Sunday, November 28, 2021

 

Latest Reports:
Nashville SC - Orlando City FC (23-11-2021) 
 Stumptown AC - New Amsterdam FC (25-09-2021)
KR - FH (08-08-2021) 
Vikingur - KA (08-08-2021)
 KF Fjardabyggd _Vesturbæjar (07-08-2021)
 Fram - Fjölnir (05-08-2021)
FH - HK (04-08-2021)
 
Next Games:
Red Star FC -  Annecy (18-02-2022)
Stade Rochelais - ASM Clermont Auvergne (19-02-2022)
Chamois Niortais FC - AJ Auxerre (19-02-2022)
Winkel Sport - Dessel Sport (20-02-2022)
 
 


INTRODUCTION

The terms "groundhopping" and "groundhopper" can not (yet) be found in any dictionary, yet there are hundreds of groundhoppers around the world, most notably in Germany. The word combines the terms "ground" and "hopping" and refers to the visiting of different sports grounds -- usually, though not exclusively, football grounds (for a German description, see Wikipedia).

Whereas normal football fans tend to visit only home games of their favorite team, particularly when they live closeby, and more fanatical fans also attend the away games of their team, the groundhopper aims to visit as many different grounds and teams as possible. Moreover, unlike the normal fan, who generally prefers to visit the big teams in football (e.g. Bayern München, Manchester United, Real Madrid), the groundhopper goes for the exotic (e.g. Avenir Beggen, Ozeta Dukla Trencin, Selangor PKNS) and the tiny, such as the third team of a city (e.g. Partick Thistle, Royale Union Sint-Gilloise, Spvgg Unterhaching).

While groundhopping is largely a non-organized activity, by individuals and small groups, there exist a few organizations of groundhoppers. The most famous is the German Vereinigung der Groundhopper Deutschlands (V.d.G.D.): it's website is one of the major sources of information on clubs, leagues, and stadiums in the world. For other groundhopper websites, see the links on the right.


This website provides an overview of the various groundhops of me, Grondhopper. I'm a Dutch academic and football fan, supporting PSV in the Netherlands, Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany, and the Portland Timbers in the USA. I regularly travel abroad for both work and pleasure, and try to combine these trips with groundhops. In addition, I make several special groundhops every year alone or with one or more of my friends, some of which are active groundhoppers themselves. I have currently visited 456 clubs in 45 countries on 6 continents.

If you like the reports, become a follower of this blog. Comments are also always highly appreciated. You can post them either here on the site or you can email me at grondhopper[at]gmail.com.

Nashville SC - Orlando City FC (23-11-2021)

 

 

My last groundhop of 2021, a pretty decent recovery year after the dramatic year 2020, the first year in which I didn’t see a game since I was a kid, takes me to Nashville, Tennessee. This is a solid 5 hour drive from my home in Athens, Georgia, and on a Tuesday too – but fortunately the next day Thanksgiving break started, so I could stay the night.

 


 

Nashville SC is one of the newest clubs (or as it is called in the US, “franchises”) in Major League Soccer (MLS), having joined the top division in US “soccer” only in 2020. In their second season, they again made the play-offs. They play in the Nissan Stadium, a massive, uncovered ground with a capacity of 69.143, which is the home ground of the Tennessee Titans (American) football team. Next season they will play in a brand-new soccer-only ground of 30,000.

 



Nashville SC normally only uses the lower part of the stadium, except for corners (which are not used), which is sold out for this game. There are also a few hundred fans on the upper tier. Official attendance is 26,043, which is a very solid number, even if it doesn’t looks so impressive in such an enormous stadium. The audience is quite mixed. There are a lot of Hispanics but few African Americans. Many people wear Nashville gear, particularly scarves, as it is a cold evening. There are a few hundred away supporters, who are either local or made the almost 700 mile (1120 km) track from Central Florida.

 


I have paid my ticket online, as is increasingly the only way in the US. So, no real ticket. I paid $53 for the seat but with taxes and various “services” that came to $71.50. Add to that $25 parking and it was, yet again, a ridiculously expensive experience. In the US, “soccer” is really made for the (upper) middle class. Still, the view from my seat is pretty nice.

 


The game starts fairly pedestrian. In the 13th minute a  poor pass back leads to a break for Orlando City and a corner. That corner is headed in childishly easy: 0-1. Just eight minutes later a Nashville striker gets the ball by accident and his shot from just outside of the box is deflected: 1-1.

 


Nashville has more possession but plays slow and predictable. The passing is either too soft or too poor. They create few chances. Orlando City does very little overall, mainly tries to counter. In the 41st minute the home team has a good attack that leads to a sneaky shot in the corner and the rebound is scored but it is offside.

 

 

The last few minutes of the first half have a little bit of action. In the 44th minute an Orland counter leads to two poor goal attempts. And in the first minute of extra time the hosts have a remarkable attack with two cheeky heels and then a decent volley (but it is too soft and goes wide). Half time score: 1-1.

 

 

The game does not get much better in the second half. In the 58th minute a couple of hard Orlando shots from outside of box are blocked and wide. But in the 74th minute, after a long period of domination by  the guests, a slow Nashville attack by a striker is finished low in far corner: 2-1! A reward for the home fans behind the goal, who have been singing all game.

 


In the 4th minute of extra time, as I’m lost in the parking lot, looking for my car, Nashville secures its spot in the quarter finals of the MLS Cup play-offs. While this wasn’t the best game, and the Nissan Stadium was not the best setting, I will definitely come back in the future, to experience Nashville SC in its new ground. Clearly, the city has embraced its team and the atmosphere is pretty good.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Stumptown AC - New Amsterdam FC (25-09-2021)

 
Today I’m at a game in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), which is officially the third tier of US soccer, but more like Fifth or Sixth Division, depending h0w and hwo you count. Anyway, it is one of the few lower leagues that still play in the Fall and has some teams "in the region".
 

The home team is Stumptown AC, which plays at the Matthews Sportplex in Matthews, NC, a wealthy suburb of Charlotte. The opponents are New Amsterdam FC from New York. The Sportsplex is a massive complex of soccer pitches and the game is in the “Stadium”, which consists of (metal) seats on both long sides and behind one goal. Behind the other goal is the official building.


I pay $15 for a ticket and actually get a physical ticket, which is also for this specific game. Amazing! I guesstimate that there are some 150 people, about one third children. The crowd is amazingly diverse with many Asians and Hispanics. There is a small group of some 15 “ultras” with a couple of drums.


The diversity is also visible on the pitch. Not only are both squads very diverse, so is the team of referees. And the main referee is a woman of color, which I have only seen once before (also in the US).


The game is played on very dry artificial grass, which doesn’t look too good but is very even. The game starts fairly pedestrian. Only in the 11th minute Stumptown has the first shot at goal. The corner leads to a rebound that is semi-volleyed from just outside the box, which the goalie cannot/does not stop: 1-0. The ultras celebrate with smoke.


It’s a reasonably cold evening (15C), but perfect for playing soccer. This not withstanding, the pace is low. At one time, the New Amsterdam goalie is chased by a Stumptown striker and drags the ball behind his leg to create space, just 5 meters in front of his own goal, staying ice cold while doing it. One of the few highlights of the game.


Overall, the first half is very poor, with virtually no chances on either side. For all his shouting, I don‘t think the Stumptown goalie needed to make one safe.


The second half is also really bad. In the 60th minute a New Amsterdam corner is missed by the (loud) Stumptown goalie but the ball falls to a striker surrounded by people. After that blunder, his first action of the night, the goalie plays injured for a few minutes.


Later, there is an injury for a New Amsterdam defender. He stays on the ground for minutes as the Stumptown attacks continue. He waves and later stands up and limps towards the referee — he could have rolled off the pitch and received help. After that, game is stopped for almost 10 minutes during which the referee has a long discussion with the New Amsterdam coach (no cards). I've never seen something like this.


Even the ultras have started to just talk rather than watch the game. Knowing that there will be a lot of extra time, yet preciously little football, I leave 5 minutes early. Final score remains 1-0.


As so many soccer leagues in the US, the NISA offers a lot of different soccer experiences. Teams like Chattannooga FC or Detroit FC have serious support and offer pretty good atmosphere. Teams like Stumptown AC, not so much.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

KR – FH (08-08-2021)


The second game of the day takes is roughly a 15 minute drive from Vikingur, towards the center. Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur (KR) is the oldest club from Iceland and is from the Vesturbær district of the capital. It plays its games in the KR-völlur, a football stadium in that holds about 2,700 people (1,541 seated) and is located at Kaplaskjólsvegur in West Reykjavík. This is also a game in the Úrvalsdeild karla, the highest division for men in Iceland.

 

 

I meet my Icelandic colleague again, who comes to support his team (FH), and has not just bought a ticket online for me, but also arranged a physical ticket. KR-völlur has one old-school English type stand, with covered seats, which is pretty full. I guesstimate some 500 ppl, including some 100 away supporters. Again, several mothers with babies and prams but this time also groups of teenage girls (also among away supporters).

 


In the 5th minute KR has an enormous chance, but it is shot high over from 5 meters. The next minute FH heads the ball just over. In the 8th minute a corner for the guests is headed in by the striker who completely outjumps everyone: 0-1

 


Just as happened when I saw FH in the previous game, they give the ball away in the back, without any pressure, and with a cross and a tip-in KR has equalized: 1-1. After about 20 minutes the pace goes down and everyone is just strolling around with at times a foul. Then, in the 37th minute, out of nowhere, a good opening by KR over left, a cross in, and a header just wide. Followed by a decent FH attack that ends with a shot wide over the goal. Half time score: 1-1.

 


Like in all other stadiums in Iceland, no food or drink in the stadiums (because of covid-19) and no club shop. Nothing… which makes the 15 minutes break long and boring.

 


The second half is again very poor. Slow, little creativity, long pauses, bad passes. In the 68th minute a FH player gets a second yellow card and therefore a red card. Somehow, I totally miss this and only find out at the end of the game when my colleague tells me. KR has been a bit better but nothing indicated that they were playing 10 men.

 


Only in the last few minutes does KR finally seem to get more urgent, but the pressure creates little chances. Hence, 1-1 is the final score and KR loses two points in its fight for European (qualifier) football next season.

 


While the game was quite poor, the atmosphere was pretty good. Also because of the almost 100 away supporters. KR should definitely be on your groundhopping list in Iceland.

Vikingur – KA (08-08-2021)

 

On Sunday I attempt a double hop in the city of Reykjavik, visiting two of the biggest and oldest clubs in the country. Knattspyrnufélagið Víkingur, commonly referred to as Víkingur or Víkingur Reykjavík, and internationally known as Vikingur FC, is based in the Fossvogur neighbourhood of Reykjavík. It is one of the oldest sports clubs in Iceland, founded in 1908, and plays in the Úrvalsdeild karla, commercially known as Pepsi deild karla, the highest division for men in Iceland.

 


They play their games in the Vikingsvöllur, which has a capacity of 2,000, including 1,450 covered and seated. The stadium is located at 'Traðarland' in Fossvogsdalur, south-east of the city center, in a residential area. I arrive 20 minutes before kick-off but can still easily park opposite to the stadium – most fans seem to arrive by foot from the neighborhood.

 


From the road you cannot really see the pitch as it is behind a building through which you enter. I pay ISK 2000 (~$16) and ask for a ticket. After some hesitation, the young woman gives me a generic one (yes!). Once you go through the building you enter the ground, which is really cute. They have one rather big, covered stand. Before kick-off, music is played and there is a real (small club) football atmosphere. Many people know and greet each other.

 


The main stand is pretty full, I guesstimate some 500-600 people. The fans are all over the place in terms of age and gender, though mostly men. There are a lot of kids and even some women with babies (and prams). There are some 50 supporters of Knattspyrnufélag Akureyrar (KA), mostly middle-aged men, who either live in the capitol or have made the ca. 4.5-hour drive from Akureyri, the capitol of the Northern Region. The pitch is artificial grass, which is being sprayed through built-in sprayers just before kick-off.

 


The first shot on goal is by Vikingur, in the second minutes, and goes just over. In the 8th minute, after pressure, a Vikingur player walks into the box and shoots dry and low in the far corner: 1-0. Another explosive start.

 


Vikingur is much better in the first part of the game and in the 16th minute another attack ends with a hard shot that is save by the goalkeeper. Only in the 21st minute does KA have its first good chance, which forces the home goalie to a good save. But from the consequent corner they somewhat surprisingly score: 1-1.

 


There are some soft chances on both sides, but there is no pace or sense of urgency. Vikingur are 1-1 at home and should be slaughtering KA, but everything is so predictable. Consequently, the game shifts and KA now has the better (half) chances. But then, just before half-time, out of nowhere, Vikingur has a calm attack and an excellent cross from the right is headed in: 2-1 In extra time a long pass by KA comes to the goalie, who shouts for it, and the. shoots it at KA attacker. Fortunately for him, the ball ricochets wide. Half time score is 2-1.

 


During the break the sun comes out and it is so warm that I it is pleasant to sit just in a t-shirt. I think this is the first time in Iceland I can do this for more than 2 minutes. Amazing! To be clear, it is probably only 19C and quite windy.

 



The first chance of the second half is for the visitors, in the 51st minute. Almost 10 minutes later a nice long KA attack is crossed from left to right, then volleyed in, and shot over. I leave in the 70th minute, to get to my evening game, and later hear that KA scored and the game ended 2-2. A loss of two important points for the championship for Vikingur, who could and should have won (easily).

 


Still, as a groundhop destination, Vikingur should be high on your list in Reykjavik. It is really a local club with a nice atmosphere.


KF Fjardabyggd – KV (07-08-2021)

Knattspyrnufélag Fjarðabyggðar (KFF) is an Icelandic football club from the town of Fjarðabyggð, located on the east coast of Iceland. The club was founded in 2001 with a merger of three local clubs and KFF plays in the 2. Deilid Karla (Second Division Men), which is really the third tier of Icelandic football.

 


The town that the game is played in, according to the official website of Icelandic football, is Eskifirdi, but my car’s GPS doesn’t recognize it. Fortunately, I put have an address of a restaurant in the neighborhood, and as I drive there, I see a football pitch with players practicing on it. After a quick snack, I go back and see two dozen people on the small stand. I ask a couple of guys whether this is the game I’m looking for (by pointing to my trip agenda as I cannot pronounce the names), which they confirm, so I pay ISK 1,500 (ca. $12) to get in – unfortunately, no ticket again.

 


So, it turns out that KFF plays its games in the town/village Eskifjördur, at a pitch that barely deserves the name stadium, as there are only a few seats on an uncovered “stand”. Still, thye 'stadium', Eskifjarðarvöllur does have one of the most remarkable backgrounds. 

 


The opponent is Knattspyrnufélag Vesturbæjar (KV), which comes from the Vesturbæjar district of Reykjavik. I wonder how this works logistically, as the game is played on Saturday at 14:00 and the drive from Reykjavik is some 8 hours. I assume they don’t play directly after an 8-hour bus ride, which would mean they left on Friday and will be home Saturday night/Sunday morning.

 


As the game is about 15 minutes in, I hand count 68 spectators. However, at least 15 come in later and at least 5 people watch from their cars, which you can park straight up to the gate. It is raining miserably, which together with a temperature of 12 C, makes it feel like a shitty October day in the Netherlands. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that spectators go to their car, as this is Icelandic summer. I cannot imagine it being much better during the rest of the season.



 

Another surprise, the team from the small town from East Iceland has two Black players. That’s more than I have seen in any of the Reykjavik teams. KFF players also often shout in English to each other, including to the non-Black players, indicating that there are various foreigners in the team.

 


In the 14th minute the away team scores from a corner and I count one away supporter. Four minutes later KFF has its first chance, a shot in a turn goes well over the goal. In the 29th minute a KV cross finds a player at 5 meters from the goal, but he tries to control it rather than volley it (he can’t). With one half chance for each team we are at half time: 0-1

 


Like others, I spend half-time in my car to shelter from the rain and type some notes. In the 54th minutes, as I get my umbrella from my car, KV scores again: 0-2. In the 68th minute a KFF defender shoots the ball straight at a KV attacker at the side of the box but he shoots it low at the goalkeeper.

 


In the 84th minute various KV players fail to shoot at goal from inside the box until one shoots at the goalie, who saves with one fist. Four minutes later KFF has a (very weak) header at goal. One of the first balls at the KV goal in the second half. In the 89th minute KV has a last very good attack: a cross is pulled back and a player storms into the box and shoots it wide. Should have been a goal. Final score: 0-2.

 


You don’t need to come here for the football but the setting of Eskifjarðarvöllur is absolutely unique.