Meet Graeme Holmes, football's most passionate fan
Whether through a connection or a conversation, football provides a platform and language for exchange and understanding around the world. It’s a sport that binds the globe’s many fans and unites us with a ball.
We’re delighted to share with you a story from Homefans about a passionate football fan, who travels around the world to experience football cultures. His name is Graeme Holmes and he lives in Liverpool.
Graeme traveled around the world to get a first-hand look at unique football spectacles and to share the history of how it came to be—a story that begins at supporting his local club Everton FC and ends.. well it’s not ending as Graeme will continue to visit football grounds around the world for many years to come!
I decided around 1988 that I wanted to visit all 92 English League Grounds – at the time I was following Everton Home & Away and in one week, they were knocked out of 3 Domestic cup competitions, so I decided that was a good a time as any to go to some different grounds and miss a few Everton games
I had already been to 46, so I set about going to the rest. I didn’t drive at the time, so I could only go to Saturday matches by train, but passing my driving test was now a bigger priority. Also, at the time there were very few Sunday games in England, so the task definitely wasn’t easy
Ground-hopping – a phenomenon in European fan culture
I started the following season on 55, and decided that I wanted it all finished before the end of the season. I wasn’t going to miss too many Everton games, but the situation was helped by me passing my driving test and getting a car, and having a job that enabled me to go around the country at different times running training courses. This helped getting to far away midweek games on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Christmas I was only 5 short of the Holy Grail.
It wasn’t hard watching games that didn’t involve Everton, because I was only going to visit the ground – the Football on offer was secondary. It was great turning up in towns and finding the grounds, and I liked walking in and seeing what they were like. The stands, the terraces, the floodlights and everything else that I could see for the 1st time
After I had finished England’s 92, it was onto Scotland’s 40 and I finished these in 2 years. I then embarked on Wales, and the English Non-League pyramid, and soon I had registered games at over 1,000 grounds. I was always looking for new grounds to visit and new Leagues to complete, and although going to Europe seemed a great idea, it was how it was going to happen
I had been to Rotterdam with Everton on a day trip in 1985, and been to a ground in Mallorca in 1986 while on holiday, but in 1995, my best friend, who had moved to Milan 3 years earlier, invited me over for the Milan derby. We also saw a game in Turin on the same afternoon, but the fact that I had been to the San Siro, meant I wanted to go to the other top European stadiums
At the time, getting tickets for games abroad, and booking flights etc wasn’t easy, so for the first 2 trips we used a travel agent to sort everything out for us – costs were really high and when we look back now, we wonder why we did it that way, but on the 1st trip we went to the Nou Camp and Bernabeu, and on the 2nd trip, we did the 3 main grounds in Lisbon on the same weekend. While in Lisbon, we also found 2 other possible games,and went by taxi, and all of this just gave us the confidence to do more and more of these trips. I had plenty of friends who became interested in trips abroad to watch football and visit grounds that they had only seen on TV, so there was always around 2-4 people with me on every trip
In the early days, we tended to choose grounds we wanted to go to, and very rarely looked for other games nearby, as by then the internet hadnt really taken off. In 2004, for example, we went to Berlin and only saw 1 game, because we didnt know how to find others. Nowadays, trips are organised to try and go to as many grounds as possible, and this involves hiring a car, rather than waste time using public transport!
As grounds were added, I looked to completing Leagues, and today I have been to every ground in the Top Leagues in Holland, Germany and Spain. I still have grounds that I want to go to in Europe and would like to expand to grounds in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Whereas some people want to add grounds in different countries, I am happy just ticking off grounds I want to go to rather than making a trip to say Azerbaijan, just to say I have been there
It’s a great hobby – it allows me to see places I would not normally ever go to, and I have met some great people with similar interests. I have been to almost 3,000 grounds now, and am not intending stopping.
Photos by Homefans contributor Graeme Holmes.
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