There are few European soccer stars more excited for this weekend's Super Bowl LV between Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (streaming free on the CBS Sports app and CBSSports.com) than KRC Genk and Finland's Jere Uronen and the 26-year-old, who has been plying his trade in Belgium since 2016, has been an NFL fan for much longer -- especially his beloved Miami Dolphins.
CBS Sports caught up with Uronen exclusively this week off the back of a 3-2 win over Zulte Waregem in the Belgian Pro League last Wednesday and he was delighted to explain how his love for American football was born.
"It is funny," said the Finn. "My sister is four years older and her husband, when they were still dating, was playing American football in Finland at what we could call the highest level. He was a quarterback and when you play and love the sport, you follow NFL.
"We went to Miami as a family in 2011 and caught a Dolphins-Bills game and I was just hooked. Live at the stadium, your first impression is fantastic, and I have followed closely ever since. Miami has been my team from the first moment."
𝐇𝐮𝐮𝐡𝐤𝐚𝐣𝐚𝐭 𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐚𝐬𝐤𝐮𝐮𝐬𝐬𝐚 - kohti A-liigaa! | Mitä mieltä olet valinnoista? 🦉💬 | Katso tiedotustilaisuus ➡ https://t.co/jwdKPNpe8A— Huuhkajat (@Huuhkajat) November 5, 2020
Päävalmentaja Markku Kanerva on nimennyt joukkueensa marraskuulle!#Huuhkajat #FRAFIN #BULFIN #WALFIN #UNLfi #MeOlemmeSuomi pic.twitter.com/TQjM22inZX
Although ice hockey is more popular in Finland due to the country's strong NHL presence, American football is established enough to have a league and national team -- not necessarily something that Uronen has fond memories of through his family.
"The game is pretty small in Finland -- my sister's husband also played for the Finnish national team," he said. "There was a friendly in Helsinki against a college team from the States and it finished 54-0 -- not tight. Pretty ugly, actually."
On this weekend's Super Bowl, Uronen predicts a Chiefs victory but is rooting for the Buccaneers star quarterback Tom Brady to once again come up big when most needed -- even if it galls him to admit his admiration for Miami's former slayer.
"The Chiefs, I think, but I am really rooting against them," CBS heard exclusively. "I feel that it will take something really special to stop them, though. Their offense, in particular, is amazing. With Andy Reid, I do not see anybody stopping them.
"It would be cool for Tom Brady to win one more, though. That coming from a Dolphins fan after all the times he tortured us! I still massively respect the guy. He has done something remarkable that probably will not be repeated.
"When Brady plays in a big game, never count him out. I am rooting for the Bucs and it would be cool to see them win at home."
Despite the aforementioned preference for ice hockey in his homeland, Uronen prefers to follow NBA closer these days -- although Finland's passion for blades and the ice almost saw him make a different career choice.
"I follow NBA more than NHL," he confessed. "There are lots of Finns in NHL and we are really good at ice hockey. I also played before choosing soccer. I guess we can call that the right decision! I mainly follow live scores now -- not staying up to watch games in the middle of the night."
Uronen got a new teammate earlier this year when Mark McKenzie arrived from Philadelphia Union and the USMNT newcomer is already slotting in perfectly at Luminus Arena, earning rave reviews as John van den Brom's men target a return to continental competition for next season.
"He is amazing on the pitch," Uronen told CBS exclusively. "His first few weeks have really impressed me. He was super solid in both of his starts and has not made a single mistake. He uses his body well to block shots and is really confident when on the ball and passing.
"I am really happy to have him as he is a very good player. Off the pitch, he is really chilled. Now is not the best moment to move to Europe from the States with Corona, but we have been trying to make him feel at home. He is a happy guy, always smiling and super nice."
Uronen was also part of the Finland side that made history by qualifying for this summer's European Championship and admitted that he and his teammates are targeting further history with the 2024 FIFA World Cup.
"Qualifying for the World Cup is the biggest dream for every Finnish soccer player," he said. "This summer's Euro will be our first tournament in history -- that is already a massive step taken. We have beaten France and almost all of our games are tight.
"We have shown that we can beat anybody on a good day. We go to qualifying full of confidence and with nothing to lose. We know that we can challenge the likes of France and take points against them, though. We want to be at the World Cup."
Uronen and McKenzie's Genk are currently second in the Belgian title race and 14 points behind leaders Club Brugge with a Championship play-off on the horizon which still gives hope of a fifth crown for De Smurfen (the Smurfs).