Tuesday, June 08, 2021


Latest Reports:
East Atlanta FC - South Georgia Tormenta 2 (09-06-2021)
 Asheville City SC - Charlotte Independence II (01-06-2021) 
Florida Elite SA - Tampa Bay United (23-05-2021) 
Greenville Triumph FC - North Texas FC (01-05-21)
 
Next Games:
Stumptown AC - Michigan Stars FC (25-06-2021)
North Carolina FC - Richmond Kickers (26-06-2021)
LSA Athletico Lanier - Georgia Revolution FC (03-07-2021)
Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar - Handknattleiksfélag Kópavogur (04-08-2021)
Knattspyrnufélagið Fram - Fjölnir (05-08-2021)
Knattspyrnufélag Fjarðabyggðar - Knattspyrnufélag Vesturbæjar (07-08-2021) 
  Vikingur Reykjavik - Knattspyrnufélag Akureyrar (08-08-2021)
Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur - Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar (08-08-2021)
Birmingham Legion FC - Charlotte Independence (26-09-2021)
 


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 446 clubs in 44 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.

East Atlanta FC - South Georgia Tormenta 2 (08-06=2021)

 


East Atlanta is the hip part of Atlanta, but East Atlanta FC does not play there. They play in Conyers, a commuter town roughly 25 miles (39 km) east of Atlanta, and should therefore be called East OF Atlanta FC. 

 

 

As I arrive at Rockdale Youth Soccer Academy, where they play their games, I directly recognize the ground. I was here 9 years ago, to see a game of Georgia Revolution, which has since moved to McDonough, Georgia.

 


I pay $8, which is quite a lot of money for a game in the USL Division 2 (roughly Fifth Division in the US), given that the setting would make most amateur football clubs in Europe feel ashamed. I do get a nice ticket though, albeit from a different game (and season?).



There are a few random old wooden bleachers (5 rows each) on two sides of the pitch, where some 100 people sit. The audience is reasonably mixed by class, gender, and race. Many seem to personally know a player (of the home team).

 


The game starts some 20 minutes late, as the previous game, between the youth teams of the two clubs, was delayed because of lightening. The weather has been playing up in the last days, but, despite predictions of rain, today was dry until roughly one hour before the game. Around 19.50 the game finally starts.


 

In the 3rd minute Tormenta has a chance but the East Atlanta goalie saves the shot from close by, which goes straight at him. The corner is headed just over the goal. At that time, the clouds become darker and darker and the wind is picking up. Like many others, I am starting to look for cover, when the game is being stopped for possible lightening.


 

Shortly after 20.00 the rain comes down hard, followed by lightening. I decide to head back to Athens, which is an hour north, as I have no desire to wait for 30 minutes in my car. As I’m typing this report at home, I see that the game restarted at 21.30 and East Atlanta FC won through a goal in the 90th minute, roughly at 23.00.

 


It is rare for me to abandon a game so easily, but I think I need a break from USL Division 2 for a while. It just has barely any resemblance of professional football and most clubs lack any culture or identity.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Asheville City SC - Charlotte Independence 2 (01-06-2021)

On a Tuesday evening, I drive up to Asheville, a cute alternative-hipster town in the western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a 3-4 hour drive from Athens, GA, depending on whether you go the functional or scenic route. On the menu is yet another game in the USL League Two (roughly the Fifth Division), this time in the Deep South Division, between Asheville City SC and the second team of Charlotte Independence.

 


Asheville City SC was founded in 2016 and played in the 3rd Southeast Division of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) before joining the USL League 2 in 2019. They play their home games in the soccer stadium of the University of North Carolina Asheville, which is just a pitch with a few small bleachers on one long side. I get in for free, as someone had an extra ticket and paid it forward.

 



While this means no ticket, I was lucky, as I later read on the website that the game was sold out. They didn’t mention the number of spectators, but I guesstimate some 250 to 300 people. The fans are very (upper) middle class and very white. They are also quite young, although relatively few kids (more students). There is a small group of “ultras” with drums and horns who mostly make "smart" remarks.

 


The game seems to be played on real grass, although the pitch is suspiciously even. The players are young, early- to mid-twenties, probably several college players, and there are again very few African American players. The quality of passing and control is quite poor, particularly given the dry but flat pitch, and the pace is not too high. Still, the game flows from side to side with quite a lot of (half) chances.

 


In the 19th minute Asheville has a long and deep cross pass that the striker takes directly, with the inside of his foot, but the goalie saves it spectacularly in the short corner. The hosts continue to pressure and in the 26th minute a player gets the ball almost free in front of the goal (at some 5 meters) but he hits it with both of his legs.

 

 

In the 30th minute the visitors get a ball into the box, which is headed through, but easily picked up by the Asheville goalie. A few minutes later a Charlotte defender gives a too soft pass back but his goalie courageously hits the ball just a second before the striker can kick it. Just before half time, a free kick is missed by the Asheville goalie, but, after few pinball moments, he can pick it up after all. Half time score: 0-0.

 


The game restarts at a much higher pace. In the 48th minute Charlotte Independence 2 scores out of quick attack. To my surprise, there are actually some people in the audience applauding. Not that Charlotte is far away, just a 2 hour drive, but few people travel in the US, let alone for a second team – the first team of Charlotte Independence plays in the USL Championship (kind of Third Division). I went to see them in 2015 (report here).

 


Just a few minutes after the opener, the hosts score from a rebound: 1-1. Not much later, an Asheville striker is fouled just outside of the penalty box. The free kick leads to a header that goes just over. In the 55th minute a quick counter by the hosts leads to a good cross but a terrible finish, meters from goal.

 


In the rest of the second half there is a lot of movement of both teams that lead to (half) chances on both sides. However, given that both the control and the passing is not very good, few of the finishes end between the posts and few challenge the goalies. Hence, the final score remains 1-1.

 


Overall, it was a quite entertaining game, despite the mediocre individual quality of the players. It never felt as a (semi) professional soccer game though, which technically the USL League 2 isn’t, but rather a summer evening game of two local teams. Still, if you are in Asheville, which is a town definitely worth visiting, and you can catch a home game of City SC, do it.



Sunday, May 23, 2021

Florida Elite SA - Tampa Bay United (22-05-2021)

On my way to the beach, I make a slight detour to see a game in the Southeast Division of the USL 2, roughly the Fifth Division in the United States. Many of these teams are part of “Soccer Academies”, which are quite pricy pay-to-play soccer clubs that cater predominantly to upper middle class white kids. Florida’s Elite Soccer Association seems no exception, given that they play in the football stadium of Mandarin High School, in a posh southern part of Jacksonville. They play Tampa Bay United, which is about 200 miles southwest, and no fans made the trip.

 


I arrive almost 10 minutes too late because of a road accident and GPS failure. I don’t need to pay and walk straight walk into the first goal, which is for the home team. There are far more people than I had expected. I guesstimate 300-400 people, mostly children, who play in the youth programs of the Florida Elite Soccer Academy, and their white and upper middle class parents — many dressed in the ugly fluoride shirts of the “Soccer Association”.

 

 

They play on a very dry Astroturf football field, which is quite confusing with all the different lines (white lines for football, red lines for soccer). The players are older than I expected. The pace of the game is pretty low, the passing and control is poor.

 


Florida Elite is clearly the better team in the first half, but the quality of play is really poor and barely any chances or shots on goal are created. Half time score is 1-0 and I start to wonder how anyone scored in this game.

 


The first 15 minutes of the second half the visitors are better is first 15 minutes, but then, out of nowhere, the hosts get two good chances within three minutes. The game remains slow and poor. As Tampa Bay United keeps pushing, Florida Elite has some good counters.

 


Although the quality gets even worse, particularly in terms of control and passing, there are a few more (half) chances, but nothing goes in. 1-0 seems the maximum that these two teams could create.

 


This was a classic low division US game. Played at a football field of a local high school/college, no real soccer club with tradition, and mainly kids of the youth programs in the stands.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Greenville Triumph SC – North Texas SC (01-05-2021)



My first groundhop in 1.5 years (!) takes me to Greenville, South Carolina, two hours northeast of Athens. It is the first home game of Greenville Triumph SC, which has been playing in the USL League One (the third division in the US) since 2019. In fact, last season they won the championship. The team plays at the Legacy Early College Stadium, a 4,000 seater all-bleacher “stadium” of a college prep school.

 


Two days before the game I saw on the club’s Twitter feed that there were only a few tickets left. Although I thought they were bluffing, I decided to buy an online ticket just to be sure and, sure enough, the game was sold out. Because of covid-19 measures, this meant only between 500 and 1,000 (I guestimate). The advantage of this was that I had no one sitting next to me. 😁

 


The crowd is very white and local (hence, Southern) with a decent number of women. More middle class than working class and predominantly adults in their 20s to 40s, rather than children. I’m surprised that so many people wear club gear, but I guess this will have been helped by the championship last season.

 

 

After a celebration that we are all back, and ready to defend the title, the game is on. It is played on a very dry Astroturf surface, which does make the bouncing limited and predictable. Already after 6 minutes, a free kick is headed through and a lucky backheel volley finds the net: 1-0. Very much deserved, as Greenville is clearly much better, even if they don’t create many chances.

 


In the 30th minute North Texas has an excellent counter attack with a beautiful cross pass, a smart inside pass, and a strong shot across the goal that goes only just wide. Four minutes later, however the hosts build up well across the pitch and end it with a clever ball in and a good header in the far corner: 0-2. In the 40th minute the guests have a good attack, but the shot goes just across goal. Half Time: 2-0.

 


I don’t get bored during half-time as the concessions are so insanely slow that they average roughly 1 drink per 2 minutes — at my drinks stand only one person works. But at least it gives me the opportunity to get a shot of the game from a different perspective.

 


Greenville remains much better in this overall very slow game. In the 57th minutes they lose the ball in midfield, get it back, and with two quick passes the striker gets it in the box and finishes before his (close) defender can stop him: 3-0. Good goal. Almost ten minutes later the hosts have a long ball, the striker controls it but the ball bounces against his hand. The referee doesn’t see it and he finishes cool under pressure: 4-0.

 

 

Some ten minutes before the end it gets testy. There is a foul I cannot see, which leads to a brawl and a red card for a North Texas player. There is also red card for one of their players who had already been substituted, who ran onto the pitch like a madman and pushed one of the players in the brawl. But by that time Greenville is happy and no more goals are score. With 4-0, the Triumph has made it clear that they are far too strong for North Texas and that they are a serious contender for the title again.

 


Greenville Triumph SC has done a pretty good job at establishing itself in a Southern town, which does have a growing hipster and foreign population though (including Europeans). The “stadium” takes away much of the atmosphere, but the crowd, which undoubtedly be much bigger when (if?) covid-19 measures will be lifted, is pretty good for the third division in a traditionally non-soccer country (and region).

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

SV Lichtenberg 47 -- Victoria Seelow (3-6-2018)

To celebrate my birthday in Berlin, I go with JJ, a Dutch journalist-turned-consultant (and despite his support for the wrong Dutch team, a nice guy) to see a game in the lower divisions of German football. There is always a lot of choice in Berlin, which has a wealth of big and small teams. I had chosen SV Lichtenberg 47 in the former East of the city.


We take the metro (U5) to Magdalenenplatz from where it is a short walk to the stadium. As soon as you get out of the metro station, you are in a different city: no American tourists everywhere, no hipsters, just a sleepy residential area with typical communist low-rise flats. When we get closer to the stadium, we see groups of fans standing around, drinking, talking.


We enter the ground and buy a ticket at the one, dilapidated ticket office box -- I forgot how much we paid. Today is the last game of the season in the NOFV-Oberliga Nord (Fifth Division North) and SV Lichtenberg 47 is playing Victoria Seelow, from the town of Seelow, roughly 65 km (40 miles) East of Berlin.


We arrive about 45 minutes before kick-off and go into the canteen to get a drink. People mill around, talking to each other, eating and drinking, talking football. A true community club. I love the atmosphere (and the sausage).


There are some 100 people in the stadium, as far as I remember very few away fans. There is even a big banner among the home fans. Before the game the club says goodbye to a few players and then the game is on. The guests score first, in the 35th minute, and the hosts equalize the next minute. 1-1- is also the half time score. 


While Seelow was the better team in the first half, SV Lichtenberg 47 dominates the second half. The score the 2-1 in the 58th minute, 3-1 in the 60th minute, and the final 4-1 in the 73rd minute. Everyone is happy with the final game of the season and go back to the canteen to celebrate. JJ and I are also happy, as we return to the hipsters and American tourists downtown.


SV Lichtenberg 47 is a great groundhop. It takes you outside of the tourist Berlin bubble, away from the big and boring Hertha and the cozy but hyped Union, to a small, community club that represents a district within a massive city. Definitely worth a visit!

Friday, February 01, 2019

Wasquehal Football -- US Maubeuge (26-05-2018)


Groundhopping in Europe at the end of May is not easy. Not at all. Given that I had to give a lecture in the morning, I had only 4-5 hours to drive from the middle of the Netherlands. This is how I ended up in the Championnat National 3, technically the Fifth Division in France.


Wasquehal is a small town just across the Belgian border (close to Mouscroun). Technically, Wasquehal Football is a new club, founded in 2017, as a merger of two local teams, dating back to 1924! They play at the Complexe sportif Lucien Montagne, which looks relatively empty when I arrive.




At the complex is the Stade Léo Lagrange, with one stand, and a capacity of 500. However, today, they play on a pitch behind that "stadium." Given that it is the last game of the season, the game is free, which unfortunately also means that I don't get a ticket as a souvenir (although I doubt they have tickets during regular games).



There are between 50 and 100 supporters, all but a few from the home team. To be fair, Maubeuge is almost 100 km away. There are even a few fans with flags and there is a drum.


I don't remember much of the game, except that it ebbed and flowed pretty decently, but the quality of play was quite atrocious. The fans were calm and sometime involved on this very pleasant Summer evening.


As Championnat National 3 used to be called Championnat de France Amateur 2, it is not surprising that everything reminds me of my Dutch amateur team of my youth. People hanging over the advertisement boards, in small groups of friends, talking about the past week and sometimes shouting at the game.


I caught the goal of the home team, scored by penalty, which, I think, equalized the game.  Enthusiasm remains within borders. :-)


As I again still had some driving to do, and had been without any food or drink because there was no concession stand anywhere to be found, I left 20 minutes early at a 1-1 score.


Let's just say that Wasquehal Football does not need to be (high) on your groundhopping bucket list.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

FC Eintracht Rheine - FC Gütersloh (25-05-2018)


On my way from Berlin to the Netherlands, I make a detour to see one of the few games that are played that Saturday -- and by a team I haven't visited yet. FC Eintracht Rheine plays in the Oberliga Westfalen (Fifth Division) and today's game is against Gütersloh.*


FC Eintracht Rheine was only founded in 1994, as a merger of VfB Rheine and SG Eintracht Rheine, but actually has a staggering 18 (!) predecessors. I pay €6, get a generic ticket (but a ticket nevertheless), and enter the Auto-Senger Stadion. Its official capacity is 7,500, but I doubt they ever have more than 750. The stadium has just one stand -- the Dr. Bernd Windhoff Tribüne -- and is in dire condition (see below).


Clearly Fc Eintracht Rheine is not ready for the Champions League -- or to host FC Feyenoord -- as there were bricks and rocks all over the place. Fortunately, no one cared about them. 

 
As it is the last home game, they say goodbye to the players that are leaving at the end of the season before the game. The ca. 100 people applaud politely. The crowd is local and seems to be here more for the social contacts than the football.


I don't directly see any away fans -- Gütersloh is ca. 100 km away from Rheine -- but if there were any, these six guys will probably have been it..


The game is overall rather poor and slow but the weather is nice and there are some decent snacks, so I am having a good time. There isn't much atmosphere though. This changes a bit when they announce that there will be free beer after the game to celebrate the end of the season.


I have to admit that I left with still a quarter to go. At that time it was still 0-0, but it was getting cold, and I still had 4 hours to drive. In the end, FC Eintracht Rheine won 2-0. Not the most desirable groundhop destination, but not bad either.

* I wrote this report half a year later, so the details are a bit hazy.