Every young boy dreams about playing in front of a huge crowd of cheering fans, hoping that they make up songs in their honour, cheer every time you touch the ball, and put you on a pedestal so high that you would be proud of your achievements. As a young lad, I was no different. I had a dream of making it as a footballer, albeit never good enough to make the highest of leagues, I could kick a ball as good as any one of my peers.
From time to time I still think about that dream. If I had become a footballer, who would I have wanted to play for? Which is why this is a good time for you to write down your guesses as I put together my list, or close the article with a tut, simply because you do not care.
So, why not start with the most obvious team…
You see, I support Galatasaray, from Istanbul, Turkey. Yet, I would go as far as saying that Galatasaray may not even be my clear first choice in Turkey – it is widely accepted that Besiktas has the best fans.
I will wait while you guys gather your thoughts after hearing such a comment…
Don’t get me wrong, I love Galatasaray, unfortunately, the reality is that many Galatasaray fans can be fickle, critical and relentless when things aren’t quite going to plan. People tell you that football is a religion in Turkey, and like in most religions, you are judged for each and every mistake you make.
Then again, if Galatasaray came calling, I would still want to play for them simply for sentimental reasons. Even if I didn’t stay for very long.
I think that Valencia are a club that have always played the game in the right way, but unsuccessfully. As I was growing up, Valencia CF was emerging as one of the top teams, not only in Spain, but in Europe. At a time when the Champions League was less predictable, they made back-to-back finals, losing on both occasions – against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. During those years, they had players like Santiago Canizares, and Gaizka Mendieta who were incredibly easy to admire. Still to this day, Canizares is one of my favourite keepers of all time. Add to those the likes of Vicente, Joaquin and David Villa, all of whom I loved to watch.
Now that I have expressed all of my boyhood crushes, it is at this point I refer to my biggest crush, the Mestalla. The grass always looked greener, and players always talked about how it felt like the stadium towered over them, making it a daunting place to play. I realise that Valencia were always (and will forever be) inferior to the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but they are superior in terms of integrity. Barcelona have had a history of openly tapping up players and unsettling them in order to drive down the price. Their main rival, Real Madrid, buy most of their titles, while treating their players poorly. For example, Gareth Bale has been criticised for the last two years despite scoring plenty of goals, many of which were in finals. Benzema has never been loved in spite of being one of the most prolific strikers in world football for the last 5 years. Even Cristiano Ronaldo had been targeted during his time at Real because he had gone a few games without a goal.
My favourite stadium in Italy is the San Siro – Guiseppe Meazza to Inter Milan fans – but I just can’t get myself to live in Milan. I find the city to be boring unless you are crazy about fashion, which I am not. Even though there are a lot of things to do nearby, like visiting Milan Cathedral, Lake Como or even going to Monza, there’s only so many times I could do that, which is only part of the reason for wanting to play for Fiorentina.
For any reader old enough, they will remember the “Football Italia” presented by James Richardson. I remember tuning in to see the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon, Francesco Toldo, Ronaldo (Brazilian), Christian Vieri, Enrico Chiesa, Rui Costa, Gabriel Batistuta and the list goes on and on and on…
My love for Italian football started there, and love for Fiorentina grew on two separate occasions. In 2000, Galatasaray and Turkey legend, Fatih Terim, took over the Tuscany based team as coach. Then a couple of years later, I picked up the first of many Dan Brown novels, “the Da Vinci Code”, which included many scenes from Florence. In fact, my decision to travel to Italy four summers ago was solely based on the book, and the chance to see Florence, which did not disappoint in the slightest.
If you are still not convinced by my reasoning, then you should re-read my points while trying food native to the Tuscany region of Italy. Delizioso!
From the late 1990’s to early 2010’s the German Bundesliga didn’t really matter to me, yet I started to take notice of Borussia Dortmund from 1997. Yes, that’s the year that Dortmund went on to beat Juventus 3-1 in the final of the Champions League, to lift the biggest crown in club football. A year later, Dortmund were drawn in the same group as Galatasaray. We were destroyed 4-1 in Germany, and lost 1-0 in Istanbul. That was when I started paying more attention to the German team.
Nowadays, the Bundesliga, along with the Premier League (England), and Serie A (Italy) are my three favourite leagues to follow. All three leagues are full of passionate fans, but it is the German league that best takes care of the fans. In Germany, the most expensive season ticket would set you back €225 (SC Paderborn). Compared to the cheapest season tickets in the other major leagues shows that the Bundesliga is for the fans.
Cheapest Season Tickets
Premier League: West Ham €360
La Liga: Levante €145
Serie A: Bologna €220
If all of those aren’t good enough reasons to want to play for Dortmund, then the magnificent combination of their black and yellow kit is.
So, there you have it…
I realise that a lack of a premier league club may shock people, especially with it being the best league in the world, but no team has ever stood out for me. The best atmosphere is definitely at Liverpool, as a youngster I would run around shouting Sheringham’s name (while he was at Tottenham), and I am fond of the likes of Coventry, and Southampton. Even to this day, if people ask me who I support, I unconvincingly say Fulham.
Who would you want to play for?