I always wanted to make a list. I made a few in 2019. FourFourTwo rated Europe United as one of the top 18 football books of 2019. “Walker’s quest is at its best when he explores European football’s less fashionable outposts” said Jon Spurling in the October edition. “He paints an informative, quirky, fascinating picture of matchday culture across Europe. The book’s sheer breadth does mean Walker whizzes through some sections. Even so, Europe United is a culturally savvy look at football across the continent.”
Europe United was first reviewed by the Sunday Sport in August. “This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable book” made me smile. “Along the way he picks up bizarre nuggets of useful, as well as useless, information” made me laugh. And I hope that “his first [book], but surely not his last” was a sagely prediction. Strong Words magazine followed up with ‘football against the calendar’, a review highlighting that “Walker brings his command of the spreadsheet to Europe’s air, rail and ferry timetables.” I was then crowned “fan of the year”!
The Sportsman wrote that “each stop is rich in football and travel anecdote, and while the snacking is exotic (chicken and avocado Ryvita in Iceland, haddock and mustard in Estonia), there is much the average supporter will recognise. Such as the love for one’s team (“Brann is my wife”), the crazy dreams (the Spartak Moscow fan who fantasises about playing Sevilla) and no end of club soap opera to squabble about.”
New Books Magazine called Europe United “a must-read for football fans keen to see the various sides of the game … even if only from their armchair.” It was clear that many readers were chancing upon the book in WHSmith at a dozen or so UK and Ireland airports. All Sports Book Reviews author picked it up at Belfast International Airport on his way to Gibraltar. “This proved to be an excellent investment and it was to continue to provide me with plenty of entertainment through the next couple of weeks. It’s a great read, though I don’t think I’ll ever be trying to match his achievement.”
Another football blog, Mis Viajes en Fútbol, listed Europe United as one of his recommended books for Christmas in a glowing review. “The heart of the book is the conversations Matt had along the way. He met a variety of different people united by their passion for their local team. The book therefore becomes a love letter to football’s place in communities across Europe. If ever a reminder was needed of the importance of the beautiful game, Europe United provides it.” Stirring stuff.
The book has been spotted in an Auckland library and on a beach in Vanuatu. I’ve received positive Amazon reviews (so many that the book sold out before Christmas) and dozens of personal messages to my social media accounts. One read “I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed reading something so much, I wanted it to carry on and on.”
I set out to watch top-flight football in all 55 UEFA nations in one season. And then write a book about it. It far exceeds these initial expectations for Europe United to be loved by other football travel nuts. But I love it that they love it.