Fancy going to see the Boca Juniors v River Plate Superclásico in Argentina? Of course you do. It's the one match every football fan must see before they die. Well, how about seeing that match and then staying on in Argentina to capture loads more fanatical fan behaviour on film before moving onto Brazil, South Korea, Serbia and pretty the rest of the free world watching football - sounds alright doesn't it!?
Well, a DVD entitled 'Futbol Fanatico' arrived at EFW Towers a few weeks back in which German lads Jörg Heinisch and Carlo Farsang did just that. This double DVD - that runs for just shy of 3hrs - concentrates on football fan culture around the world and makes for compelling viewing. So if your interest in football extends to events on the terraces then this could well be worth a look.
To find out more about their adventures and delve a bit deeper into the movie about the most fanatic supporters in the world, I dialled up Eintracht Frankfurt fan Jörg and asked him a few questions about 'living the dream'.
Have you found anything that comes close to matching the Boca Juniors v River Plate match in terms of atmosphere? No, it's really a fact that this match I saw in 2006 was my biggest experience of atmosphere in football. There were other matches in Argentina with incredible action that we documented on this double-DVD. The match in Rosario for example between Newell' Old Boys and Boca - what are you meant to feel as you are standing on the roof of the main stand which is vibrating in an extreme way as the crowd is jumping and jumping? You can see it in the movie. This was totally new for me.
I've fallen in love with a few teams on my own footballing journey throughout Europe, any worldwide that you have taken to your heart - aside from Eintracht Frankfurt obviously? My football heart is reserved only for my club. But my skin is prickling if I am able to enjoy a journey in a far away country with great football atmosphere, adventure and breath-taking landscape. To avoid a misunderstanding: for me. I am not a groundhopper! A groundhopper is a fan who is travelling minimum every weekend and has to collect new ground on every holiday. I have a good job, a girlfriend and a fanzine that has to be published every month. So there would be no time for groundhopping.
There must have been one or two hairy moments on your adventure? In Argentina you can't "go for a walk" through the stands, especially whilst filming the crowd. You have to be very careful. When we made shots of the supporter scene at Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires it was said to us very clearly that we have to stop. We are talking about an area where no police go as there could be violence against them. In the eyes of these fanatics you could be a policeman with a video camera documenting something.
On the other side there are lots of districts in Buenos Aires with social conflict potential - some directly near to grounds. You have to open your eyes if you should walk near the ground of San Lorenzo for example. As we tried to get a taxi to a 2nd Division match at the ground of Neuva Chicago the taxi drivers refused to transport us to the ground. It was only at our fifth (!) attempt that we found a driver with enough courage to go to Nueva Chicago.
What sort of response did you get from the locals? We didn't have so much contact with the local when we were in Argentina in 2006: We did ten matches in 14 days. Consequently, we were on tour all the time. And when we had a night in Buenos Aires we had to check our video material and talked about what could be used for the film. My colleague Carlo Farsang (nicknamed "Fari") had a lot of contacts and impressions from his former tours in South America.
You two lads must have spent a small fortune on football. Are your trips self funded or do you have any form of sponsorship? Neither of us has a form of sponsorship. Me, I choose to go on tours with an interesting combination of land, people and football as a vacation or for a kind of report like for the DVD. I have visited football matches in little more than 20 FIFA members only. Fari is another case, a very special case. He is the most popular German groundhopper and started going on tour around 1988. He gave up his job in his home town, changed his lifestyle and sometimes worked in other countries (East-Europe, Argentina). He's been everywhere. Until 2000 he invested all his money in these trips. After that, he started his own service company in his black forest home town which has been very, very successful. Today he goes on tour only two or three times a year as he can't be absent from work for too long. Although he no longer tours every weekend he has visited matches in over 110 FIFA member countries, visiting far more than 1,000 grounds.
These days you learn which is the cheapest way to travel. Booking via travel agencies can be expensive. So for example - going to a match in Armenia: take a cheap flight to Trabzon or Van in Turkey via Istanbul, then a bus to Georgia. Then travel with the locals on mini buses through Georgia to Armenia. That way you get to live great adventures - better than travelling by an expensive scheduled flight directly to Erivan.
Who have been the friendliest club you've encountered? I don't know. It's friendly if it's familiar. This can be a 2nd Division club in Argentina or anywhere in a province where you get invited for a cake or get to meet local people on the terraces.
Your house must be a shrine to football, does it resemble a footballing museum? Not my house but the house of Fari since he is a football photographer and has so much material. Some of his stuff was shown in a Museum in Kiel some years ago. During 2006 he produced an exhibition "The World of Football" with motives from grounds all over the world.
Is Argentina the best country in the world in which to watch football? In terms of atmosphere....yes, together with Chile.
Presumably, you've popped around Maradona's house for lunch, what was he like!? We went passed the block where his family is living and we saw him at the Boca v River match as you see in the movie. It was never a plan to visit "El Dios" though. There is no sympathy for him from me. He is a phenomena and lots of people love him but on the other side Mr "Hand of God" is no fair sportsman.
Those Argentinian terraces look absolutely crazy, how safe is it to watch football there? You shouldn't go in the middle of fanaticism on some of those terraces. This could be a little bit risky. But it depends on the club. You are able to enjoy this atmosphere from everywhere in these stadiums.
Did you see any violence at all? In Argentina the fans are kept apart more than in Europe. The travelling routes near the grounds are separated. But the grounds are very old. We had this match in the 2nd Division (Tigre v Chacarita) where the away fans dismantled their section. There were wooden benches...but after a few minutes there were less benches and a lot of their fanatics had wooden slates in their hands and climbed with them on top of the fences.
During this trip we heard that there was a battle between two groups of different clubs on a highway parking area. One bus of one group was driven in kamikaze style into a bus of the other fans. Sounds like extreme violence eh!?
I hear you've become a bit of a celebrity in Germany? More people know about me but celebrity? I've published twelve football books, three of them regarding groundhopping under the aspect of "adventure groundhopping". I have collected the most interesting reports, complete with a lot of background and interview material from the groundhopping scene. These books are very popular and for sure - the DVD FUTBOL FANATICO was received with a lot of enthusiasm in the German supporter scene. We also received a nice review in When Saturday Comes in England. The nationwide magazine "11 Freunde" ("11 Friends") gave us the best review they have ever published so I think that's why some more guys know my name.
Is there any game you'd like to see that haven't already? If money was no object then the big derbies in Santiago de Chile and in India (with up to 100,000 fans) could be interesting. Fari's current wish is a 24-hour-trip to Congo, one match in Kinshasa and another on the other side of the River Congo in the other Congo state in Brazzaville.
The fans of your own team (Eintracht Frankfurt) have a tremendous reputation around Germany for the support they give their team. Is that what first got you excited about fan culture? The good reputation of Frankfurt fans started with the foundation of the group of "Ultras Frankfurt" in 1997. As I started a bit of my groundhopping experience by that time, I had some good ideas what a good support could be.
But my first match was in 1979 and I've been to all the home games since 1985 and all away matches since 1990. I was a referee for 12 years and founded a regional supporters club where I organized a big European Supporters Club tournament with up to 28 supporters teams from up to 8 nations every year for 11 years.
My first intensive contact with fan culture was with the Frankfurt fanzine "Fan geht vor" (first published in 1991 and still running on a monthly basis) - I've worked on that since 1994 and have been its editor for many years. It's still only a hobby but a good compensation for my normal job.
Had you heard of European Football Weekends prior to this interview? Yes, I visited your pages whilst working on my third groundhopping book.
And finally, what's next for you? I'm off to Andalusia in January including a match at FC Sevilla or Deportivo Xerez, followed by a tour to the Greek Islands (without a game) and Norway. I'm writing a 4th groundhopping book in 2012 if I have enough good material. I've just finished a shorter travel report to French Polynesia/Tahiti for that book. At the moment however, I've no bigger trips planned as I have a new Eintracht Frankfurt book that has to be finished.
There you go folks, one of the most interesting and informed interviews I've ever had the pleasure of being involved in. I hope you enjoyed it as much as me. I don't know about you but as soon as I can afford it - I'm on the next flight out to Argentina!
If you fancy ordering the DVD then it's available to buy from HERE. If you have any problems ordering one then contact me and I'll try and help get you one. And no, I'm not making any profit from the sales of it, football fans get ripped off enough without me getting in the act.
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