In 2017, Ministry of Justice statistician Matt Walker was ready for a change. He would travel. But what sort of trip would provide the sort of “focus” and “structure” this cheerful 40-year-old Fulham fan sought?
Only something complicated and ambitious would do. Like attending a top division match in each of UEFA’s 55 countries. So he did. From Ireland to Kazakhstan (a vast landmass with a toenail in Europe), bureaucrats, timetables and wild dogs be damned, he chats his way around the continent’s stadia, some of which fall into the category of “pitches”.
Each stop is rich in football and travel anecdote, and while the snacking is exotic (chicken and avocado Ryvita in Iceland, haddock and mustard in Estonia), there is much the average supporter will recognise. Such as the love for one’s team (“Brann is my wife”), the crazy dreams (the Spartak Moscow fan who fantasises about playing Sevilla) and no end of club soap opera to squabble about.