Book Review: Europe United – 1 football fan. 1 crazy season. 55 UEFA nations by Matt Walker

Like many people, I consider myself something of a football fan. An ardent one at that. And then I came across Matt Walker’s book Europe United, and I realised I’m very much an armchair fan at best.

Walker, a keen traveller and football fan, decided to embark on something of a football expedition in the 2017/18 season that would see him watch a top-division match in all fifty-five UEFA nations (it certainly puts my twelve live matches last season to shame). I’m not sure I could even name the fifty-five UEFA nations! Not only was this a journey of epic proportions around the continent from Iceland and Scandinavia in the north, to Cyprus in the south, east to Azerbaijan and Armenia and west to Portugal and Ireland, but to undertake it in a single season was both a logistical and personal challenge. While football in Spain and Germany may be on most football fans’ bucket lists, I’m not sure the Faroe Islands Premier League or the Macedonian First Football League have quite the same appeal. Yet Matt Walker accomplished his European odyssey, starting out with the Erovnuli Liga – Georgia’s top flight – where else? – and traversing the continent over eleven football-filled months before ticking off his fifty-fifth and final leg with the Montenegrin First League, taking 54 flights and 6 ferry journeys, and spending over 200 nights in more than 100 hotels along the way.

This book charts each step of the journey and the highlights (and lowlights) of the travel arrangements, the countries, the football and the fans. Unsurprisingly, the book is fairly long for a sports book, at over 400 pages, but in some ways it feels as if this perhaps doesn’t even begin to do the experience justice, given just how much the journey would have entailed and the vagaries of the various matches. It’s impossible of course to cover every team, stadium, match and country in minute detail, without it turning into a contender for the world’s longest book, but what Walker gives is a glimpse into each of these experiences and an overall narrative.

As a keen photographer, Walker naturally charted his journey in photographic form too and there is a selection of these included in a centrepiece, in the usual sports book style. However, it does seem a shame that we only have a handful of each. It would have been nice to have at least one for each country as the bare minimum. A coffee-table collection of photographs is mooted in the book, and although the written narrative is crucial, I think, to do this journey justice, I would have been more than happy to see an accompanying photographic book too, although admittedly this would be a rather unusual approach for the publishers to take. Walker’s photographs are available to view on the website that tracks his adventure (, and they are definitely worth a look. Similarly, for those fans who enjoy the stats side of the game, again I feel as if the publishers missed a trick by not including Walker’s comprehensive stats, even if only in an appendix at the end (again these can be found on Walker’s website).

However, none of this is to take away from what is a unique and truly awe-inspiring feat. The book itself is an informative and eye-opening read for football fans and offers an insight into the wider world of European football and an opportunity to reconsider the English game, and the sport more generally. Without question, all football lovers will learn a thing or two about the European game – if only a bit of geography – from this wide-ranging book. It’s also an inspirational and motivational book for fans looking to undertake and enjoy new football experiences. It’s a reminder that there is more to football than the English Premier League, but at the same time it’s also a testament to the quality and visibility of football at home. Though, if you’re ever getting tired of watching football in Manchester, Liverpool, London or the like, there’s always a game to catch in Gibraltar or San Marino, and who knows, it may just be more entertaining – off the pitch if not always on it.

Jade Craddock

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Posted August 16, 2019 by Editor in category "Reviews

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