“When I watched FC Bayern Munich against Salzburg last night, I asked myself: which professional teams are closest but are in different countries?” wonders David Gough. “And which ones are the closest to never playing each other?”
From Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena to the Red Bull Arena in Salzburg, it’s around 130km – quite a convenient journey for fans traveling from one border to the other, but far from the shortest.
Let’s start our excursion to the near neighbors separated by international borders in Northern Europe. Denmark’s FC Copenhagen faced Sweden’s Malmö in the 2019-20 Champions League, with teams only having to travel 43km across the Oresund Bridge to get to the away game.
Fortuna Sittard Stadion in the Netherlands – home of, er, Fortuna Sittard – is just 32.4km from Alemannia Aachen’s new Tivoli Stadium, just across the German border, while making a 30.5km scenic journey between top Swiss action at FC Lugano’s stadium is Cornaredo and Serie C play at Como 1907’s Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia in northern Italy.
Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille is just 29 km from KV Kortrijk’s Guldensporen Stadium in Belgium. Meanwhile, Trieste and Koper sit side by side at the tip of the Istrian peninsula, but the former is in Italy, the latter in Slovenia. FC Koper’s Stadion Bonifika plays host to top-flight football, while Triestina, founding members of Serie A 1929-30, currently play in Serie C at the Stadio Nereo Rocco, some 15.5 km away. The teams often meet in pre-season friendlies.
The best we can find in Europe are two lower-level teams separated by a cross-border walk of 3.1 km, lasting about 10 minutes. Finnish third division side TP-47 play their home games at Pohjan Stadium in Tornio, while Sweden sixth division side Haparanda FF play just opposite Kaupunginlahti Lake – only a few kilometers how the crow flies. The two teams regularly play friendlies.
It is also worth noting that should Bundesliga side Freiburg qualify for next season’s Europa League, they could potentially meet Basel (67km away) and/or Strasbourg (84km away) in cross-border close-quarters matches.
Away from Europe, the Stade Alphonse Massamba Debate in Brazzaville, Congo, home of Cara Brazzaville and Étoile du Congo, and the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa, DR Congo, home of AS Vita Club and DC Motema Pembe – the grounds – could be good candidates are only 15 km drive apart.
And before we leave the topic, we should probably mention the touchy subject of Chester, an English club whose pitch is in Wales – The border runs through the ticket office and the parking lot. Home to former Welsh premier club Airbus UK Broughton, the airfield is a mere 4 miles walk across the River Dee.
More for more? Have we overlooked some even closer international neighbors? Submit your efforts to [email protected]
Who has played in the most world champion nations?
Some of you have quoted a higher-class journeyman, former Uruguay striker Diego Forlan. “He didn’t start his professional career in his home country, but in Argentina for Independiente,” writes Chris Page. “He later played for Manchester United, Villarreal, Atlético Madrid, Internazionale, Internacional of Brazil and finally Penarol in Uruguay. As a teenager, he also spent a probationary period in Nancy, France. So if he had played a first-team game, we would have been up to seven, only Germany would have survived.”
Ben Entwistle suggested another South American – former “new Maradona” Andrés D’Alessandro. He played for River Plate and San Lorenzo (Argentina), Wolfsburg (Germany), Portsmouth (England), Zaragoza (Spain), Internacional (Brazil) and Nacional (Uruguay).
Can anyone beat this? If yes, contact us.
A European clean sweep of clubs from one nation
“England still have teams in all three European competitions. Has a nation ever won the European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Cup in the same season? asks James Funnell.
We alluded to this in a column a few years ago, but didn’t answer James’ specific question. It only happened once, in 1989-90 when Serie A ruled the world. Or at least Europe. Milan defended the European Cup, Sampdoria won the Cup Winners’ Cup and Juventus beat Fiorentina in an all-Italian Uefa Cup final.
Such was Serie A dominance that it almost happened on two other occasions. In 1988/89 Milan won the European Cup, Napoli won the Uefa Cup and Sampdoria lost in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup. Four years later, Parma won the Cup Winners’ Cup and Juventus the Uefa Cup, but Milan were beaten by Marseille in the Champions League final.
England probably came closest in the 1980/81 season. Liverpool won the European Cup and Ipswich the UEFA Cup, but West Ham let them down when they were beaten by Dinamo Tblisi in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals.
There was also a near miss for Spain in 1961/62. Atlético Madrid won the Cup Winners’ Cup, Valencia beat Barcelona in the Fairs Cup final (a precursor to the Uefa Cup) – but Real Madrid were beaten by Benfica in the European Cup final.
“The Comoros national team is known as the coelacanth,” wrote Robert Abushal in April 2013. “Do you have the most endangered nickname in world football?”
Of course, we should think of the coelacanth, both the fish species currently listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list and the team ranked 192 in the Fifa world rankings (although things have improved since then) . And despite lengthy searches of the IUCN archives, we’re struggling to find a team nicknamed such an endangered species.
Can you help?
“As someone with the relatively uncommon spelling of the first name Allan, I am very interested in the careers of Everton’s Allan and Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin. I firmly believe that we Allans should look out for each other. I was therefore somewhat disheartened to see Everton’s Brazilian midfield enforcer handed a red card for an outrageous, cynical lunge at Newcastle’s moody French striker. Are there any other examples of namesake red cards?” asks Allan Leith.
“I saw a statistic this week that says Luka Modric has played in 44.5% of all Croatia internationals. With a little research I found one player who can beat that (Montenegro’s Fatos Beciraj with 63.4%), but is there anyone else who can say he’s played in an even higher percentage of his nation’s international matches? asks Richard Wilson.
“Has one player scored the first goal in more than one new stadium?” – Randy Gatley.
“In the last year or so I’ve noticed a trend for players to do two or three jumps when they come onto the field, either in the starting/second half or when coming on as a substitute. We know some footballers are notoriously superstitious, but since when has this been a thing and why?” asks Gordon Glen.