Lockdown may have hindered traditional celebrations – but these North East American football fans refuse to let a pandemic dampen their excitement for the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off on Sunday in a game which will be watched by millions around the world.
Super Bowl LV is due to get under way at 11.30pm GMT and is expected to finish at around 3am.
But the region’s American football fans remain undeterred by the late night as the build up to the game gets under way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers supporter, Dominic Gillespie, said: “It will be a late night but it’s definitely worth staying up for, I love watching it.
“I love the spectacle of the Super Bowl. You don’t just have the two best teams playing against each other, you have the event itself.”
He added: “I think it’s going to be one of the best games in years. You have two great teams and I love watching both quarterbacks.
“I think Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time and I’d like to see him continue to win. His mindset is something I’ve never seen in any other sports player in the world.
“He’s 43 years old and he’s still at the top of the game that he plays and he still has such a drive to win and I respect that so much.”
He spent four years in America which allowed him the opportunity to work on the security team at Super Bowl events.
Dominic has fond memories of watching the sport during his time in America and recalls how in the week before the Super Bowl, TV channels, shop windows and universities would host huge events ahead of the game.
He said: “It is the talk of the country the week before the Super Bowl. All the sports TV channels and radio shows are talking about it constantly and all the shops are advertising it, there’s loads of offers on and in university they have big parties for it.
“Everyone over there watches at least some part of it, whether they’re watching for the sport, the adverts or the events around it – it’s the event of the year over there.”
When he returned to the North East two years ago, Dominic joined Newcastle Blackhawks American football team and now manages the team’s social media.
The team would normally celebrate the Super Bowl together, but this year they will be hosting a virtual ‘watch party’ and Dominic will be buying American themed snacks, such as chicken wings, to enjoy during the game.
American football fanatic Lauren Burns from Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, will be supporting the Chiefs on Sunday after the Buccaneers beat her beloved New Orleans Saints.
Lauren, 26, said: “The team playing against the Chiefs – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – beat the Saints so I’m definitely not rooting for them.
“There was genuine tears when they beat the Saints and I’m still sore from it.”
She is excited to see how Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahome will play against Brady.
She added: “It will be really interesting to see the two quarterbacks go against each other – the new guy of football going against the legend.”
Lauren first watched the Super Bowl seven years ago with a friend who thought she would enjoy the game and from that moment she has been “obsessed”.
She said: “My house is decorated with my team’s items. In one room I have scarves, banners, posters and a signed football from one of the players. I also have my team’s logo tattooed on my arm – it’s a genuine obsession.”
Lauren works as a player coach for newly-established women’s American football team, Northumberland Shield Maidens, who trained once before sessions were postponed due to the pandemic.
While she would normally host a huge Super Bowl party for her friends on the night of the game, along with a trip to a casino or an organised event, this year’s celebrations will be very different due to lockdown.
Instead she is hosting a virtual Super Bowl party and watching the game on a video call dressed in their team’s shirts.
Lauren added: “It’s a shame that we won’t get to celebrate with our usual party, my friends will still be watching the game together so it should be fun and I’m looking forward to the game.”