Being surrounded by passionate Bears fans is nothing new for Roberto Garza, a former offensive lineman who played 10 seasons with the team from 2005-14.
But last Sunday was the first time that he interacted with Bears fans more than 4,000 miles from Soldier Field on a game day. During the team's game against the Lions, Garza signed autographs, posed for photos and talked football with about 300 fans at a Bears Watch Party at the Irish Rover, a pub in Madrid, Spain.
The bar is located close to Santiago Bernabeu, the home stadium of the Real Madrid soccer team.
"It was amazing," Garza said. "It was my first Watch Party overseas, so I didn't know what to expect. You could tell as soon as the people started walking in the bar two hours before the game started, the energy and the buzz started to pick up. People were excited for the game. There were Bears flags all over the place.
"It was a lot of fun, a great environment. Fans were excited to be a part of it. Everybody I talked to had a great time, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of."
The Watch Party was part of the NFL's Global Markets Program, an initiative to expand the league into international markets. When the program was introduced in 2022, the Bears were assigned the United Kingdom and Spain. There are currently 21 NFL teams participating in the program across 14 international markets.
The Bears have previously held Watch Parties in London and Barcelona in 2022 and Manchester, England, earlier this season.
At last Sunday's gathering, the Bears attempted to replicate the game-day experience at Soldier Field, showing their hype video just before kickoff, staging the flex cam and other in-game entertainment during commercial breaks and holding a touchdown dance contest at halftime. The Watch Party was hosted by Gabiel Lozano, a member of the Bears Monster Squad who's known as "DJ Riel."
"I was super pleased with the way it went," said Fernando Arriola, Bears vice president of fan & brand development. "We worked with a lot of youth football clubs, some Spanish journalists and even the city of Madrid. We invited all these different entities to the party, and they reported back and said it was a fantastic event. They said it was totally different than anything they've ever seen before at a sports bar like that, so I think the uniqueness really came through."
The Watch Party marked the Bears' third event in Spain, following last year's watch party in Barcelona and Mini Monsters youth football camps in Madrid and Barcelona in February. Garza served an alumni coach at the camps.
"It's a credit to the Bears and what they've done in the last year," Garza said. "They're definitely doing the legwork to go out there and promote the NFL. The reception from the people and the reaction of the kids has been amazing. It's been very cool to be a part of laying the foundation of growing the Chicago Bears in Spain."