Professionals | 15/11/2019

Fans abroad

Üvverall jitt et Fans: 1. FC Köln Chicago

There are no shortage of FC fans in weird and wonderful locations across the globe. While Chicago might be one of the biggest cities in the US for both population and sports, it is 1. FC Köln that take pride of place on a weekly basis for our fan club in Chicago.

Following 1. FC Köln certainly isn’t boring, and once you’re in – you’re in for life. That was the case for Jake Payne, who fell in love with the club and the city: “My love of FC began mostly when I studied abroad in Bonn four years ago. It was just a short ride away and I had already been to Cologne before, so living near there was an absolute dream. I was really into football and I got caught up in how much people love the team there. A mix of me being entranced by the city and being entranced by the team made me a fan for life.”

As for what his most memorable moment following FC is, there was really only one option: “My favourite memory has to be the game against Mainz when we secured a Europa League spot. I still get chills thinking about how I felt when (Jonas) Hector scored that first goal and then when (Yuya) Osako wrapped everything up.” Given his role in sending the city bonkers for that day in May, there is no surprise who Jake’s favourite player is: “My favourite player has to be Jonas Hector. He's such a presence on the team, and I love the way he plays. He carries the team as a leader and he's scored some stunning goals in his time.”

On his return to the USA, there was a burning desire to keep that love ticking – even though there are over 4,200 miles separating the two cities. “I started wanting to watch games at home more and I was freshly 21 so I could go to bars to watch finally. I got lonely watching games by myself, so I thought it'd be cool to start a supporters group so maybe people who might be interested or people who lived in the city and moved to Chicago might swing by and watch with me.”

Jake added, “I saw how fun having a supporters group was with the other fan clubs, and that spurred me on to start a group in Chicago. It also helped seeing how 1. FC Köln helped in places like Indianapolis and Washington D.C., so I knew it could be done!”

Thankfully for Jake and the crew of FC fans, there is one place that is more than happy to see them turn up early on Saturday and Sunday morning. Anyone who has had anything to do with Chicago and FC will know AJ Hudsons, who are the partner bar for the matches. Along with Social Media and the FC App, Jake is a regular on the /r/effzeh subreddit. From there, he’s met even more fans: “We also have a group chat with a few of the members and some from our friends over in Cincinnati who have a group too called 1.EffzehNati.”

Despite the fact that FC haven’t got the trophies to show of that which the Premier League and other top European sides may boast, the simple fact of loving a club like 1. FC Köln has drawn plenty of interest in itself. “We get a lot of questions from those fans about why we're following FC. However, I've seen after talking to people about the team, how great the atmosphere is, and some of the history of the team, we've made a lot of fans,” explained Jake. “They'll ask how we're doing and you can definitely see them become a lot more interested in the team. You can also probably see from our pictures we make a big show when we watch with our flag and our replica Hennes, so people definitely catch people's attention.”

Much like AJ Hudsons, 1. FC Köln Chicago wouldn’t be the same without the dearly beloved fluffy Hennes. While Hennes VIII may have hit retirement and Hennes IV is now the talk of the town – the little white goat that Chicago produce is always a signal that the FC fans are around. Jake and his girlfriend enjoyed one of their first dates when Marcel Risse rifled home that free-kick in the Derby in 2016, and it was his other half that brought the well-loved figure into being.

“When I was first going out with my girlfriend, she didn't know what to get me for Christmas that had to do with Cologne, so she got me our toy goat and put a tag on it that says Hennes. Now we take it absolutely everywhere and it's a bit of an icon around these parts,” emphasised Jake. But it’s not just Hennes that makes his way down to AJ Hudsons each week: “We also have a city flag for Cologne that we bring out as well, I fly it at Chicago Fire games and people love taking pictures with it. It's a bit of a mythical figure as well because no matter how wild things have gotten, nobody has ever spilled a beer on it or our Hennes.”

As it is in the US, plenty of different fan clubs gather in the same pub to cheer on their team. Along with the more obvious links to Chicago Fire in the city, plenty of interesting ties have popped up: “We've formed a lot of friendships for certain. We've watched games with the Chicago Hamburg, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool.”

There have also been plenty of journeys across the US to visit the other FC fan clubs, as Jake stated: “We've also travelled to places like Milwaukee and Cincinnati to watch games with fans there, and we've definitely made some lifetime bonds with them and hopefully more fans across America with our American Effzeh Meetup in July. They take a lot of interest in us because we're different. Then when they find out just how amazing the team is, they take a lot of interest in that as well.”

To end off, Jake wanted to give some advice to his fellow FC fans: “I would really like to encourage anyone reading this to start a fan club. Even if you're the only one, you'd be shocked how many people you can get interested in the team or how many people are already interested in the team.”

He continued, “For our First Annual Effzeh Meetup in Cincinnati, we were all walking down the street together on a beer tour and a car randomly pulled over. Everyone in the car yelled "Come on FC!”. This club is infectious, if you're the only fan in your area, you definitely won't be by the end of the season. If you're LA or New York, there's certainly some people from Germany that would love to watch games. Give it a shot, even if you're the only person watching at first, you won't be by the end of the season.”

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Total table
131. FSV Mainz 0537
141. FC Köln36
15FC Augsburg36