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Arizona Cardinals mascot "Big Red" and Valerie Denight pose for a picture while in London, England supporting their favorite football team. Photos Courtesy of Valerie Denight.

Community Cardinals Football Fan Takes Over London

Some Arizona Cardinals football fans, including Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Valerie Denight, traveled to London, England, to watch the Cardinals play on October 22.

Although the Cardinals lost to the Los Angeles Rams, Denight, a die-hard fan, enjoyed the trip.

Denight called her trip to London a “victory trip” for her and her husband, Geoff, who recently graduated from law school and passed the bar. Denight’s husband said that Valerie was supportive of his schooling over the last three years and he wanted to take her on this trip because he couldn’t have done it without her.

“We deserved this trip, and what better way than to celebrate by watching our Cards in London?” she said.

The couple has held Cardinals season tickets for the last six years. When the 2017 schedule came out in April, they knew then that they wanted to head to the London game. They traveled with the Birdgang Travel Club, which made the experience more fun for all Cardinals fans, Denight said.

The couple left on October 18 and spent seven days in London. They made new friends from around the world and from other Native communities. Denight recalls meeting other Cardinals fans from Gila River, Piñon, San Carlos, Ganado, Chinle, Kinlichee (all in Arizona) and New Mexico.

Valerie poses with Ryan Lewis from the Gila River Indian Community.
“It was so fun meeting other Natives in London,” Denight said. “Despite not being from the same tribe, we were all family. It was always, ‘Be safe and safe travels.’ It was so genuine to have other Natives there in a foreign world. It’s not very often you see other Natives traveling for football.”

Denight loves to dress the part as a Big Red mascot look-alike. It takes her about 90 minutes to get ready, including face paint and the entire outfit. Denight also made a flag for this trip. It was a Cardinals flag that read, “Rez Fan, Lehi, Arizona.” Her flag was a pretty big deal; she was featured on the UK News and USA Today Sports and took about 300 pictures with her flag in hand with fans. “I made sure I included my flag in every picture. I’m proud of where I’m from,” said Denight.

Valerie with the U.S. Air Force Troops, who were recognized on the field.
Denight said the highlight of the game was hearing the national anthems sung for both England and the United States. The U.S. Air Force service members stationed in London were recognized, and Denight thanked them for their service. “It’s amazing how everyone came together that day to unite for football,” she said.

“It was a very tough loss, but I think the experience overall trumped all that. Just to see other fans, other Natives out there, and the British community; everybody was nice. If we found ourselves lost, everyone was willing to help,” said Denight.

Valerie and her husband Geoff in front of the London Eye. Valerie and her husband were seated on the 15th row at Twickenham Stadium.
The Denights also toured Portobello Road (the world’s largest antique market), Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower of London, Palace of Westminster, Piccadilly Circus, the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. They utilized the “Tube,” London’s underground transit system, to get around. They also attended nightly pep rallies attended by Arizona Cardinals players Tyrann Mathieu and Adrian Peterson and General Manager Steven Keim.

“The overall experience was amazing. It just goes to show that hard work really does pay off,” said Denight. “I still have faith in my Cardinals.”