these guys look like."
After tight end Coby Fleener complained The New York Times Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck "talks about football more than some of his teammates. like, "Luck and Fleener went to see Liverpool play at West Ham. The 2-1 win by LFC silenced Fleener's complaints about football in the locker room.
"Seeing something in person, you realize how amazing it is," says Luck, who spent much of his childhood in England and Germany. "When you see a man kick the ball 60 yards and place it perfectly in the left knee of a sprint left behind, it's much easier to appreciate."
Kane has toured the United States with Tottenham Hotspur. In 2014, he and several teammates worked with the Seahawks in their training facilities, an experience that Kane has called "a dream come true". Seattle, linebacker K.J. Wright, who was not very successful at pulling a soccer ball in spite of Tuttenham's mentoring, was equally excited to interact with the soccer stars.
"Meeting guys that I played with in the game was real fun," Wright told the Seattle Times . (Kane has remained a fan of the Pats, despite being in Seattle.) US defender Geoff Cameron, born in Massachusetts, is more militant about his membership in New England and rejected the opportunity to visit the Seahawks.
Players also develop relationships in their own time. Kane exchanges texts with Pats wide receiver Julian Edelman; Courtois struck up a friendship with defensive end Chris Long after hearing that the two-time Super Bowl winner was a Chelsea fan; and Stanley connected with the German defender Jerome Boateng through his shared agency, Roc Nation. Bakhtiari, meanwhile, has worked hard to meet his favorite player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
He flew to England in January, but the Swedish striker, and then Man United, suffered an injury. Still, Bakhtiari was impressed by how Liverpool's Anfield Stadium shuddered a day earlier, while thousands of fans sang in unison. After Ibra joined LA Galaxy in March, Bakhtiari attended a match and requested a post-match presentation. Bakhtiari was expecting a brief meeting; instead, the two talked for almost an hour. Ibrahimovic has not been in an NFL game, but Bakhtiari is confident that he has won Swedish loyalty.
"I will go ahead and say it: we have it," says Bakhtiari. "Zlatan is a Packers fan."
With the USA UU Not on the field in the World Cup, football fans in the NFL will have divided loyalties. Landry will encourage Portugal for Ronaldo. Luck has decided to support Mexico, although it is always rooted against El Tri when they face the men's national team of the United States. Norman and Stanley will be among the Americans who hope to attend the games in Russia, but will support their friends: the Norman who supports Pogba and France, and Stanley supporting the German side of Boateng. As for Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo, he does not think he can cheer anyone up.
"After having worn the jersey of the national team, I do not think I can take root for another country," he says.
Lambo played as goalkeeper for a youth team from the USA. UU Against players like the German Toni Kroos and the Belgian Eden Hazard before becoming the first player to move from high level football to the NFL, a move that Kane would like to replicate when his time in the Premier League ends.
"I always said that I would like to try and see if it would be possible," Kane told SI.com last summer. "It depends on how my career and injuries go and how I get older." But if I reach a stage where I am still in shape and I feel I can do a job, I would love it. If they have a team in England, it could work perfectly. "
" Football was my first love, "says Rams Ndamukong Suh's nose tackle," and I think he will. "Always be like that."
Suh's father played semipro in Germany while studying to become a mechanical engineer; her older sister spent some time with the national team of Cameroon as a midfielder, playing in the 2008 Women's African Championship. While other NFL players fell in love with football only recently, Suh grew up playing this sport before she physically surpassed in eighth grade . He has been hooked since 1994, when he saw Cameroon play a World Cup match in the USA. UU Cameroon did not qualify this year, so Suh adopted Nigeria because it is an African nation and because it has accepted refugees from its southern neighbor.  On the other hand, several young American players competing in Germany have helped popularize other football with their Bundesliga peers. Weston McKennie (Schalke) and Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) put aside their club rivalry for a Super Bowl party last February, along with Virginia-born Schalke youth player Nick Taitague. Schalke U19 goalkeeper Timon Weiner organized a party for the group, complete with piles of chicken wings and Subway cookies.
"A couple of years ago, your colleagues would never have been talking about [the Super Bowl]," says Taitague. "It's great to see it."
The group stayed up until 5 a.m. to see the Eagles & # 39; 33-33 win over the Patriots. The next day, the players debated Butler's bench and reviewed the highlights to understand how Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles achieved that fourth and goal trick. As Kane rooted for Brady from England, so did Florian Krüger, 19, in Germany.
"It's like an idol to me," says the Schalke striker.
Krüger (a fan of the Rams) and Weiner (a fan of the Giants) spent the next few months obsessed with fake drafts, keeping Taitague up to date with the latest rumors.
The Super Bowl will never equal the World Cup for world attention, no matter how many games the NFL plays on other continents. But after the trophy is awarded on July 15 in Moscow, ties between professional football and soccer players will continue to grow. And FIFA 19 should come out in September.