Touchdown! American football scores popularity points in Europe

Pedro Rodrigues

The Groningen Giants meeting up in the locker room and ready for game time. (Photo: Groningen Giants.)

For those who thought American football is purely an American thing, think twice. The sport is becoming more popular in other parts of the world, even in Europe. As this might sparkle that old-fashioned debate between football and the so-called soccer, there are no doubts that the Americans are exporting their culture to Europe in the shape of a (American) football. 

In Europe, the sport is now more familiar to audiences, since important games are broadcasted locally by media corporations like Sky Sports. Some of them even take place on European grounds; for instance, England has been hosting NFL matches for consecutive years. 

With the Super Bowl LV coming up next Sunday at 11:30 p.m. (GMT), fans and supporters have to deal with anxiety for a few more days before the big game. European fans need to deal with the time zone issue, but they are glad to do so. As it is typical of every passion, it is essential to understand its origins. 

Tyler Arthur, a sports journalist and supporter of the Las Vegas Raiders, expresses his love for the sport as he now considers it his “favorite one” and is “always striving to learn more.” He first started playing American football during his college years and never looked back. After going from a limited knowledge of the game to a divisional championship playing as a quarterback, he explains why he prefers the American version of football. 

“I believe the biggest selling point of American Football is the individual moments of explosive and exciting action,” Arthur says. He describes other sports, like soccer or cricket, as a “slow burn,” with shorter moments of genuine excitement during a match. Opposingly, the British sports fan highlights that “there can be something exciting happening on any individual play in American Football.” 

Another example is Tim Mählmann, a German fan of the Minnesota Vikings. He makes an analogy of the sport as a “virus,” spreading around silently, but it soon became a tendency around his social circles. 

“Originally (football) had a social meaning for me, watching it with friends and constantly discussing why their team is worse than mine is a big factor as well,” says Mählmann ironically.  

The love for this sport can also inspire and gather people around a “feeling of being part of a greater good.” This ideal is what the Groningen Giants’ chairman, Johan Oosterhuis, says about football’s true meaning in his life. “It means brotherhood, a way to relieve stress. Here, I made friends for life,” says Oosterhuis about his 12 years as a Giant. 

Friends and families united to prestige Groningen’s football team. (Photo: Groningen Giants.)

The Groningen Giants is an initiative that started in 1999 when two American exchange students decided to build a football team while studying in the Netherlands. The memberships kept growing, and now the Giants have 100 members and team tryouts for different ages and body types. 

The Giants as an organization certainly comprehend the essence of the sport: anyone can play. “American Football represents a way to be good at something even though I’m not as athletic as some of my teammates,” Tyler concludes. 

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