Every shirt is travelogue waiting to be written...
There are some memories that you have from growing up that stay with you into adulthood. From first kisses, embarrassing situations, school discos to a growing desire to see what is out there beyond your hometown. Strangely, I can remember the day vividly when I discovered my love of football shirts and it’s a passion that has stayed with me ever since.
In the late nineties, the retailer Intersport had just started to sell foreign football shirts and a new world of football culture was opened up. Immediately, I was fascinated by the Paris St Germain Nike shirt from the 1996/97 season. The iconic blue and red of the French club combined beautifully with the largely unknown Opel car manufacturer sponsor and stood out against other football shirts from English clubs that were also on-sale in the shop.
Seeing that PSG shirt was an introduction to European football like no other and led me down a path of discovery that has fused with my passion for travel and football ever since. My shirt collection now spans more than 200 genuine football shirts and whilst I am not a collector of valuable or rare match-worn gems, I buy them as a record of places that I have been to as a lasting memory of a holiday or place visited.
In this strange time of self-isolation, lockdowns, football postponements and being unable to travel for the foreseeable future due to the worldwide impact of the Coronavirus, I thought that I would share some of my travel stories using my personal football shirt collection over the next few weeks…
Featured Shirt: Werder Bremen (2009/10 season)
SV Werder Bremen are one of Germany’s biggest Bundesliga football clubs and play in the 42,000 capacity Weserstadion located on the banks of the river that runs through the city to the North Sea coast at Bremerhaven over 65 kilometres away. Bremen is also Germany’s smallest federal state and home to the Beck’s brewery that sees the city’s name exported around the world.
Bremen for a period was the starting point of several cycle tours and weekend trips using very cheap Ryanair fares from Manchester Airport. I think one flight cost around £5 and I very rarely paid more than £30 return for a few days away. The now discontinued Bremen route was popular for servicemen who used the route to travel between their barracks in Germany and their families back home in Britain.
I have completed two cycle tours that have started in Bremen and a couple of city breaks. The first one was an excellent solo ride that started at the ADFC bike hire station in the city centre and continued onto Goslar in the Harz Mountains about 270 kilometres away. The other was with my then-girlfriend Jilly (now wife) to Bremerhaven via the down-at-heel naval port of Wilhelmshaven that was followed up with a week at Center Parcs in the small north German town of Tossens before heading home.
Picture: ATLANTIC Hotel Sail City, Bremerhaven
Even though I enjoyed both cycle tours, I always have fond memories of my solo ride to Goslar. This cycle tour took me along the Weser Cycle Route to the city of Celle in Lower Saxony, on a guided tour of the vast Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg and around historic Braunschweig.
Despite being an excellent cycle tour overall using a locally hired Fahrradmanufaktur trekking bike, a pannier with a change of clothes and a credit card, I always rue the fact that the 5-day tour ended in anti-climax with an irreparable puncture caught on the descent down into the UNESCO World Heritage site of Goslar. The tour was then book-ended with a night in a fairly bleak hostel populated by dodgy roadworkers that made me lock my bike up to the bed!
I have never seen Werder Bremen play nor have a real attachment to the team, yet this shirt has a special place in the collection because of the number of times that I have visited Bremen over the years and the various cycle tours to different parts of northern Germany that have started there.
If you would like to book a cycling holiday starting in Bremen, have a look at the Weser Cycle Route with Freewheel Holidays.