Next up in our A-Z tour series, Brondby season ticket holder Andreas Van Maarschalkerweerd opens the door on a cracker-jack of an A-Z itinerary….
My A-Z Tour of European Football:
Well, this wasn’t easy I must admit. I’m a passionate football tourist and I love combining traveling with watching some of Europe’s most intense derby games. But how to actually choose a complete A-Z list? That’s trickier than it sounds, especially because you have to exclude so many great destinations. I have adhered strictly to the rules and left out clubs that I have already visited. Fortunately some of Europe’s biggest football cities have more than two clubs worth watching, so I have still managed to include a re-visit to football hot-spots such as Istanbul, Athens and Thessaloniki. I will take a minute in respect of all the clubs left out of this list… And now, without further ado, here’s my list of clubs that I must visit in alphabetical order:
A is for… AEK Athens. It only took me one football trip to Greece to fall in love with the complete madness that surrounds the beautiful game in Greece. The passion of Greek football supporters is absolutely world class. I have been fortunate to watch big derbies in both Athens and Thessaloniki, but AEK is still up for grabs. Plus; I do like souvlaki! Game of choice: AEK vs Panathinaikos or Olympiacos.
B is for… Besiktas. This is a no brainer. One word springs to mind when thinking about Turks and football: Fanatism! Few places have better vocal support than Turkish stadiums. I regret that I never got to see Besiktas play at the old Inönü ground. Well, the new one will have to do. Game of choice: Besiktas vs. Galatasaray or Fenerbache.
C is for Chemie Leipzig. Ok, this might not be a no brainer. But after reading “Als wir träumten” by Clemens Meyer (look it up, it is a great read!)it is impossible not to develop some kind of sympathy with those loyal and passionate fans still providing excellent support for former DDR giants Chemie Leipzig. They might be turning out in the lower leagues of German football (NOFV-Oberliga Süd), but I would prefer Chemie a thousand time over the pathetic soft drink concept of RB Leipzig across town. Game of choice: I guess one can’t be that picky in the Oberliga but I would hope for a cup draw against Lokomotive Leipzig.
F is for… Fiorentina. There is a special charm surrounding the Italian Serie A. The stadiums might be worn-down, but in my opinion, Italy is the best place in Europe if you want to combine top class football on the pitch with mind-blowing passion on the stands. Game of choice: Viola-Juventus.
G is for… Grasshoppers. I do not know much about Swiss domestic football, but if the whole alphabet is available, I am happy to make a trip to the alps. Also, this would help me achieve a life-long ambition of eating cheese-fondue. Game of choice: Grasshoppers-FC Zürich.
H is for… Hellas Verona. There was a lot of competition for “H”. It would have been an obvious choice to go for Hibs-Hearts. After spending some of my youth in Perthshire, I have maintained a withstanding interest in Scottish football. However, the “H” spot had to go to Hellas Verona. After reading Tim Parks “A Season with Verona” I have always wanted to visit Stadio Bentegodi. I generally tend to sympathise with clubs that were once great but now are struggling to find their way back. Game of choice: Hellas-Chievo.
I is for… Iraklis. Aris and PAOK might be the giants of Thessaloniki, but Iraklis still has a small but significant and very devoted group of fans. And as mentioned; I do like souvlaki. Game of choice: Iraklis-PAOK.
J is for… Jagiellonia Białystok: Hmmn, maybe not the obvious choice, but for some reason I have never watched a game in Poland, and I think this is a good time to get started. Anyway, this will be a good excuse to consume some vodka and pickled cucumber. Game of choice: No idea! But I assume that e.g. Legia or Poznan would bring an interesting away crowd.
K is for… Kaiserslautern. Most of German clubs can attract huge crowds, partly because they are located in densely populated areas. Kaiserslautern is a town of around 100.000 inhabitants. This season the clubs averages 27.000 in the 2. Bundesliga. That just shows the support and devotion from the local population. The German leagues are filled with desirable destinations, but Fritz-Walter stadium is for sure one of them. Game of choice: 1. FCK – Karlsruhe.
L is for…Lech Poznan. No reason to argue to long about this. The fans of Lech have a well-known reputation across Europe. The combination of choreos, pyro and vocal support has given Lech a reputation as one of the best crowds of Europe. I have to experience that one day. Game of choice: Lech-Legia.
M is for Magdeburg. Last year I had the pleasure to watch a couple of 3. Bundesliga games in the former DDR. Arguable, you don’t find stronger support at such relatively low level as in Germany. Plus, Magdeburg is within driving distance of my home in Denmark, and one should never be shy of a roadtrip on the Autobahn. Loss gehts! Game of choice: Magdeburg-Hallescher.
N is for… Nottingham Forest. Again, I have to blame this one on my sympathy for former giants. No doubt that Forrest is one such. I would also be surprised if the trip to the City Ground would be ruined by high ticket prices and numerous tourists (like myself!) diminishing the local and original feeling that has apparently has evaporated from many PL stadiums. Game of choice: Forrest-Derby
O is for… Olympique Marseille. There’s some truth to the saying that the temper and passion of football fans gets more intense the more south you go. Marseille is indeed south, I would expect nothing short of mayhem at Stade Velodrome on days when the home crowd are on the top of their game. Game of choice: Marseille-P$G
P is for… Porto. The average quality of Portuguese football might not really compare to their Iberian neighbours, but it is my impression that the (top) clubs of Portugal have better support than their Spanish counterparts. A visit to the Lisbon derby some years ago confirmed that Portugal has more than seafood and sunshine to offer. Game of choice: Porto-Benfica.
Q is for… Queens Park Rangers. How many clubs are there actually starting with a Q? I could only think of QPR, Queens of the South and Qarabaq. I honestly have no idea about football in Azerbaijan, but of course one could be surprised. Though, I will rely on a trip to Loftus Road. Probably they serve a decent pie. Game of choice: QPR-Fulham.
S is for… Sevilla. It might not be a surprise by now that I prefer a fantastic crowd before many other things when choosing this A-Z. The fans of Seville probably have the best reputation of all Spanish fans. When watching the Andalusians in TV you can almost feel the blood boiling on the stands. Game of choice: Sevilla-Betis.
T is for… Torino. You really can’t accuse Torino supporters for being glory hunters. Ever since the Superga disaster, the triumphs of Torino have been very sporadic. I can only imagine how hard it must be for the Torino supporters to see city rivals from Juventus win back to back titles again and again. My fingers are always crossed for Il Torro when they face Juve. Game of choice: Torino-Juventus (obviously!).
U is for… Union Berlin. Union is known for its strong community feeling. Even in Germany where the ties between fans and clubs are extremely strong, Union still stands out. Most famously, their home ground was built by volunteer work of the fans. In times of Red Bull, Blatter and players wearing neon green football boots, clubs like Union Berlin are needed more than ever. Game of choice: Union-St. Pauli.
V is for… Valencia. Only god knowns what is up and down these days in Valencia. It is a mess, and you feel sorry when a great club like Valencia has to suffer so much due to poor management. None the less, I would still love to pay Mestalla a visit. Also, my pale Scandinavian winter body could need some sunshine and my stomach soon deserves a cold beer. Game of choice: Valencia-Villarreal.
W is for: (Legia) Warszawa. I would have said Widzew Lodz, but I am still mad at them after beating Brøndby in the last minute in the champions league qualifiers back in the mid-90’es. It will be a visit to the Polish capital instead. Game of choice: Legia-Polonia Warszawa.
Z is for… Zrinjski Mostar. Bosnian domestic football does not attract a lot of attention, but the rumour of the Mostar derby has made its way to Denmark. I have had the pleasure to visit the beautiful city of Mostar on holiday, but that was out of season. I would be more than happy to make the trip again for the Mostar derby. Game of choice: Zrinjski Mostar-Velez Mostar.
Thanks to Andreas for writing this piece. I first met Andreas at an OFK Beograd game back in 2012 before an ill fated Eternal Derby day experience at Partizan where the Delije boycotted the match! I have since travelled to Copenhagen a couple of times to watch his beloved Brondby play, and I can honestly say make sure you put Brondby down as your ‘B’ selection on your A-Z tour. You wont regret it!
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Next up in our A-Z tour series, Leicester fan and Eastern European football aficionado James Tambinho shares a mouth watering A-Z itinerary!…