International Women's Day - In the stands...

For 33 years Claire Da Bear has been supporting her beloved Chicago Bears, and she'll gladly admit that her obsession with the NFL has taken over her life. But where did it all start? We spoke to Claire Da Bear about her on-going love affair...

I'm part of a military family so we're always been around Americans and I have always watched American Football. I started getting really involved but in late 90s when NFL UK was a forum paged site that I would go on under the username Claire Da Bear. I started and managed one of the most viewed and comment on threads which was 'Helpful hits and tips on how to go to and enjoy live games both in the UK and the US'.

What made you pick the team the Chicago Bears?

Well this is a bit of a long story, but I'll try and tell it as well as I can. On a dark and stormy night back in late January in 1986 my Mother is rushed into hospital as she's believed to be going into labour with my baby brother. 3-year-old Claire obviously couldn't be left home alone. So, my father, a Redskins fan, takes me to hospital with them. Instead of where my Dad should have been, we sat out in the waiting room watching Super Bowl 20 on a little TV screen. It was second time the Super Bowl was aired live here in the UK back in the day and it was on Channel 4. Well the MIGHTY Chicago Bears were playing some team called the Patriots. The players looked like superheroes and mad lots of noise crashing into each other and I was sold on the sport. The Bears play in Navy and Orange (my favourite colours) they have a "C" on their helmets with is the letter on my name and my nickname is Boo Boo Bear. I didn't pick the Bears, the Bears pick me. And an ongoing love affair started that night not only with the Bears but with the sport as a whole. I regret nothing!

What's it like as a female fan following NFL in the UK?

I can honestly say I love being a female NFL fan in the UK. Yes, it can be a little bit of hard work staying up late to watch games and trying to find female friendly merchandise/clothes. And there are a few idiots out on the internet that are threatened by my knowledge and passion (on the whole mostly men from the US) but the sisterhood I feel I'm apart of is truly amazing. Some of the most knowledgeable fans I know are women and I love that fact. And the two fans I live closest to are both women (Titans fan and a Saints fan) and we regularly get together to chat Football which is one of my favourite ways to fill the long off season.

How do people react when you tell them that you follow the sport?

It's normally not a surprise for people as a good 70% of my wardrobe is Bears gears. But what surprises people is how deep I'm into a sport that's not a traditional British sport. And that my knowledge covers other teams as well. My passion is the key to my alter ego Claire Da Bear.

Do you think the female fan base is growing here in the UK?

The sport is growing constantly at all levels year on year. I see more women at London games, fan meet ups and being more vocal on all social media platforms, with considered and well thought out opinions.

What opportunities have you had through American football that you wouldn't have had without it?

I've been very lucky I think American Football has had a very positive impact on my life. I'm much more confident in person and with public speaking as long as it's about American Football. I can hold my own when meeting well known NFL players. I've made amazing friends that actually feel more like family. I feel better in my mental health when I volunteering to be on Chain Crew while helping our wonderful BAFRA officials. I like being useful it gets me out of my flat and socialising and if the weather good to I get some much-needed vitamin D. American Football has blessed my life belong measure.

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