After the fast-paced excitement of my race through 55 UEFA nations in one season, I settled down to write Europe United in summer 2018. I still gave sporadic interviews – to French website SoFoot, a British fan living in Malaysia and a Bulgarian football blog – where I reflected on my crazy European tour. But my focus was on condensing an incredible year into an interesting football travel narrative.
The first article promoting ‘Europe United’ was in the July 2019 edition of Dutch magazine Staantribune with is fabulous Gabriel Batistuta cover. “It was London in the spring of 2017. Englishman Matt Walker had just turned 40 and had a boring office job. He looked at the rain outside and thought that going on for another 25 years would not be very exciting. That is why he decided to say goodbye to his job and in one season visit all 55 countries affiliated with UEFA.” Not quite my words, but an appropriate scene setter.
The publicity ramped up in August. Europe United was widely available in UK airports and I was featured live on Spanish station Talk Radio Europe and talkSPORT radio. Spanish newspaper AS headlined with my A-Z of European football and Estonian staple Õhtuleht promised that I “will never get tired of football”. Bulgarian sports daily Meridian Match and Danish local Helsingør Dagblad published extracts of the book, the latter stating that “Walker’s travel demanded the black belt in logistics”. And, as my first commission as a Lonely Planet writer, I name-checked 25 out of the 55 UEFA nations. Pity I wasn’t paid by the country!
Europe United was first reviewed by the Sunday Sport (four stars). “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. Football Book Reviews called Europe United an “informative and eye-opening read” and lamented the relative paucity of photos and statistics from my travels – both readily available here. Four Four Two (four stars) called Europe United “a culturally savvy look at football across the continent“. New Books Magazine (four stars) countered with “a must-read for football fans keen to see the various sides of the game … even if only from their armchair” and published an insightful Q&A. The Sportsman said “each of Matt’s stops is rich in football and travel anecdote” alongside an in-depth interview.
The Guardian ran an October edit of my San Marino chapter, “A dog, a cat and 22 fans: watching European football’s worst top-flight team“, a light-hearted account of my attempt to get a game in the microstate. My prospects are greater now. Matteo, who features in the article, informed me that there is no limit to the number of foreigners in Sanmarinese squads for the 2019-20 season (although two locals must always be on the pitch).
I was also featured three times on BBC Radio including a cracking live interview with Robert Elms on BBC Radio London. You will have to read the book to get the subtle Ramones reference. Choice, “the essential magazine for the over 50’s”, Turkish website futbolarena, Fulham FC and Harrow Borough also ran features and I even sold a copy to a travelling Taunton Town fan at the latter’s Earlsmead home!