Among just over 65,000 fiery supporters at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Quebec fans quickly saw their enthusiasm cooled, but also experienced beautiful moments of solidarity following the disturbing scene involving Damar Hamlin.
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Mathieu Labbé, from Sherbrooke, was in the middle of a New Year's dream trip with three friends. After the game between the Vikings against the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday, the group took the road to Chicago and then went to Cincinnati.
What was supposed to be one of the most anticipated games of the year between Bengals and Bills quickly turned into a nightmare.
“At the beginning, there was a nice animosity between the supporters of the two teams. Then, it's as if life stopped spinning.
"I had a Bills jersey on for the game and when the incident happened the Bengals fans were quick to come up to us and pat us on the shoulder and say they were thinking of us," he said. he tells.
Like anyone who takes such a trip, of course, he would have liked a different outcome, but his thoughts quickly drifted towards the fate of Damar Hamlin.
“Probably on TV you had more information than the rest of us in the stadium. We wondered what was going on, we soon saw the Bills players gather and cry. We understood that it was serious.
"It was pretty stressful. In that time, fuck football, it's the young person's life that counts! he said.
A heavy silence
Carl Robertson, from Lac-Saint-Jean, had his ticket fairly close to the field.
“Time suddenly stopped. It was a big silence, it was very heavy in the stadium. A cluster of players formed and they could be heard shouting towards the sidelines for help to arrive.
“I was surrounded by Bengals fans and no one was talking. No one around wanted the game to resume. Everyone understood gravity. It marked me to see the solidarity of the Americans in such a moment, ”he said.
The Bills players were respectfully applauded as they left the field, completely dumbfounded.
"The emotion was very palpable," said the man who has never seen anything like it in the fifteen NFL games he has attended.
hugs in the streets
Usually, the streets become very noisy after a game outside a stadium. In Cincinnati, it was rather consternation.
“On the way back to the hotel, no one could believe what had just happened. I saw lots of people crying, lighting lighters, hugging each other. You never want to go through this, but somewhere there was a great life lesson in there,” Robertson concluded.