Drizzle, crowds give NFL game in London a familiar look

LONDON -- There's a light but persistent drizzle, long lines at the tube station and football shirts on the backs of thousands of fans.

All the makings of a typical Sunday afternoon game in London in October. Only this time the red of Arsenal and blue of Chelsea give way to football jerseys of the NFL variety.

Rebuilt Wembley Stadium hosted the first regular-season NFL game in Europe, and fans of all teams have flocked to northwest London to see the Miami Dolphins play the New York Giants. Many in the sold-out stadium came from the United States, and the dreary fall sky poses no problem.

"It's good football weather," said Matt Krosche, a 21-year-old student from New York wearing a Giants shirt. "Football isn't meant to be played in the sun."

Joe Krosche, Matt's father, said the decision to travel all this way for a game was easy - especially since Sunday is his 56th birthday.

"They announced it right after the Super Bowl," said the elder Krosche, who owns a limousine company. "I called my other son and I said, 'Hey, guess where we're going for my birthday?"'

Some Dolphins fans who made the trip from Florida are already struggling with the team's 0-7 start. They're looking at the game as a break from day-to-day life back home.

"We made a vacation of it," said Candace Hartsell, who came from Fort Lauderdale with five other Dolphins season-ticket holders. "Our seats here are almost identical to our seats at home."

Those British fans at the game clearly made a choice: Giants-Dolphins instead of watching Liverpool host Arsenal in a top Premier League match.

They still got to see a few of their favorites athletes on the field for the coin toss. The Giants were represented by England soccer captain John Terry, who plays for Chelsea and was booed by many in the stadium. Former England rugby captain Martin Johnson stood in for the Dolphins. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton also was on hand.

The fans soon rose from their seats for the U.S. and British national anthems, with many singing along with the latter.

Thomas Barker, a 21-year-old student wearing a New England Patriots jersey, is hoping for more games in London and more success for the NFL in Britain.

"If they keep doing one-off matches, it will work," said Barker, who became a fan after seeing the Pats on TV four years ago. "They need more exposure."

Neil Taylor, a 34-year-old driver, is a member of Dolfan UK, a Dolphins fan club in England with more than 100 members.

"I turned on the TV in 1985, the playoff game against Cleveland, and I was hooked," Taylor said. "I go to 6-7 games a year."

Peter Fairclough's family got turned on to the NFL the same way.

"We've loved American football for 20 years," said the 60-year-old electrical manager from Rotherham, wearing a Minnesota Vikings hat and sweat shirt. "We have a Super Bowl party every year."

Rob Elstone, another 21-year-old student, came to Wembley wearing a New York Jets shirt. The rivalry between the Jets and the Giants was not lost on him.

"I want to rub it in their face," Elstone said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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