Introduction

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The big concrete terracing at Akritas Chloraka (bottom of Cyprus Division 2) is baking hot so I’m sitting on a stray bit of cardboard. There are maybe 100 fans dotted around in the area where my cousin Lewis and I, and thousands of flies, have settled to watch the game against the second-placed side from Larnaca. Just in front of the children aiming toilet rolls quite accurately at the halfway line is a guy hopping about selling tickets. But whether they are for the match (the turnstiles were unmanned) or for a raffle is unclear.

About the same number of people are dotted around on the terracing behind the goal, a bit of concrete that seems to hang on the hillside. Well, actually, it does hang on the hillside, as the whole stadium is cut into a massive drop from what is little more than a village, situated a few miles from the tourist town of Paphos. The stadium is rubbish, the football is rubbish and youngsters from the home side’s youth team are throwing things at the opposition’s big wigs who are sitting in front of me.

But I love every minute of it because I am a football lover. And if you love football, you know going to a game is about way more than football itself. It’s about laughing at the opposition striker when he misses an easy chance (come on, that’s the best bit), the beer before the game (hang on, maybe that’s the best bit) and providing the perfect excuse for getting home late (sorry, that’s the best bit). It’s about discovering there’s a second division team called Akritas Chloraka just up the road from where you are staying and astonishing the locals that you even care. And strolling up the road to watch them, then following their results on the internet for years to come.

Akritas Chloraka are not featured in this book. But football lovers across the world are always looking for any excuse for a beer, a plane trip and a chance to laugh at the opposition striker missing a sitter.

So welcome to this offer of 26 countries, 49 cities and 61 clubs not a million miles from where you are sitting right now.Featuring clubs from Barcelona and Real Madrid to IFK Gothenburg and Lyon; cities from London and Milan to Villarreal and Haifa; and countries from the east of Europe to the west, north and south. They’ve been chosen for their footballing ability and the city’s visitability. And also because more of us than ever want to go away, watch a match and enjoy ourselves in a place that isn’t where our season ticket tells us to go and who to watch.

Of course there are some clubs missing. Is it anyone’s fault Uefa has expanded more than the Roman Empire? But hopefully this is a list to tempt your taste buds and stretch your Easyjet account.

 

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