How to become a celebrity and buy a football club in just three weeks
A paper from Luxembourg did the math for me. According to them I have travelled 13,000 kilometers on my journey so far. An amazing number but IÃ¢ÂÂm not done yet. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs one final week to go!
But first, let me tell you about the amazing few days IÃ¢ÂÂve just had. This last week took me to Genk (Belgium), Freiburg and Cologne (Germany), Tilburg (The Netherlands), Auxerre (France) and Differdange (Luxemburg). Again, five countries in six days Ã¢ÂÂ phew!Ã¢ÂÂ¨Ã¢ÂÂ¨
IÃ¢ÂÂm also now the proud new owner of a football club - well, sort of. Like Ebbsfleet United before them, German lower league outfit Fortuna KÃÂ¶ln are owned by a large group of fans - they decide who to buy, who should play and the fate of the manager.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs a good way for the club to raise money and to make the fans feel involved, but for the manager itÃ¢ÂÂs difficult. The current boss, Matthias Mink, knows this all too well. Just this season the fans conducted online polls to determine whether the manager should be sacked on no fewer than three occasions!
Each time Mink managed to avoid the chop, but he has since decided not to chance his luck again, and will instead step down at the end of the season.
A presumably rather brave new manager has already been lined up, but with the ambition of the club and its 9,000 owners, the pressure will be high from the off. And yes, I am now one of those 9,000 baying for blood Ã¢ÂÂ the club has to be playing in the Regional Liga in two years!
Seeing as I was splashing my hard-earned cash on another football club, I thought I should probably go back to my homeland and see my one true love in action.Ã¢ÂÂ¨
Willem II are going to be relegated - even if I were in charge there too it would be unavoidable. Yet they still managed to overcome AZ Alkmaar to just about keep those last lingering hopes of survival alive - It ainÃ¢ÂÂt over Ã¢ÂÂtil the fat lady sings, after allÃ¢ÂÂ¦
It was nice to be home again and not quite as strange a feeling as I had expected, which is more than can be said for my experience in Luxembourg.
This trip has evidently made me a bit famous. Well, for one day at least. In Luxembourg some locals recognized me in the pub and at the stadium lots of people asked me whether I was Ã¢ÂÂthat crazy DutchyÃ¢ÂÂ.
Ok, me wearing a huge backpack into the stands was a bit of a giveaway, but they had heard of my arrival nonetheless. The club I had come to see, Differdange, gave me an authentic match shirt and I was interviewed for radio, television and a local newspaper Ã¢ÂÂ but most importantly I got a free beer!
Differdange won their cup game against RM Hamm Benfica 3-1 after extra time, so all by all it was a great experience.Ã¢ÂÂ¨Ã¢ÂÂ¨
Now I am in Slovenia. Waiting for another cup tie, this time beteween NK Maribor and Koper - and itÃ¢ÂÂs a huge match for the people of Maribor. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs the beauty of travelling around Europe - I always get to see a match that means the world to the people IÃ¢ÂÂm watching it with.