LONDON -- The singsong chants of “RAI-DERS! RAI-DERS! RAI-DERS!” had been echoing off this ancient city’s walls for more than an hour. They grew louder with more passion whenever someone walking on the street was spotted wearing silver and black and answered with the same guttural call.
Boos, good-natured but still, lusty boos would rain down upon the poor sap sporting blue and green or any hue of Seattle Seahawks gear.
Welcome, then, to a rollicking, open-top, double-decker bus tour on Friday with Oakland Raiders fans in town from as far away as California and Washington and as close as Brighton and Liverpool for Sunday’s game between the Raiders and Seahawks at Wembley Stadium.
“Mostly, it’s like a good family reunion,” said Anthony Santoro, a senior tech writer and video producer for a software company in Germany who was rocking a white old-school Tim Brown jersey with the No. 81. “I get to spend time with friends and ‘blood’ from all over that I’ve met at different events and different points in my life. It’s easy to remain in touch, but that’s not the same as being able to actually spend meaningful time rekindling and deepening friendships and relationships with good people.
“We share something that is important to us for our own reasons and in our own ways, but because it is an emotionally driven connection, it facilitates people just getting to know each other and become friends.”
Organized by the Silver & Black UK fan club, the bus tour was one of several excursions put on by the non-profit outfit, which gives proceeds to Raiders Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff’s foundation.
Thursday night, more than 130 Raiders fans paid 15 pounds apiece to walk Jack the Ripper’s path and learn the history of the infamous mass murderer before adjourning to a neighborhood pub, The Ten Bells, for libations.
A regular saw the number of Raiders jerseys -- yes, that was the head of the Sweden Raiders fan club showing off his Raiders-related tattoos -- caps and body art and exclaimed, “I’ve never seen so many Yanks in East London!”
Which, of course, served to elicit more “RAI-DERS!” chants.
Fans paid 15 pounds to ride on the top of the bus, 10 pounds to ride inside, and rub shoulders with the likes of “super” fan characters Crusader Raider, Raider Pimp, Crossbones Kelly, Captain Jack and see the London sights.
“When we were here in 2014, you had a pimp, a knight and a gorilla on the bus and London was wondering, What’s going on?” laughed Crusader Raider, who was the first international fan to be recognized in Canton.
“Raider Nation is worldwide and London is being hit by the nation today.”
Along the two-plus-hour route, the bus passed many London landmarks, from the Royal Courts of Justice to Piccadilly Circus to Big Ben to the London Eye to Westminster Abbey -- “That’s where Harry and Meghan were just married,” ESPN’s Samantha Quek, a gold medalist on Great Britain’s 2016 Olympic women’s field hockey team, pointed out -- to St. Paul’s Cathedral to Tower Bridge to the River Thames to Buckingham Palace.
And the chants grew only louder with each photo opportunity.
Even as one lady, in what Quek said was an especially thick Sussex accent, yelled from the sidewalk to the bus, “Raiders? What is that?”
Nearly 200 fans purchased tickets for three bus tours.
“It all started with a tweet,” Oli DeRuyte, a co-founder of Silver & Black UK, said of his group, which numbers 160 members strong.
“Silver & Black UK in my eyes is the epitome of Raider Nation -- a gathering of the true worldwide Raider Nation who party together, celebrate together and work hard to raise funds for amazing foundations either side of the pond.”
“It’s a way to keep a meaningful social connection that is special because it has a discrete place outside of our real lives,” Santoro said. “And from another perspective, it’s a great case study in the diverse tribalism that seems to be fundamentally human, for better or worse.”
Deep, right? Welcome to the Raider Nation and all that implies.
How global is the Raiders brand? A Danish TV station said the hook for its Thursday night show was the Jon Gruden Meter, where fans could sound off on how much they like the Raiders coach that week.
DeRuyte & Co. had only a few hours to get ready for the next event: a dinner and party with special guests Biletnikoff, Mike Davis, Darren McFadden and the Raiderettes.
That was before the group was to take in a soccer match between Leyton Orient and Hartepool United, for 10 pounds a person with some proceeds going to the Biletnikoff Foundation.
It is all to whet the appetite for Sunday’s main event: the Raiders and Seahawks.
The Raiders do not have a home for 2019 ... yet. There is no lease agreement agreed to for the Raiders to return to the Oakland Coliseum next year. And if the city of Oakland decides to file a lawsuit against the team, in part, because it is moving to Las Vegas in 2020, the Raiders are contemplating leaving the Bay Area entirely for a year, with San Diego a potential front-runner.
Fans in England see an opportunity. One that includes the 2019 London Raiders?
“For me, personally, living 10 miles from here, it’s great,” Crusader Raider said on the bus. “I live 5,642 miles from the Oakland Coliseum, so it’s a little bit further to go. But the bottom line is, wherever the Raiders are, whether we’re here, San Diego, London, Oakland, we are the Raider Nation. Yes, we love Oakland, we would love to stay in Oakland, but we are the nation. And the nation will represent wherever we are.”
And when it comes to the Raiders and London?
“There’s just three words you need to know,” he said. “Fish. And. Chips.”