A teacher from Germany, who was born in Giessen near Frankfurt in 1983. However, I've spent most of my life (and still live) in Hagen, which is more than 200 kilometres or 130 miles from my favourite destination: Waldstadion, home of my beloved club Eintracht Frankfurt, the team I've been following for all my life as a third-generation supporter. Having been taken to my first game in 1990 by my Dad, with whom I still watch most of the games, and thus growing up with Eintracht's heydays in the follow-up seasons, I'm part of a generation of supporters full of high expectations and shattered dreams. In other words, there hasn't been a lot to celebrate to say the least and I've missed pretty much all of the glorious past of my club - four-time cup winners, German champions 1959 and participant in the Champions League Final 1960 against Real Madrid (i.e. FIFA's official Game of the Century), UEFA Cup winners 1980. Instead there were relegations, relegations, relegations, relegations. Let's not deny the promotions. But, you know, such a bond can never be broken. Yada, yada, yada... You know that kind of story, so let's skip the romantic side to it. Anyway, Eintracht's most recent seasons haven't been the worst. In 2018 my childhood dream finally came true when Eintracht won the cup for the fifth time in a breathtaking 3-1 win in Berlin against Bayern Munich. As we know from Forrest Gump: Miracles do happen.
As following Eintracht has not allowed for a lot of exciting international trips in the last couple of decades due to the fairly constant lack of true success and the rare opportunities to qualify for the Europa League - not to come to speak of the Champions League - groundhopping soon turned out to be the almost only solution to a football maniac like me who wants to see the world, who's interested in cultures and languages, and who just likes to travel. Groundhopping, in a nutshell, means as much as going to places, attending a football game, and thus stamping the ground and checking it off your list. I shall neglect the dogmatic debate on how a groundhopper is supposed to do groundhopping here.
Groundhopping serves several purposes. To me, there's no better way to get to know a culture, a subculture, a country, a region, a city, a town or a village than by attending a sports event, soaking up the atmosphere, observing and interacting with the people. Another reason for groundhopping is freedom: yes, the illusion of being free as a human being can be created or maintained by escaping your local reality and going to a destination you would otherwise be unlikely to visit. This takes us to the third point: even in your home town there might be places you would not get to know, wasn't it for a football match in that borough which you could attend. Stictly speaking, each and every ground has got the same weight, be it the San Siro or the turf ground around the corner. Instead of making a right, you turn left, and you're about to discover a whole new area within you surroundings, which you'll get to know better. Finally, the most obvious and pathetic reason: you collect grounds and can pat your back for your progress and the increasing number of stamped grounds. To a groundhopper, there is no such thing as the pleasant and yet nonsensical feeling as writing down the ground you've just come home from. Ridiculous, isn't it?
What I can say about myself is something that probably every groundhopper would say about himself: I'm not that typical kind of groundhopper. First of all, although I do in this context, I usually wouldn't really want to refer to myself as a groundhopper, because it might be offensive to an entirely authentic groundhopper who spends all of his weekends to see all of Estonia's third-tier grounds. I just do it whenever I can (here I've got to say teaching IS a full time job... and if you disagree, I can still mention my little son and soon-to-be Eintracht maniac I'm really proud of as an excuse). Secondly, I am a follower of Eintracht Frankfurt in the first place. No matter how much I do hate Eintracht, I will always love Eintracht and not often will I prefer I nice groundhopping adventure to a regular Frankfurt match. Thirdly, I love Leeds United. The dirty Leeds. Therefore, my general fascination with England, which is reflected in the subject I studied and the number of visits, concentrates around everything Leeds and Yorkshire. I even taught in Leeds for a while during my studies. How do Frankfurt and Leeds connect? The answer is Anthony Yeboah! There will be many more similarities you'll find out when you go into detail, but I'll leave that fun to you.
One more aspect I add to my personal way of groundhopping is that I'm also interested in a couple of other sports. For instance, my job takes me to Chicago and Cincinnati (the so-called Tri-state area consisting of OH, KY, IN) on an annual basis and I love to watch some NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, you name it. Apart from football, my personal focus is basketball as I'm from Hagen, an absolute basketball city. So why not write down those grounds? Of course this is done separately from the list of football grounds. However, I do agree with all groundhoppers on the fact that no ground can be counted in which not even half of a game was attended. Needless to say, a ground doesn't count without any match.