Football is a common language. This is oft said and undeniably true. With just a few words of football speak unlikely conversations form, with a plastic football impromptu games develop, sporting bonds develop.
I will never forget the immense pleasure I gave to a small boy in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco when I gave him an old football t-shirt, or the attention I got in Sarajevo wearing the then club shirt of local hero Edin Dzeko or the Europe v Israel, men v boys, 12 v 5 football match I participated in inside the old town of Jerusalem.
In Asia, Africa or South America the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Beckham are like gods, whilst players of yesteryear like Pele or Maradona are probably as well as if not better known than Elvis or Michael Jackson.
I too love football and always make a point of knowing the top teams and most famous players of the country that I am visiting. The locals seem to be far more impressed that you know that rather than the more telling history of the nation that you are visiting.
Another reason that football is so special to me is that it nurtured my love of independent travel as a teenager. In 1982, shortly after receiving my first pay packet, I was off to Manchester from my childhood home in Devon.
A train from Exeter with changes at Birmingham and Crewe, setting foot in the mythical surroundings of Manchester, my first ever chip butty, the match bus to Maine Road, the reverse journey back and getting home in the small hours, the feeling of an explorer.
Further solo trips to the likes of Portsmouth, London and Birmingham followed. I was bewitched, a feeling that only intensified when I did my inter-rail trips around Europe in the late ’80s. A traveller had been born and it was football I had to thank for instilling the urge to wander and experience.
In honour of the place that football has had in the development of my travels I have published a new page listing all the cities and towns that I have watched professional league football in England and also those where I have seen top level games outside of my country.
Hopefully this will continue to grow for a long time yet………
I’d love to see a match at the San Siro, but being a Villa fan can’t see us going there any time soon!
MK Dons stadium is quite nice too!