55 Football Nations is a project that has always fuelled my imagination. It has also piqued media interest in many football loving lands. 55FN has been covered nearly 50 times in print, on radio and television in 28 countries including The Guardian, BBC Football Focus, BT Sport, GQ magazine, Lonely Planet, La Gazzetta dello Sport and L’Équipe.
Norwegian newspaper, BA, were the first to report the story from a Brann Bergen training session. The Gothenburg Post also featured an interview to accompany the preview of BK Häcken v Hammarby in Sweden. Häcken were the first club to present 55FN with a scarf. They won 2-0!
Paul Doyle, chief football writer of The Guardian, wrote a cracking little piece based on an hour long conversation about 55FN. This sparked hundreds of positive messages (thanks for them all!) from football lovers around the world. It also overshadowed the moody photoshoot and report published by Ålandstidningen in Finland on the same day. The Guardian is clearly read by Estonian newspaper Õhtuleht who instantly got in touch and interviewed 55FN straight off the overnight ferry. Their report was worth it.
55FN has also been on the wireless. UK radio station talkSPORT featured a short interview live from Kazakhstan, 16 minutes into their Hawksbee and Jacobs show. A longer interview with Ålands Radio and TV in Finland was translated into Swedish. BBC Radio Suffolk and BBC Radio Foyle also interviewed 55FN over the summer.
The Guardian article led to a worldwide media snowball. Easily the best interpretation was from Brazilian football website Trivela, where Leandro Stein added careful research to familiar quotes. It also caused a mistral in France through pop entertainment website Konbini and featured in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macedonia and Portugal, where a dried fruit trader from the Green Market in Almaty, Kazakhstan, found rather unexpected fame.
55FN grew up watching James Richardson perusing the Italian sports pages with an improbable cake on Gazzetta Football Italia. Sportweek, the Saturday supplement of La Gazzetta dello Sport, published an unlikely 55FN article as a preview to Vitebsk v Krumkachy in Belarus. A pity I couldn’t join Usain Bolt on the cover!
The Irish also took a liking to 55FN. South of the border, the Irish Times penned a pretty nice article stemming from my chat with journalist Mary Hannigan. The Belfast Telegraph were also inspired to write a rather error-strewn preview to Glentoran v Carrick Rangers and 55FN’s thoughts on the game afterwards.
55FN has always been a futebol culto and was profiled in the September edition of GQ magazine in Portugal. Eastern interest included some entertaining photos from Trabzon in Karadeniz’ de Sonnokta, a mild rant at the Kazakhstan Football Federation and a first appearance in Cyrillic in Bulgaria’s Meridian Match.
Interviews were published by Serbian website Mondo, Ukrainian site Futbol 24 and Chornomorets Odessa. Belgian newspaper Le Soir previewed my autumn visit to Ghent. 55FN was also interviewed by Romanian television channel PRO TV at the Petrolul club museum in Ploiești. An ‘exclusiv’ headlined Romanian sports website Gazeta Sporturilor and a misquote about a goat followed in Russia and Moldova, Sports Moldova following with a second article claiming 55FN had been crowd counting in Chişinău. And Albanian newspaper Sport Ekspres included my views on a tedious nil nil.
Lonely Planet focussed on the travel experiences as much as the football in an interview published on their ‘Travel tips & articles’ page. Iconic French sports magazine L’Équipe featured my tips on the best football experiences. And Danish weekly Tipsbladet published a two page interview to cap my Scandinavian sortie.
55FN hit the screens in December 2017. Football Focus on BBC One interviewed me live from AFC Bournemouth. Pundit Mark Lawrenson was particularly interested in the logistics of 55FN. BT Sport compiled a cracking feature from snowy Dingwall. Polish television channel Canal+ Sport put together a short feature before the explosive Kraków derby. And Sport Nation used some of the lost video diaries to build the travel element into the 55FN story.
It was hard to keep up. 55FN was also featured in matchday programmes at Fulham, Ipswich Town, Glentoran, Harrow Borough and local non-league team Dulwich Hamlet. Writers also took up the story in California and Italy.
If you would like to talk about football, travel or football travels (who doesn’t) please contact 55FN through firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7753 834020