|The superb sequel to the original Joe Montana game...|
Despite this unexpected setback, however, I decided to stick with the team I was already so familiar with rather than the player himself (well he was getting on a bit by then!), and I've been a Niners fan ever since, even sticking with them through the 'Decade of Suckiness' which only recently ended. San Francisco is a long way from England though, so in around 20 years of supporting them, I had never actually seen the team play for real. Until now.
That's right, thanks to the NFL's splendid 'International Series' initiative, fans from far-flung lands such as Great Britain could now watch real life games, and not just exhibition matches either - they had occasionally taken place in my time as a US football fan. No, these were actual regular season games which had started in 2007 with the ever-popular Miami Dolphins 'hosting' the New York Giants.
|On the way to Wembley Stadium...|
Even as far away as the train station in my own city I started seeing people wearing various NFL merchandise and the closer I got the more there were. Most commonly spotted were fellow 49ers fans - I guess they're more popular over here than I realised - and I was among them, sporting my red Niners hat and shirt (and keyring but I guess no one could see that in my pocket). The only trouble I had whilst in London was trying to find the bloody office used by my ticket agent of choice (which was in a hotel). Once I had the ticket I approached the immense stadium - my first such visit to England's national stadium, I'm ashamed to say.
Once inside, and after being subjected to a more rigorous security check than I've ever endured at an airport, I made my way up numerous escalators, walked through the 'gate' specified on my ticket, and... holy crap! What an eye-opener it was walking down the short passage and seeing the inside of this enormous place! I was quite late arriving too, so it was nearly full and the pre-game show was just ending. It was at this point that I remembered it was a 'home' game for the Jag-Wahs - their livery was littered around the stadium and nearly all the talk by the announcer was understandably regarding the home team - "Jaguars this, Jaguars that, Jaguars, Jaguars, Jaguars. Oh, and the 49ers are here too"...
|Niners QB, Colin Kaepernick, on the way to Wembley...|
But alas, regardless of the result, my historic adventure had reached its conclusion. All that remained was to make my way back home along with the rest of the impressive 83,599 turnout (which took as long as the game!) and reflect on my experience. It was a great day though - not only was it my first NFL game and my first visit to Wembley but it was my first major sporting event of any kind. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to see much from the upper tiers of the mighty stadium but, despite how it may look in the photos, the view was actually rather good and helped make the dominant Niners performance a very memorable one for me. If the rumours of a permanent London-based NFL franchise are true, I'm not sure I'd be prepared to spend this much to see live games too often, but next year at Wembley again? Why the hell not!