Monday, 22 December 2008

Coming soon....

I'm off to live and work in Spain (for eleven days) from Boxing Day. I will be visiting family and then I've got to work at the Camp Nou, Barcelona for their home match with Real Mallorca. I haven't been to see a match before at the Camp Nou but I did visit there 10 years ago to show the locals how to play football:

I had also planned on seeing Gimnastic Tarragonna v Girona during my visit. However, disaster struck this morning when they changed the day of their game from the Sunday to the Saturday. This clashes with the Barca v RCD Mallorca match and so I've had to write it off. Whoever decided to change the day of that game needs putting in a sheep pen.

Luckily, help is on hand in the form of the Segunda B Group 3. I have a choice of the following three matches on the Sunday:

Badalona v Ontinyent
Barcelona Atletic v Benidorm
Terrassa v Alzira

Not sure which one I'll pitch up at yet, I guess I'll decide on the day. Just to add that I've updated the 'Your European Football Weekends' section. We have new photos in from:

Holland, Italy, Germany, Greece and the Rest of the World.

I arrive back in Blighty on the 6th January so until then Feliz Navidad and thanks again to all of you who have logged on to read any of this nonsense in the last 12 months.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

EFW Christmas message

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping on your nose, Yuletide carols....what!? oh sorry...getting a bit carried away with the whole Christmas deal here at EFW Towers. I've just logged on to tell deliver our EFW Christmas message but first if you don't mind we're going to blow our own trumpets, strum on our ukulele's and hang out the bunting for we are fast approaching a couple of notable landmarks both here and on our Facebook site.

We are close to recording 20,000 hits on the blog, most of which have come in the last few months.

Just four weeks after setting up our EFW Facebook site, 99 punters from around Europe have signed up making it the fastest growing European Football Weekends Facebook site in history. Pleasingly, we have friends from England, Belgium, Turkey, Germany, The U.S. of A, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and even Scotland on board. Who is going to become the 100th member and win a prize money can't buy!? The prize is to walk around bold as that there brass knowing that you are the 100th EFW member. Really, does life get any better!?

If it's photos of European Football grounds and games you are after then it really is happy days for you on our sites. The Facebook site already has over 500 photos on from all around Europe and this site has hundreds of photos from 'Your European Football Weekends' which you can view by clicking on the links in the menu down the right hand side of the homepage. Remember you can click on any photo to enlarge the image.

If you think we're going to relax over the next few weeks then think again. I will personally be giving up my Christmas and New Year to travel to Spain to drink some beer and watch some football. There are also plans afoot for EFW to sponsor a game here in England and what's more we've trips lined up to Germany, France, Italy and Spain to name a few before the season ends.

Now then, why are we here!? Oh yes, Christmas messages. Everyone is doing them these days. The Queen and the Pope for two. Here at EFW Towers it occurred to us that if it's good enough for the heads of two of the most well liked religions in the world we should just jolly well join in the Yuletide fun so to speak. With this in mind we cast our net far and wide and invited submissions from our global fanbase. A good friend of the team answered the call with a salutary message for all readers as yet undecided on that last minute gift for their nearest and dearest:

Please take care when deciding on that last minute gift. I've three suggestions that may well get you out of a whole. Firstly, a return on the Eurostar and a couple of tickets to any of the literally dozens of welcoming football stadia in Continental Europe showcased by Dan , Nick and Big Deaks along with a plethora of other part time revellers is an altogether more suitable gift than the donation of an organ critical to your continued ability to live. If your budget won't stretch to that in these times of global credit crunch how about a few bottles of your loved ones favourite beers? Again Dan and co have mentioned once or twice their love of beer in this very blog so a quick read over any of his trips should furnish you with some ideas. A final suggestion is one of those funny little Santa hats beloved by Boxing Day football go-ers everywhere. A personal favourite comes in green and white from Skopje and reminds us all that Santa is an FK Metalurg Skopje fan.

Merry Christmas to all from Fruit Cove, Florida where to be a football fan is to obsess about local favourites and SEC Champions the Florida Gators. I can exclusively reveal that Dan is broadening his horizons for this column next autumn to report on a trip to the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. Probably.

That's it then chaps and remember - European Football Weekends - it's a blog, a Facebook site, a way of life. Snigger, chortle, oh stop it Aggers!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The 2008 European Football Weekends Awards

Well, I guess as the silly season is in full swing, this is as good a time as any to introduce our inaugural awards ceremony. So grab yourself a can of beer, sit back and relax in a comfy chair as I take you through our year in the form of the 2008 EFW Awards.

The Rod Steward look-a-like award

Following the Ingolstadt v Karlsruher II match on a Friday night in April, Big Deaks, Nick and I returned to Munich to celebrate the fact we weren't at work. After many beers, we were convinced the landlord of the pub by Munich station (third in from the left - as if you need telling) was Rod Stewart. A long night of singing Rod classics on the seats and tables of the pub ensued.

The best thing we saw at a railway station

Fair play to Adidas for erecting this splendid piece of art in the concourse of Zurich station during our trip to Switzerland for Euro 2008. I don't think this one will be beaten in 2009...or will it!?

Best thing we saw at an airport

Even in my most hungover, worst ever mood, have to go to work, end of an EFW, tired after weekend on the beer mood, I was able to appreciate the effort they'd gone to at Zurich Airport to recreate a mini 'Allianz Arena'. I still don't know why it was there but I'm glad it was.

Best scoreboard


A closely fought contest this but there had to be one winner. Of course it was this beauty at Telstar FC which was sent in by our EFW chum Patrick from Antwerp. Just to recap as if you didn't know, they hoist up a basket to denote a goal has been scored. One on the left for the home side and one on the right for the visitors.

Runner up

I'm simply loving this. Again sent in by Patrick from the Altona 93 v Holstein Kiel match near to Hamburg. Lots to like here. The fact that the man in the red jacket brings along his own scoreboard to the match. Also, note that the two fans in front of him are not even the remotest bit interested that someone behind them is erected a scoreboard between two trees. In fact they can't even be bothered to look up from their books, that must be some read.

Best balancing act whilst swinging a fast shoe award

Full marks to Big Deaks here. Celebrating the fact that we'd just seen officially the worst ever Euro 2008 match - Romania 0-0 France - he manages to both dance and balance a can of strong lager on his head during a post match party in Zurich.

Closest we got to the World Cup award

This is me at FIFA HQ in Zurich. To this day I don't know why I didn't just pick it up, thrust it in the air and then run around the building with it.

This was the closest Nick got. After a few beers in Munich he just had to jump on his seat and worship the trophy.

The best EFW for beers

I think these photos are conclusive proof that our trip to Munich in April was a good one for beer.

Best floodlights

If you read these pages often enough you'll realise that we have a slightly unhealthy regard of 'floodies'. These were our favourites this year though, sent in by Mark from his trip to Belarus to see England at the Dinamo Stadion, Minsk.

Just for good measure, here they are again. I'm not altogether sure I could ever get bored of looking a pictures of them.

Lowlight of 2008

We learnt the hard way that planning a three match EFW in Scotland in January wasn't the wisest thing to do. Arctic conditions meant that our games at Airdrie & Clyde were postponed due to frozen pitches and this was the closest we got to Ibrox because Rangers called theirs off because of a waterlogged pitch. Thankfully we did manage to race over to Falkirk v Aberdeen, visit Partick Thistle, raise the European Cup at Hampden Park and visit this little beauty:

Cathkin Park, Third Lanark Athletic Club.

Most gritty photo

I took this at the Sutton v Notts County FA Cup match. Ken Loach would have been proud of this one.

Best break in to a stadium

Hadjuk Split. It was the day before their match with arch rivals Dinamo Zagreb and there was a ring of steel around the ground. They said there was absolutely no way I was going to get in. They should know me better than that.

Best idea of 2008

When the wife suggested we have our lunch in the ONO Estadi home to Real Mallorca, I thought she was joking. Obviously not.

Best Sunday of 2008

Breakfast at Rayo Vallecano..

...lunch with the wife in one of our favourite Madrid bars with free drinks from the landlord..

... and dinner round at Real Madrid's pad with Valencia as guests.

Worst game of 2008

Easily the Romania v France match in Euro 2008 in Zurich.

It was so bad that it took us seven hours in the pub to get over it!

Best terrace and song

I loved the old school terrace and atmosphere at KV Mechelen. They also provided us with the song of 2008 which was their terrace anthem 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet.

Loudest fans

Beskitas by a country mile. A non stop wall of distorted noise. Absolutely brilliant.

Highlight of 2008

Colin Kazim-Richards giving me his shirt after the Fenerbahce match. Cheers old chap!

So they were just some of the EFW highlights during 2008. More of the same during 2009!? I think so don't you!? There are loads of people to thank; Big Deaks, Nick, Baines, Roland, Patrick, Jordi, Rod & Colin Kazim-Richards, Ivi, Mighty, Alberto, the couple that gave us a lift in the rain at Ingolstadt, landlords across Europe, Rod Stewart, cuddly toy, is anybody still reading this!? Probably not, anyway, you know who you all are. Most of all I'd like to thank anyone who has logged onto this site to read this nonsense during 2008. I don't charge, there are no adverts, it's a public service and it's all for you. Now can somebody open the windows.

Monday, 1 December 2008

FC Brussels v K.A.S. Eupen

Bruges, Brussels, Belgium, Brrr....illiant.

FC Brussels 3-1 K.A.S. Eupen (30:11:08)

The Stade Edmond Machtens, home to FC Brussels.

'Do you want to go and peruse the Christmas markets in Bruges darling!?' 'As long as I can go and see FC Brussels v K.A.S. Eupen as well sweetheart'. It's the sort of conversation that often takes place between my wife and I here at EFW Towers and one that I believe will hopefully ensure a long, happy and fruitful marriage.

FC Brussels are the self proclaimed 'Pride of Brussels'. Not a bad boast when you factor in their near neighbours - just two kilometres down the road - R.S.C. Anderlecht who've won just the 5 European trophies, 29 Belgian Division One titles, 9 Belgian cups, 8 super cups and show up every year in the Champions League. In comparison FC Brussels list of honours reads thus; 1 x Belgian 2nd Division winners and 1 x Belgian Third Division A winners. Still, why let the facts get in the way of a good slogan eh!?

K.A.S. Eupen are the only 'German speaking' club in Belgium and reside in the provence of Liege, 15km from the German border. Amongst the myriad of attractions in Eupen, I suppose it's their famous chocolate museum that would make them blow their own trumpet the loudest.

Before the football in Brussels on Sunday, my wife, sister and I spent a day in Bruges at the Christmas markets. Before you start to break out in a cold sweat at the prospect, most of the wooden huts on show double up as temporary bars. Others sell a range of santa hats, which seem like a terrible idea when sober but the best concept ever when you've down a couple of 13% beers.

The view from the Belfont. Happy Christmas everyone *sniff*

The best wooden hut I saw - aside from beer stalls - was selling both Cercle Bruges and FC Bruge football memorabillia. That received a double thumbs up from me, unlike the plethora of chocolate shops in town that had stooped to selling novelty chocolate women's breasts. Nobody likes to see that sort of filth, least of all me.

It was a bit parky, or if you prefer cold in Bruges. In fact it was freezing. This meant our plans to go skating on the temporary ice rink in front of the Belfort were shelved in favour of a pub crawl. In a lot of good Belgian bars a coffee table sized book is thudded down in front of you upon your arrival. On closer inspection this book turns out to be a beer menu. Thumbing through said book and making your way through a selection of fine ales isn't a bad alternative to falling arse over tit on an ice rink.

Mmmm.....beeer. One of each please bartender.

For the record the best bars we found in Bruges were the Staminee De Garre, which was tucked away in the side streets and sold over 100 beers and housed two bars separated by a small corridor. The L'Estaminet was also a fine establishment for quaffing the local brew 'Brugse Zot'. Inexplicably, I'd also managed to book our hotel within 300 yards (ie within nightcap range) of Bruges' oldest pub - the Cafe Vlissinghe.

Me + local beer = ridiculously over sized grin.

Fair play to Bruges, it's a special place and they'd really gone to town to inject it's visitors with a bit of a Christmas belly fizz, something I hadn't felt properly since 1979 when I received a Brighton and Hove Albion Bukta kit from ol' Santa Claus.

The next morning we jumped on the train to Brussels. No need to pay of course if you've arrived in Belgium via Euro Star. Your ticket is valid for travel to and from any station in Belgium. Imagine that occurring the other way round and us allowing our Belgian friends to travel anywhere in England once they'd arrived at St Pancras - at no extra charge. Shamefully, that's never going to happen is it though Geoff Hoon - shame on you - get in the sheep pen lad. Right honourable my arse......and relax.

After marvelling at the floodlights at the King Baudouin Stadium and a visit to the Atomium in Brussels, I left my wife and sister to enjoy an afternoon of shopping in town and met up with a couple of my Belgian mates who'd travelled down from Antwerp, namely Roland Van Puyenbroeck and Steven Van Rompaey - names don't get more Belgian sounding than that do they!? I'd also arranged to meet Stephane Lievens, who'd I got to know via the EFW Facebook group in a bar outside the ground.

My wife and I at the Atomium.

There are a quite a few bars around the Stade Edmond Machtens but the king of them all is the New Daring pub just 300 yards from the ground. The bar is decked out in football memorabillia and before the match - as blokes do - we chatted happily over a few beers as if we'd known each other for years. Stephane doesn't actually follow FC Brussels, he supports RWDM and this where it all gets a bit complicated and dare I say controversial.

The New Daring pub. Our pre match venue.

FC Brussels were formed in 2003 as a result of a merger between R.W.D. Molenbeek and KFC Strombeek. In doing so the club lost the honours of RWDM and they've since gone on to form their own club in a sort of AFC Wimbledon type way. They play in the 7th tier of Belgian football and that's who Stephane now follows. The controversial bit is that they chose to merge with Strombeek who had no real affiliation or relationship with Molenbeek. They sort of brought their league status and as such a lot of fans are understandably a bit sniffy about FC Brussels.

After not nearly enough time we made our way to the ground. Where as neighbours Anderlecht attract crowds of around 28,000, The 'Pride of Brussels' draw more of a spartan throng. During the first half we chose to sit next to the away fans. How many Eupen fans had managed to drag themselves out of the chocolate museum in their city!? Answer, not many. When they took a shock lead their fans, probably more out of shock than anything else could barely muster a punch to the air.

The travelling army of Eupen supporters.

Eupen are bottom of the Belgian Division 2 for a reason. They did have four quite good players who were making a name for themselves but instead of building a team around them in the Summer, they chose to sell them all. Frankly, to use a technical term; they are total shite. So when Gregory Molnar slotted them into the lead against their hosts (2nd in the league by the way), aside from the apathy from the away fans, my Belgian friends and I afforded ourselves a little chortle. 0-1 at half time.

The FC Brussels ultras.

Paaaaaaaarty. This lot played for the whole game. My favourite tune they played!? Has to be 'Roll out the Barrel' I kid you not.

At half time I met up with footballing agent and all round good egg Stefan Van Heester. So to recap that's Stefan, Stephane, Steven and Roland. More beers flowed at half time and more stories and banter were exchanged. This really is the best part of European Football Weekends. The actual football is often just the side show.

You can't really pen a report about FC Brussels without mentioning their Chairman Johan Vermeersch. He was instrumental in bringing KFC Strombeek to Molenbeek and changing their name to FC Brussels. He also has a history of bizarre behaviour. After a defeat at Oostende 3 years ago, he threatened to throw all his players into the North sea and more recently, after a home defeat (also vs Oostende) he made them train at 4am on the pitch of an amateur outfit because "if you play like amateurs, you train like amateurs!". Lastly and astonishingly, he told Congolese playmaker Matumona Zola, after a poor game, "to go back in his tree and eat his bananas". After that comment the clubs sponsors not surprisingly withdrew their shirt deal.

Anyway, back to the game and as expected FC Brussels steamrollered Eupen in the second half scoring three goals without reply. Annoyingly, there is no such thing as a free piss in Belgium and one has to part with 50 cents everytime. On the plus side though, my visit had coincided with the clubs decision to award every fan at the game with a free beer after the match, that resulted in the loudest cheer of the day and a prolonged bout of overhead clapping from my good self.

Zola fires a last minute penalty into the roof of the net. Excuse the quality, well if they will serve up free beer what do you expect!?

After our beers, Steven or was it get this right Stephan gave us a lift back into the centre of Brussels so I could met up with my wife and sister. They'd long given up on shopping and decided instead that 8% Duvels were the order of the day. That might go some way to explaining why they were swinging a fast shoe to the spectacular Christmas light show in Grand Place when we met them

My wife and sister swinging the aforementioned fast shoe at the Grand Place. *WARNING* this video contains no football action.

Our Belgian hosts then took us to a few quality bars around town. The first of which 'Delirium Cafe' simply has to be visited if you are ever in Brussels. After a couple more in the Brasserie Vossen it was time to say goodbye to our mates and myself and the two girls headed back to Brighton via the Euro Star armed with some Jupilers beers for company.

Fancy Christmas light show in Grand Place, Brussels anyone!?

In the Brasserie Vossen (from left to right) Steven, Roland, Anna (my sister), Ana (my wife) and Danny (me).

So in Oscar ceremony style, please excuse me as I thank the following; Roland, Stephan and Steven from Antwerp for their excellent company. Stephane from Brussels for his fine hospitality. FC Brussels for giving me a free ticket and beer for the afternoon and last but not least my sister and my wife (alright that's enough - Ed) for our superb, Christmas belly fizz induced European football weekend.