Why do you support your European club of choice?
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Manchester City's Belgian captain Vincent Kompany lifts the Premier league trophy after their 3-2 victory over Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers at The Etihad stadium in Manchester, north-west England on May 13, 2012. Manchester City won the game 3-2 to secure their first title since 1968. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS
I have just spent the past hour watching videos on Youtube from the Belgian Pro League, which kicked off two weeks ago with Brussels heavyweight Anderlecht as defending champion.
Aside from the obvious point of not having anything better to do, Belgian club football is something I’ve followed for years and for Australian fans of a certain vintage that makes perfect sense.
It may be viewed as somewhat of a European backwater now, but back when the likes of Frank Farina, Aurelio Vidmar and Paul Okon were making names for themselves, the Belgian league was a regular Saturday afternoon staple on SBS.
I fell in love then with the exotic team names and compact stadia on the screen but it wasn’t until I met a friend in Belgium in 2006 that I began to follow the fortunes of one particular club.
That club was Racing Club Genk – famously captained to their second Belgian title in 2002 by none other than Socceroos midfielder Josip Skoko – and I began following them simply because they were the closest top-flight club to where my friend Gert and his family live.
Sadly I’ve never actually been to a club game in Belgium, with the closest I’ve come the time Gert and I took a trip out to Genk’s stadium during the off-season.
But year in, year out I’ve followed Genk’s fortunes from afar and it got me wondering about why we all follow the clubs we do.
Like most Australians who grew up on a diet of European football, I follow the fortunes of multiple European clubs.
The most obvious example is Borussia Dortmund, a side I have watched in the flesh on several occasions.
More than anyone else it was my high-school German teacher who encouraged my love of German football, with her simple yet revelatory instruction that if I studied hard, I might one day be able to study in Germany.
Sadly for her I mostly studied the contents of German football magazines, but when I was 14 a fortuitous class trip abroad resulted in my first Bundesliga game – and naturally I was hooked.
I went back to Germany to ‘study’ in my late teens, at a time when the legendary Ned Zelic and Paul Agostino plied their trade for 1860 München.
In fact, the first time I stood on the Südtribüne it was to watch Dortmund against 1860 in a match the ever-excitable Zelic still remembers like it was yesterday, and I was there again the next season when Agostino scored twice in a 3-2 win for the visitors.
Like the rest of us, I’ve always had a soft spot for Australians playing in Europe, but it was an Italian who started my life-long love affair with one of Europe’s more notorious clubs.
He may not have been a native Roman, but former Lazio star Giuseppe Signori was like no footballer I’d ever seen.
Small, lightning fast and entirely left-footed, Signori was an excitement machine who went on to become one of Serie A’s all-time top scorers.
Sadly, he’s now embroiled in one of Italian football’s deplorable betting scandals, but for a time he was without doubt one of the superstars of the European game.
There were rumours Sydney FC had the chance to sign him in 2005 and for those unaware of what they missed out on, sit back and enjoy.
Signori left Lazio in 1997 and played almost as many games for Bologna, but I’ve never stopped following the Biancocelesti and it’s a life-long dream of mine to one day get over to Rome and see them play.
With that in mind, I’m interested to know why we all follow the European clubs we support. What attracted you to them in the first place and have you ever had the chance to see them play?
There are so many unique stories out there, so drop a line and let us know why you follow your European club of choice.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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