It’s not easy being a soccer crazy fan living in South Florida where the closest Major League Soccer team is exactly 1,000 miles away. Believe it or not, but the last professional match I attended was way back on November 25, 2006 and that was Fulham against Reading in London!
Thankfully my drought will end in seven days when I travel to Switzerland to watch Italy against Holland, two of the best teams in the world, play each other in Berne at Euro 2008.
Planning a trip to Europe is easier than ever thanks to the Internet. Or so you would think. I depart on Saturday from West Palm Beach to Newark, where I have a long layover. I’m hoping to try to catch the two opening matches on Saturday in an airport bar. Later that day, the next leg of my journey takes off with an overnight flight to Zurich, where I arrive early on Sunday morning.
So far, so good. I’ve secured a hotel near the Fan Zone in the Zurich city center. I’ll have a chance to drop off my bags and watch the two matches that day on giant screen TVs — one of which will be placed on a floating platform on top of Lake Zurich. Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen for the Swiss authorities.
The itinerary for Monday will include the one hour train journey from Zurich to Berne, the Swiss capital. The match doesn’t kick off until later that night so there’ll be plenty of time for sightseeing, taking in the atmosphere and watching the crazy Dutch fans who I will never forget from my first interactions with them from World Cup 1994 in Orlando.
The tricky part about the travel plans is trying to find a hotel in Berne after the game. It’s impossible. The Dutch and Italian fans have bought every possible hotel room in the vicinity of Berne. The city itself only has a population of 127,000 so you can imagine how few hotels are even in the area.
There are trains running through the night from Berne to Zurich, so I contemplated returning to Zurich that night after the match. Easy, right? Except that every single hotel room in Zurich is booked that night too in preparation for the Tuesday match between Romania and France. I even tried booking hotel rooms near some of the train stations that have stops along the way from Berne to Zurich, but all of those are booked too.
What I may end up doing is staying up all night. My flight leaves on Tuesday morning at 10:30, so I could party through the night in Berne with the Dutch and/or Italian fans. After going so long not experiencing a real live soccer match, the thought of staying up all night doesn’t bother me at all.
Depending on Internet connection, I’ll try to report live from Switzerland via this blog and the EPL Talk Podcast, so be sure to follow my journey to Europe and back. My plan is to capture what the atmosphere is like in Switzerland and describe it to you through words and sounds as well as photographs. It’s going to be one hell of a trip and I can’t wait.