Applause, please, for Thomas Rensen Ã¢ÂÂ 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 competitionsÃ¢ÂÂ¦ from the Champions League to the semi-final of the Liechtenstein CupÃ¢ÂÂ¦ I saw it all. It was truly a dream come true.
IÃ¢ÂÂm 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 itÃ¢ÂÂ¦
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 Ã¢ÂÂ visit Hohe Warte, the stadium of First Vienna. And donÃ¢ÂÂt 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 itÃ¢ÂÂs 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 Ã¢ÂÂ thatÃ¢ÂÂs why I didnÃ¢ÂÂt see all of them after the matchÃ¢ÂÂ¦ 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 isnÃ¢ÂÂt 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 conclusionsÃ¢ÂÂ¦ how is football in Europe? Well, no surprise to say that despite the TV coverage, itÃ¢ÂÂs still a very popular hobby to visit the stadium in person. Especially in Germany, itÃ¢ÂÂs madness. The biggest crowd I joined was 75,000 at Hertha BerlinÃ¢ÂÂ¦ 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 Ã¢ÂÂ 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.
WhatÃ¢ÂÂs 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt try 40 games in 40 days (although itÃ¢ÂÂs possible) and I wonÃ¢ÂÂt try this on other continents (I guess it's impossible). But if you ever want to make a trip like this, donÃ¢ÂÂt overthink it, because itÃ¢ÂÂs really amazing. Just do it!