Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Coming soon....

Happily it's a return to European Football Weekends this weekend as I'm off to Belgium; the land of fine beers and football. I'm travelling with my wife and sister but fear not, I've managed to negotiate a four hour window of opportunity on Sunday. This should give me ample time to sink some reassuringly strong Belgian ale and take in the FC Brussels v ASE Eupen match in the Belgian second division.

In other news thanks to the 54 of you who have joined the EFW Facebook group this week. Not bad for our first week of trading. There's more photos of European Football Grounds on that site that you'd ever wish to see and punters are adding to the feast on a daily basis. All being well, I'll have a report of the weekend on these pages sometime on Monday.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A day off for the blog

There was no need for me to report on yesterday's goings on 'down the Pan' as Lewes eased to a 2-0 victory over Grays. Esteemed writer Stuart Fuller was in town to cover the match which he did in his usual inimitable style. You can read his musings here:

OUTSTANDING! Michael Standing fires in a pen to give Lewes a 2 (two) goal lead.

Back of the net.

Back to work for me next weekend though as I'm off to Belgium to cover FC Brussels v Eupen.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Free EFW badges

To celebrate the launch of the European Football Weekends Facebook group I've had these ltd edition set of 5 EFW button badges made. Who says I have got too much time on my hands!? I can confirm that Christmas is just around the corner. If you don't have £19,000 to spend on a watch like City Hull's Marlon King then how about these little fellas!? The best thing of all is that due to the current financial crisis (have you heard?) I'm giving them away for FREE. So if you fancy a set. Leave your details and as long as there are some left, I'll pop a set out in the post to you. Don't think I can say fairer than that do you?

*Badge Update*

All the above went quicker than you say Razvan Rat but a new shipment arrived at EFW Towers today (26:02:10) SEE HERE. So if you're quick you can grab a few for free now.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Germany 1 England 0!?

Just thought I'd draw your attention towards a couple of quality articles that appeared in the Daily Telegraph this week. Jeremy Wilson has woken up to what we all knew on these pages years ago. It's simply 'more fun' to watch top flight football in Germany than here in England. Click on the links below, have a read and let me know what you think!? :

Bundesliga shows English Premier League how to take football fans into the 21st century

Learning from the Germans

We have a section on this site whereby you lot send in photos from Your European Football Weekends. Here's the link to our German section:

German EFW's

If you want to read about my experiences in Germany then click onto any of the reports in the menu on the right hand side.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Past EFW Classics Part 9

TALIA 2000

Inter Milan 3-1 Napoli (14th Oct 2000)
Brescia 0-0 Parma (15th Oct 2000)

If you've logged on today expecting to see some grainy eight year old photos from Italian football grounds, then you've hit the jackpot. Big Deaks and I have been up in the EFW loft and we've unearthed some dodgy old photos which I thought I'd bring to you in the next few weeks. So bear in mind that these were taken with a £3 Boots disposable camera, it was eight years ago and they reach these pages courtesy of a rickety old scanner.

Accompanying me on this trip to Milan was the aforementioned Big Deaks (also from Brighton), Sir Martin of Baines & Young Philip Graystone, both originally from Preston in the North End of England. I seem to recall a collective decision to 'take it easy' the night before our flight came back to haunt one of our travelling party.

We pitched up at Young Philip's abode - who was then living in Walthamstow - at closing time on the Friday night and proceeded to raid his superb wine cellar and play cards until silly o'clock. Consequently, the flight to Milan was memorable for a pasty faced Mr Baines shuffling - head in hands - up to the back of the plane to fill out a form entitled 'losing the will to live'. He survived - just.

So what do we remember about the San Siro!? Well, for a kick off, as we arrived at the stadium there were punters climbing over fences and walls trying (successfully) to get in for free. It took about four days to pick up our tickets outside due to a amalgam of factors. Principally, the main reason being that we had only learnt one word of Italian in preparation for our trip, which was 'RAVANELLO' meaning 'RADISH'.

Inside, the atmosphere was both tense and raucous due to a large travelling contingent from Napoli. The San Siro was as you'd expect, an absolutely magnificent place to watch a football match. If you haven't been - what are you waiting for!? Thoughtfully the Milanese and Nepalese ultras kept each other warm on a chilly night by firing off flares into each others sections.

Ronaldo & Vieri were on the books for Inter at the time but both were injured for this match. Amongst the Inter players who did take to the field though were Di Biagio, Seedorf, Zamorano, Lauren Blanc (who to my knowledge didn't wee himself on that night), Zanetti, a baby faced Robbie Keane (who spent the game flapping his arms about because nobody would pass to him), Zamorano and Uruguayan International Alvaro Recoba.

For one reason or another Recoba had fallen out with the Inter fans. As a result when he touched the ball, the fans booed. Now, the word 'boo' doesn't do this justice. A vociferous, deafening shrill
echoed around the place every time he had the cheek to go within a gnats crotchet of the ball and this was from his own fans. The four of us didn't want to look like we didn't know what on earth was going on, so we stood on our seats and bellowed out 'RAVANELLO' at the top of our voices. Very rewarding.

After Inter had brushed aside Napoli (3-1) our thoughts turned naturally to beer. Finding a pub in Milan wasn't that easy. En route a gang of ultras sped by on scooters and threw stones at us - all good fun. Eventually - after pounding the streets for umpty thrumpty hours - we found a quality pub in which we were able to put some class in our glass. We shocked the locals with our ability to sink the equivalent of a small battleship in beers in next to no time. Well, it was the year 2000.

The next afternoon we boarded a train to Brescia. It only took 50 minutes but we weren't quite prepared for what was to follow. Outside the station a baying mob of around 120 lads had lined up alongside a wall. Not quite what we'd had in mind for a Sunday afternoons entertainment. We skipped across the other side of the road, gave them a twinkly smile and headed off to the pleasingly Italian sounding Stadio Mario Rigamonti - home to Brescia FC.

Then the heavens opened. It rained cats and if you would dogs. Despite all this taking place eight years ago, Young Philip claims he is still a bit damp from that afternoon and Big Deaks says that his Claire Rayners (trainers) are still drying out in his airing cupboard.

Let's all meet up in the year 2000. Big Deaks and I. I appear to be sporting my Brighton and Hove Albion non waterproof.

Young Philip and Sir Martin of Baines. Did they walk 500 miles to be there!?

The actual match was turgid. Luckily, we could hardly see any of it anyway due to a combination of umbrellas, huge advertising hoardings, fencing and over sized dugouts. Every now and again though we could make out Roberto Baggio or if you prefer 'The Divine Ponytail' trotting over near to us to take a corner for Brescia.

That's about all I remember from our Italia 2000 trip. Four lads, two matches, a plethora of nice cold beers, it's not surprising we are still going on these trips is it!? Ciao for now.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Gander Green Golden Goal Glory

Sutton United 0-1 Notts County (08:11:08)

If loving the FA Cup is wrong, I don't want to be right. It's the worlds greatest competition and no mistake. So a chance to visit Gander Green Lane to witness a sniff of a giant killing act for this FA Cup 1st Round proper was to good to turn down for Cynical Dave and I.

As has been the case nearly every weekend since about 1972, the train journey northwards from Brighton was marred by four words that strike fear into every fan of public transport: 'Rail bus replacement service'. However, during those deeply disturbing moments, the thought of a possible sighting of a home made silver foil FA Cup at Gander Green Lane lifted our spirits.

Upon our arrival at the ground, I picked up my press pass (thanks to Tony Dolbear for that) and headed into the press box. In the interest of keeping things real I actually turned down the opportunity to sit in the press box but I had noticed Tom Watt sliding into the ground before me so I popped in to have a chat with him. I don't think Tom will mind me telling you he used to play Lofty in Eastenders in the days when people actually used to watch it. Nowadays he broadcasts for BBC Radio London amongst other things and is not only a brilliant broadcaster but a thoroughly nice chap. He is the sort of bloke who you'd like to sit down the pub with a couple of pints of Guinness and some mini cheddars and chat for hours.

Anyway, enough of stories of swanning around press boxes and chatting with the stars, what about the pre match beers!? Well, as luck would have it, Sutton have a rather splendid clubhouse next to the main stand. Every club at this level needs a bar to help along with the finances and Cynical and I contributed a healthy amount of money behind this one in a bid to quench our thirst. The beer was excellent and the service was fantastic so full marks to SUFC on that score.

Sutton fans feeling the magic of the cup - good on yer kids!

Whilst sinking our ale Cynical and I discussed Sutton and what it's famous for. Episodes of the Bill are often filmed there and rotund, Welsh hymn-singing, Sir Cumference Harry Secombe called it his home but of course, ask any football fan about Sutton United and one match stands out a country mile. In 1989 Coventry City went from lifting the FA Cup the previous year to an ignominious defeat in this part of leafy Surrey the next. Sutton's 2-1 victory over Coventry City is part of FA Cup folklore and fans were rightly still harping on about it in the bar during our visit.

The walk from West Sutton station to the ground is only 100 yards or so. Good news for most people but not for Cynical. There was no bookies to be found and the blood was starting to drain from his face as he'd yet to place a bet of any kind. Luckily, help was at hand in the bar. He managed to buy a handful of scratchcards, enter a guess the crowd competition and for good measure he purchased two golden goal tickets. These were folded over so you couldn't see which two minutes he had got, so just to prolong the agony we decided not to unveil the minutes until the first goal had been scored. We don't get out much you see.

Notts County had brought around 350 fans. Most of these had congregated in the main stand and were in fine voice. They sang their famous wheelbarrow song, a little ditty about Jimmy 'The Squirrel' Cyril and my favourite which was 'I wanna beeeeeee Notts County' to the tune of Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols. A good effort lads.

Sadly, there were not too many silver foil FA Cup in evidence. We are armpit deep in a recession and in a recession, the first thing to go from the household budget of even the most dedicated football fan is the homemade FA Cup. Still, there were plenty of flags and yellow balloons and one family had brought along their own plastic FA Cup which was extremely pleasing. Mercifully, jester hats were also in short supply. These things clearly have no place at a football ground. Anyone who does choose to wear one and is over the age of let's say 20 should be put in a sheep pen as far as I'm concerned.

I won't bang on about the actual match itself too much. Suffice to say Sutton did their fans proud with their efforts. For long periods it looked quite likely that they were going to win. I guess Tom Watt was waiting to launch into his Norwegian commentary bit for BBC London 'Derek Randall, Donald Pleasance, Leslie Crowther, Friar Tuck, that bird who played Reg Holdsworth's missus in Corrie, Dale Winton. Can you hear me Dale Winton!? Your boys took one hell of a beating'.

Notts County had other ideas though and in the 75th minute, Jamie Clapham swung over an inviting cross for Richard Butcher to nod home. Sutton fans buried their heads in their hands as the County fans celebrated as if it were 1999 (again).

The stadium announcer then boomed out: 'In the 75th minute, the scorer for Notts County, Richard Butcher'. Hold on a second, what about our golden goal tickets!? Cynical reached for his pocket and pulled them out. A deathly silence descended on the terrace as the first ticket was unveiled. 74! seventy-sodding-four! Would you believe it!? With a look of disgust and a rolling of the eyes, Cynical then made a dash for the next ticket. Time stood still as it slowly revealed the magic number. 75! seventy-bloomingwell-five! That's it! We're rich! hold the front page! Where's the bar!?

Oh yes!

After the match we made our way into the Sutton megastore to collect. The well stocked club shop is run by Alison Denyer who is the SUFC Supporter's Club Chairman and a delightfully friendly and bubbly character to boot. She handed 20 of your earth pounds over to a beaming Cynical and all of a sudden, standing in the thumping rain for 90 minutes seemed a distant memory.

Does life get any better!?

Naturally, we ran back to the bar to celebrate our good fortune. However, our plans for a mental night were dealt a cruel blow. A sign on the window of the aforementioned clubhouse read thus: 'Under fire regulations party poppers are NOT permitted on these premises'. How's your luck!? Cynical's first golden goal win ever and no party poppers. Oh well, back to Brighton we headed and into our favourite pub The Lord Nelson. There we had what can only be described as 'too much to drink'. We'd headed out in search of the magic of cup. Sutton United had sprinkled a bit of magic on us and we'd enjoyed our day out there - good luck to them!


Thursday, 6 November 2008

Telstar FC


Ever since my good friend Patrick Van Puyenbroeck sent me this photo of the scoreboard at Dutch club Telstar FC from their match with Go Ahead Eagles in October, I've become slightly....ok completely obsessed with it. To me, a scoreboard whereby a basket is hoisted up to denote a goal is pretty much as good as it gets. I tried emailing the club to find out more but as yet they have yet to reply. However, hats at a jaunty angle to Telstar FC fan of 20 years Sebastian from Almelo who was able to answer my questions. I interviewed Seb this morning and in an EFW exclusive we can now reveal the whole story. Let it unfold:

I don't think there are nearly enough scoreboards around these days whereby one has to hoist a basket up to denote that a goal has been scored, how did this wonderful idea come into being?

I think the idea came from the scoreboard which Telstar used in the sixties and seventies. At that time the scoreboard was standing behind the stand on the uncovered East stand (Oost tribune).

Since I've been going to Telstar they've used a normal scoreboard and this one was standing behind the South Stand(Zuid tribune)

See scoreboard on the left. Nothing to write home about is it!? Unlike the new one.

In 2001 Telstar merged with amateurs from Stormvogels, but in the summer this merger separated and now they're called Telstar again. In the summer of 2008 they moved the temporary stand from the North Stand(Noord tribune) to the South Stand, but behind this stand stood the scoreboard so they required a new one.

I don't know who came up with this idea, but it's a homage to the old one which I don't have a photo of. They made this scoreboard with the basket last summer. The baskets are old fish baskets because IJmuiden is famous for it's fishery and the Tata Steel company (Hoogovens). I believe they where using balls instead of fish baskets in the sixties and seventies.

How many baskets do you have in reserve?

They have got 10 baskets.

What's the highest scoring game you've had at the Schoonenberg Stadion and did it exceed the basket capacity?

The highest score from this season is 4-1 (v Go Ahead Eagles) and 2-3(v Helmond Sport). I don't know how many baskets they had in the sixties, but as I said I believe they where using balls in that period.

Presumably there is a waiting list of eager fans wanting to be the one who hoists the basket up?

During the first matches there was an older man who was hoisting the baskets and latterly it's a Telstar supporter who is in is early thirties.

If we here at European Football Weekends paid a visit to your stadium and (God forbid) it was a 0-0 draw and we didn't see any basket action, is there a nice clubhouse at the stadium where we could console ourselves with a refreshing beer?

Up until last season the supporters had a beautiful club house called Paviljoen Schoonenberg, but since the start of this season it's been given away to the sponsors, because of the building of the new stand. The supporters are using a small place next to the East stand, but after the match most Telstar supporters go right away to the Zeeweg bar, only 3 minutes walk from the stadium. The new stand must be ready at the start of the new season 2009/10 and I don't know if the supporters can return to Paviljoen Schoonenberg because there was a fire a few weeks ago and there was some water and smoke damage and I don't know how serious the damage was.

I hope the supporters can return to Paviljoen Schoonenberg because after the matches the supporters and players came together over there .I don't think this happens at most clubs that players are going to the same place after the match.

I was also sent this photo of a Telstar fan who was entertaining the crowd with his guitar. This man appeared to be a local legend, do you know who he is?

Of course I know this man. He has appeared several times on the Dutch television programme Man bijt hond. His nickname is Jomanda. Jomanda is a Dutch female spiritual person. During the 90's before matches he would hang up posters of Jomanda and he had a bottle of water in his hand and he would scream this bottle is ....(dutch word is instralen) by Jomanda and Jomanda told that you restore to health.

All the supporters where laughing and since that time he has got the nickname Jomanda. Most supporters of other clubs know him as well, he is the most famous Telstar supporter I guess.

Five years ago "jomanda" took part in a Dutch air guitar competition. Of course we supported him with a few lads, but he became third. This man is almost 70 years old.

That's it then chaps. Jomanda is now my new hero and Telstar FC are my new favourite club. Shall we all go and pay them a visit next season!? I think so.

If anyone has anything to add about the above or indeed has any other scoreboard anecdotes then click on the comments icon below and for God sake, let us know about them.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

*EFW Update*

First and foremost, thanks to the 1,300 of you who have visited these pages in the last week. I've changed the settings on the site so you now no longer have to register should you wish to post a comment after any report.

We've been busy beavering away in the EFW office this week and we've come up with what we consider to be a winning formula between now and the rest of the season.

We hope to see most, if not all of the following games abroad; FC Brussels v Eupen, Barcelona v Real Mallorca, Gimnastic Tarragona v Girona, Grenoble Foot 38 v PSG, Wolfsburg v 1899 Hoffenheim and Babelsberg 03 v FC Hansa Rostock II. If any of you have any information on the above that you think may be of interest to us then please get in touch.

Sadly, it can't be European Football Weekends every week. So next Saturday, Cynical Dave and I will be suffering from a bout of 'cup fever'. The lure of seeing a few home made silver foil FA Cups has sucked us in and we're heading to Gander Green Lane for the Sutton United v Notts County FA Cup 1st Round match.

So people of Sutton - the match is live on the telly - you've got seven days, which from my experience is ample time to cobble together a home made FA Cup. What are you waiting for!? See you next week.