I love football. It’s as simple as that. There is no other sport, that can ruin or make my day in the same way like football. I’m a glowing Manchester United fan. I was a kid when the class of ’92 was kicking asses and won everything that was to be won. During the last couple seasons being a United fan resembles a bit like torture though. It doesn’t make me love them any less, as I’m sure they will be back on top. No matter what. Period!
Anyway, not only do I want to visit all 196 countries, but also all major european football stadiums. I used to think that watching a game in front of the TV was way better, but once you get hooked by the live atmosphere and crowds roaring after your team scores, you want to watch every game live. Believe me.
During my travels I was able to see a few games now. Here’s the games and stadiums I’ve been to already:
Manchester United vs. Liverpool 2:1 (Season 12/13 January, Old Trafford, Manchester, UK)
What a game! To see my favourite team playing against their fiercest rivals live in the greatest stadiums on planet earth was a dream coming true. Furthermore, it was Fergie’s last season. A big 2:1 home win! Brilliant!
FC Barcelona vs. Sevilla 3:2 (Season 13/14 September, Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain)
Visiting the home stadium of FC Barcelona is very memorable and guarantees an incredible experience. Barcelona played against Sevilla and didn’t leave it until the 92nd minute of extra time to score the 3:2 winner. Messi scored and the players celebrated in style 10 metres in front of us. Wow! When you sit so close behind the goal, you can feel the rush and pace of the players – exhilarating match and experience!
FC Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund (Supercup 2014, Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany)
It’s the biggest game in Germany. Somewhat like the El Clasico. The Supercup is the first game played every season between the Bundesliga winner and the DFB Pokalsieger. I drove with friends from Vienna for an overnight stay to Munich and saw a fun game between the german giants.
AC Milan vs. Inter Mailand 2:4 (Season 2013/2014, San Siro, Milan, Italia)
This is definitely one of the craziest matches I’ve seen. This was the last season Ibrahimovic & Co still played at AC Milan. Nonetheless Inter won 2:4 and AC Milan were out of the title race and Juventus won the infamous Scudetto. It was strange seeing Juve fanatics party hard at night all around Milan. A fantastic game with incredible hate-filled atmosphere. We saw it all, fans had fights literally in front of us, beers thrown and wades of smoke covered the game most of the time due to the illegal fireworks. Big night for italian football! Check out the videos!
The atmosphere is insane! Loud, hate-filled and explosive! Yes!
Game is on!
Germany vs. Austria (WM Qualification 2015, Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany)
The biggest game for my country is always the one against our big neighbours. Another road trip to Munich for the World Cup qualification game against Germany. Toni Kroos scored and we lost. Gutted!
Austria vs. Sweden (WM Qualification 2015, Ernst Happel Stadium, Vienna, Austria)
I saw a second game of the World Cup 2016 Qualification. This time at home in Vienna against Ibrahimovic and Co. A fantastic game that we won! Yes! It’s always an incredible atmosphere with the Austrian national team playing in Vienna.
Iceland vs. Austria 1:2 (European Cup 2016 June, Stade de France, Paris, France)
I wanted to visit a big tournament for a long time now, but usually Austria never made it to group stage or tickets were far too expensive or I had some other reason not to attend it. This past year though, Austria played through qualification without losing, qualifying for the group stage of the European Cup in France and the hype around this tournament couldn’t have been any bigger.
Getting hands on tickets needed quite some luck, as you would apply through a lottery and only if you got drawn, you get the chance to buy maximum 4 tickets. A mate of mine got lucky and received 4 tickets. Score!
I haven’t been to Paris for at least 6 years and I was really excited to go back. However, I knew there was only very limited sightseeing on schedule, as football was the only thing on everyone’s mind. On the first afternoon the boys and me instantly hit the gigantic fanzone under the Eiffel Tower and ordered beers. What else. We saved our national jerseys for the next day and dressed up fancy. We were literally the only ones with shirts in the whole fanzine and there were people taking pictures of us. For whatever reason. Probably haven’t seen a bunch of guys in shirts before.
The atmosphere was amazing. Irish and Northern Irish fans are my favourites on the planet. They are crazy, loud, fun and keep their positive attitude towards everyone. ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’ was sung around every corner in Paris that day and I caught myself, more often than I would admit, singing along to that hymn, while partying in Montmartre.
Then the big day arrived. The initial situation was clear. There was no losing against Iceland for us. The hype around the Vikings was far from the rise, that occured later in this tournament. We needed a win against them and 30.000 austrian fans met up in the northern Paris quarter, St. Denis, to get in the mood.
We literally walked all together to the stadium and chanted nonstop. We were escorted by police and waded the few miles to the stadium. The security a mile before the stadium, while entering the area and inside the stadium was immense and clearly visible. However the security managed to move everyone through fast and it was not a pain in the ass, as we thought it might be.
With a bit of serendipity we were able to get VIP tickets for the game and had some of the best seats in the stadium. The anticipation couldn’t have been any bigger. Our table in the Ephemére Lounge was located literally at the best spot in the stadium and the service was outstanding. Once I said yes to champagne, they made sure my glass was never empty. A dream come true. We arrived at the lounge about two hours before the game. The perfect amount of time to eat and drink a lot and get ready for the big game.
The atmosphere started to built and the austrian fans were exceptional. You could feel the buzz and how much this game meant for us. An early opener from Iceland crushed our hopes dramatically fast. We didn’t lose hope though and more than once did we find rescue, in terms of drinks, at the nearby bar to get us through the tension. During half time we had even more food and drinks to gain energy and strength to cheer Austria forward.
After a buzzing equalizer from Austria and a now fantastic atmosphere, the Vikings left it late to break our hearts. A last minute goal threw us out of the tournament and left us in tears. We couldn’t move for a few minutes. The Iceland Team did there, now famous, War Cry in front of their 20.000 fans and it was extra-ordinary to see it live. However, I wish I’d have seen it on a different occasion.
We went back inside the lounge and after another hour of desperately looking for reasons why we lost, we waded out of the stadium. In the end, we received the official tournament ball as a gift and we quickly realised how amazing this whole experience has been. Okay, we lost. But, we were part of this amazing group of 30.000 people who made their way to France to cheer for their country, we have seen the Icelandic War Cry live and we have overdosed on champagne and amazing food in the fanciest style. Above all, sharing this amazing days with my mates was a experience I’ll never forget. Now bring on the World Cup 2018!