The already rich sporting tapestry of the Greater Dalston area has been further augmented this month by the formation of a new team competing in a sport new to the borough.
The increasing popularity of American football has inspired local business man and notorious bandwagon-jumper, Mr Keith Lombardi, to put together a team that he hopes will one day join the world’s premier football organisation, the National Football League of the USA.
‘Yeah, obviously the NFL are increasingly looking to the European market,’ said Mr Lombardi, 26, ‘and we think a London-based franchise is inevitable at some point. We believe the Dalston Raiders will be that franchise team.’
Drawing athletes from Mr Lombardi’s immediate family, mates down the pub and some kids he saw on Hackney Marshes who had a proper football with ‘Miami Dolphins’ written on it, the Dalston Raiders are currently engaged in off-season training and have just played their inaugural pre-season game.
‘Yeah, obviously 176 – nil was not the result we were hoping for,’ said Mr Lombardi, ‘but these are early days and we were playing a very fit, very determined team with an enviable winning record.’
The Homerton Brownies hockey second team has now gone twelve games unbeaten and, on the day, proved too strong for an under-strength Raiders. Also, they understood the rules better.
‘Yeah, obviously, an NFL team at full strength has 53 players,’ Mr Lombardi told the Mercury, ‘and there are only seven of us at the moment. But we do have an intimidating physical presence. For example, our main offensive lineman is six-foot nine.’
‘Unfortunately he suffers terribly from vertigo, so he spent most of the game sitting on the floor breathing into a paper bag. Y’know, to assuage the terror.’
‘And, obviously, on defence we have our colossus: Nigel ‘the refrigerator’ Henderson.’
When we pointed out that Mr Henderson was named ‘the refrigerator’ because he could only move with the assistance of two strong men and a trolley, Mr Lombardi wisely changed the subject.
‘We named the team after the three-time Superbowl winning Oakland Raiders, and we have also adopted that team’s inspirational mantras,’ he said, ‘although we’ve had to adapt them a bit to make them more appropriate to our current levels of fitness and cowardliness.’
‘So their ‘Just Win, Baby!’ becomes a more realistic ‘Just Try Not To Be Humiliated, Darling!’ and Oakland’s ‘Commitment To Excellence’ becomes Dalston’s ‘Commitment To Not Being Killed This Afternoon’.
Mr Lombardi also appealed to Mercury readers to lend his team some helmets. ‘Yeah, obviously, we’ve only got one at the moment, and that’s got a picture of Peppa Pig on it, which is not ideal. We tried stuffing a sombrero with bubble-wrap, but it kept blowing off. One player also made a re-enforced fez, but we thought that looked a bit racist.’
He also wondered if ‘any fit birds fancied jumping about in little shorts, waving pom-poms and that.’
The Dalston Raiders’ next pre-season game is away to the Victoria Park Bowls Club, who are expected to rest some of their key players.
We asked the NFL about the chances of letting the Dalston Raiders join. They didn’t sound all that keen.