31 games in 31 days? Oh alright then...
Watching a match tonight? Dedicated Dutchman Thomas Rensen will be Ã¢ÂÂ he's watching 31 games in 31 days across Europe...
Did your partner Ã¢ÂÂ or ex-partner Ã¢ÂÂ never say it: Ã¢ÂÂFootball? Not again Ã¢ÂÂ it seems like there's a game every bl**dy day...Ã¢ÂÂ
Well, we all know thatÃ¢ÂÂs true. And IÃ¢ÂÂm going to enjoy that to the fullest. Because last week I left my home in the Netherlands to see 31 matches in 31 days, all across Europe, travelling by InterRail.
So on Friday I was in Wales, at Bangor City. The day before Bangor I'd been in Belgium watching the best young talents from England and Spain as the countries' under-17 teams clashed: England won 2-1 and qualified for the European Championships in Serbia later this year.
Fri 1 Apr: Behind the goal at Bangor
A match in Belgium was an easy start for me, as a Dutchy. And it was wonderful to watch the identity of both teams. The Spain players dribbled all day long, with great technique; the England players were stronger, smarter and worked harder. In the end, the smartness won against the "I want to run past five defenders" style.
I donÃ¢ÂÂt know yet how many countries I will visit during my trip, but by the second day of the trip I'd already been in four different countries: England, Wales, France and Belgium. On Saturday I went to West Ham v Manchester United (you may have read about that game); on Sunday I went to Berlin; and then I headed for Scandinavia...
ItÃ¢ÂÂs quite a distance between Berlin and Stockholm. Maybe not if you go by plane, but by train, itÃ¢ÂÂs a big trip. But who cares if that trip means you can see three beautiful games within two days! I started on Sunday afternoon with a stroll in the Olympic Park. It was beautiful weather, the sun was shining and I was an hour early for the kick off. Life is good when you have a Bratwurst and a Coca Cola in the sun, with the prospect of Hertha.
Hertha BSC is the biggest team in Berlin, one of the biggest in Germany Ã¢ÂÂ and, if you go by attendances, one of the biggest in Europe. And yet, they play in the second Bundesliga. But where else in Europe do you have a 70,000 sell-out in the second division? The match against Paderborn ended in a 2-0 win for Hertha, who moved three points closer to promotion.
Sun 3 Apr: The Hertha wave
Unlike before the game, I had to hurry off after that Ã¢ÂÂ because in less than two hours Wolfsburg would kick off against Eintracht Frankfurt. And Wolfsburg is an hour by train. I managed to catch my train and just 15 minutes before the game started I was at the stadium, sat on the side with the local fanatics.
Fittingly, the match was the most hectic (and entertaining) I'd seen so far. There wasn't a moment of peace, just flying, running and fighting. The 1-1 draw wasn't enough for Wolfsburg, who could with better finishing have won 5-1.
Then the big train trip. I started at 23.00 in Wolfsburg and ended at 17.00 in Stockholm. And what for? To see a goalless draw: Djurgardens vs AIK. But the atmosphere made up for the lack of goals: fireworks, singing, jumping, all you could expect of a real Stockholm derby. At the Rasunda Stadium it was quite an experience. Just too bad it was my first 0-0 of the trip.
Mon 4 Apr: The Stockholm derby
Now I'm off to Copenhagen, Dresden, Vyle-Theroul and Vienna for the next part of my journey. Quite a distance again, but I donÃ¢ÂÂt mind: I've done six matches now, and still have 26 to go before the end of the month. ItÃ¢ÂÂs Football on Rails!
And for everyone who was wondering... Yes, I have a girlfriend. Yes, she knows about this journey. Yes, sheÃ¢ÂÂs still with me. Yes, I know... I'll never let her go!