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Applause, please, for Thomas Rensen – he's spent a month criss-crossing Europe by rail watching a game of football every single day...
I know I sound like an advertisement for sports clothing, but I just did it! Nothing is Impossible! Well, sorry, but it feels a bit like this. After 31 days of travelling, after 31 matches in 18 countries in 30 different competitions… from the Champions League to the semi-final of the Liechtenstein Cup… I saw it all. It was truly a dream come true.
I’m not a real groundhopper. Before this trip I 'd seen about 20 games in total outside Holland. Most of them were almost accidental, because I was on holiday in that region. It sounds a fantastic idea to see all the stadiums in England, but I doubt I'll ever do it…
So, that was another reason why this month was special for me. During my trip I experienced a real groundhopping experience and I loved every second of it. A tip for all you European groundhoppers – visit Hohe Warte, the stadium of First Vienna. And don’t forget BK Skjold in Denmark, Freiburg in Germany and USV Eschen/Mauren in Liechtenstein either!
Maybe the trip is over now, but I still love football. A lot of people asked me whether I would be fed up with the sport after my trip, but I think it’s quite the opposite. I look for the results of Bangor City (Champions of Wales!), of FC Zurich (they won against Neuchatel when I was there, now they are going to play for the championship against Basel) and of First Vienna (will they get relegated?).
I ended my trip in London, at Chelsea-Tottenham. I saw the game with a few Tottenham fans I'd met before and it was a pleasure to be with those guys, real football fans. And real Tottenham fans – that’s why I didn’t see all of them after the match… disappointed by the result, which they thought was unfair.
It was nice to be able walk to the stadium, even when you support the away team. In the Netherlands, that isn’t possible: you have to travel together from your club's stadium to the away ground, by bus or train. Buying a ticket on your own is simply not possible. A good thing that there's enough respect (and police) around Stamford Bridge that I felt safe enough as an away fan.
And now my conclusions… how is football in Europe? Well, no surprise to say that despite the TV coverage, it’s still a very popular hobby to visit the stadium in person. Especially in Germany, it’s madness. The biggest crowd I joined was 75,000 at Hertha Berlin… for a Second Division game! And in Germany's third tier I saw a match with 30,000 others.
Another thing I noticed is the calmness of strikers when they have a big chance. Nine out of 10 are fixated on getting the ball past the goalkeeper – logical, but most times they miss the goal. The few that concentrated on getting the ball on target were more successful; most times the keeper is too late to save a ball within reach, purely because of the quality of the strike. It sounds simple, but like Johan Cruyff once said: easy football is the hardest there is.
What’s next, after this once-in-a-lifetime experience? Well, next season I'll be back following my club Willem II even now they're in the Dutch second division, and I'll try to see a few games in other countries as well. I won’t try 40 games in 40 days (although it’s possible) and I won’t try this on other continents (I guess it's impossible). But if you ever want to make a trip like this, don’t overthink it, because it’s really amazing. Just do it!
Crazy man. Crazy jealous.
One thing though, I am quite partial to a beer at the game, being aussie it's just the done thing, but 31*(average)4 beers is 124 drinks over 31 days.
I just dont think I can do that.
What were the drinking regulations across Euro?
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