The NFL in Frankfurt: Atmosphere like the Super Bowl – and the game is just beginning

The NFL in Frankfurt: Atmosphere like the Super Bowl – and the game is just beginning

It’s all set: the NFL is visiting Frankfurt for the second time in seven days. It’s the end of the International Games – and people in Hesse haven’t had enough of football yet.

It’s early Saturday morning at Hamburg Central Station. Tired and with coffee in hand, numerous passengers stand on platform 14. Many of them are wearing sweaters, college jackets or caps from the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and other NFL teams. Their destination is obvious: Frankfurt, once again the Mecca for German and European football fans this weekend.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins duel here last weekend, a game between two top teams. The Patriots face the Indianapolis Colts at Deutsche Bank Park on Sunday. Both are to be found in the lower reaches of the NFL table – more football cramp than football class, but that doesn’t detract from the crowds. Three million tickets could have been sold for the game. 50,000 were lucky, they will be able to watch the game on site.

Sebastian Vollmer has been on site in Frankfurt for almost two weeks. The former NFL professional is the figurehead of the Patriots in Germany and won the Super Bowl twice with the team from Massachusetts. Vollmer is a man in demand these days. In the Patriots house in downtown Frankfurt, Vollmer takes photos with fans, sits on stage during a panel discussion, and in between flag football training with children and interviews as an expert for RTL. But the 39-year-old is having fun, also because he is happy about the hype surrounding football in Germany. “When I started playing sports, I had to look up highlights of the games on the Internet and sometimes the Super Bowl would come on TV,” remembers Vollmer. Things have changed since 2014, the year in which he became the first and to date only German to win the championship in North America. “The media attention was suddenly there, coupled with the live broadcasts on free TV.”

The NFL stands out, the fans like that

The NFL continues to expand into the international market. London started in 2007 and there are now three games a year in the British capital. Munich gave the starting signal for the German market last year. The fact that there are already two games in Frankfurt this year is the exception – the stadium in Mexico, the league’s third foreign venue, is being converted for the 2026 World Cup. NFL Germany boss Alexander Steinforth had already announced in advance that there would only be one game in Munich next year; the NFL’s focus lies elsewhere. “We are currently looking closely at Brazil and Spain for a game next year,” said Steinforth in an interview with star.

The demand for football in Germany is great, as are the players’ joy at being able to play abroad. “Many of them have never been abroad before. They went to college and went straight to the pros. You don’t have a lot of free time,” explains Vollmer, who himself played twice with the Patriots in London. The culture, the food, the language – all of this is new for many professionals.

“The players are on fire,” states the ex-NFL professional. And there is also a different basic setting. “In the USA, people say to themselves, ‘How cool, our sport is being shared and we’re getting even more fans,’ instead of thinking that a game will be taken away from you,” said Vollmer.

In downtown Frankfurt you can see how much excitement there is about the NFL in Germany. The NFL has set up its public quarters between Roßmarkt and Hauptwache. The smell of bratwurst wafts through the pedestrian zone. There are huge helmets from the 32 teams and game options here. It’s a lesson that those responsible learned from last year: At that time there were only helmets in downtown Munich, a mini football field or opportunities to throw the leather egg were only available directly in front of the stadium on match day. The NFL stands out, the fans like that.

There is a Super Bowl atmosphere in Frankfurt

Gernot Schwarzmayr stands on the edge of the Roßmarkt and looks at the hustle and bustle. “There is a Super Bowl atmosphere in the city,” says the Austrian. Together with three friends, he traveled from Attersee in western Austria to the south of Hesse on Saturday. They were lucky when they bought tickets; on Sunday they will see the game live in the stadium. Many fans were denied this, but they still came to Frankfurt. Like last year, they want to breathe the German NFL air. Some are lucky; the last tickets are raffled off on a stage.

It is obvious who Schwarzmayr and his friends support. Everyone is dressed in Patriots jerseys, Schwarzmayr shows off the team’s logo tattooed on his forearm. He has already been to Foxborough Stadium, home of the Patriots, three times. “If you come to Germany, you can’t miss it – it’s also much closer.” Patriots fans are a clear majority in the Main metropolis, and the years of success have given the club a large following in Germany too. This weekend in Frankfurt is all the more important, emphasizes Sebastian Vollmer. “From a sporting perspective, of course, but also because the Patriots want to win new fans in Germany.”

But of all people, Gernot Schwarzmayr was briefly disappointed by his club. The record champions have set up one of their quarters in the Hilton Hotel and are showing, among other things, the trophies from previous years. Only those who have a ticket can get in – these have been fully booked for some time. “We expected a little more, we were just rushed through,” says Schwarzmayr. But the Austrians aren’t letting this spoil their mood, especially since they see a lot of things positively. “The concept is now much more mature than last year,” he praises the organization in the city center.

Not far from the four Austrians, Darren Dixie stands in front of a huge Indianapolis Colts poster and has pictures taken of him. Dixie grew up in Fort Wayne, later lived in Indianapolis, and his love for the Colts remained in Alabama, where he lives today. Together with his friends Howard and Juan, he made the journey to Germany – 8,000 kilometers as the crow flies for seven days in Germany. First Munich, “a bit of sightseeing”, then Frankfurt. Every year the three go on a road trip together, and in 2016 they went to London. “We have a really good time here, the atmosphere is good and everyone is very friendly,” says Dixie happily. They are also excited about the stadium. “We heard it was big, but we haven’t been there yet.” You have booked business seats, the best view of the pitch and right in the middle of the atmospheric fans.

In the late afternoon it becomes quieter on the fan mile. The attractions close at 4:30 p.m., many fans fortify themselves in restaurants or continue the party in the fan pubs. There isn’t much time to breathe. Sunday is a new day – and kick-off in Frankfurt.

Source: Stern

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