Braunschweig - The Bundesliga’s travelling support is awe-inspiring. Legions of fans journey the length and breadth of Germany, the European Union’s fifth-largest country, to sing their songs, wave their flags and support their team, and German fan cutlture has even been leaving its mark on the continent: Eintracht Frankfurt recently took a record 12,000 fans to Bordeaux for a UEFA Europa League game.
A joke turns serious
One Eintracht Braunschweig fan, however, is leaving the rest of the Bundesliga’s travelling bands in his slipstream. Meet Christian Schlums, a lifelong Lions supporter who works at the State Office for Radiation Protection in Salzgitter, near Braunschweig. He cycles to every single away game his team play and his journeys so far have taken him the 271 km to Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park in high summer, and the 594 km to FC Bayern München’s Allianz Arena in the dead of winter.
Schlums’ innovative idea took root during die Löwen's run to promotion last season. “After Braunschweig had been playing fantastic football and were top of the league, some friends decided to drive to FSV Frankfurt for an away game,” the 39-year-old explained to the magazine 11Freunde. “I wanted to go by bike and jokingly said that if we were promoted then I’d ride my bike to every away game in the Bundesliga.”
It is not, however, a purely personal endeavour. Schlum’s efforts are for a local charity. “With the donations I receive, I’m planning to give as much as possible to a family centre in Salzgitter,” he explained, and has also applied for a donation of up to £500 (around €605) from a British-based website.
Braunschweig to Astana?
For some, Schlum’s self-imposed challenge would seem crazy - by the time he’s finished, he’ll have travelled the distance from Braunschweig to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. “It was just a great opportunity to combine my active love of cycling with my passive love of football,” he claims, whose wife was apparently less than pleased with his decision to use the majority of his days off work cycling around Germany with his yellow-and-blue club scarf under his helmet.
Others though, were far more gushing in their praise. Word of the marathon challenge found its way to the upper echelons of Braunschweig’s Eintracht Stadion, where Torsten Lieberknecht is an admirer. “We certainly wish him all the best,” said the club coach. Indeed, having competed in over 150 triathlons and eight Ironman competitions he might even run some of his players close in the bleep test.
'There's no way I'd ever do it'
Schlum’s enthusiasm for one of his two passions has been bestowed on his son Lennart, a huge fan of the local side Braunschweig. However he doesn't quite share his dad's love of biking to quite the same degree: “He just cycles so far; there’s no way I’d ever do it!” Schlums junior is certainly used to his father's two-wheeled antics, though, as his father reveals that he "usually leaves two days before the rest of the family when we go on holiday. I cycle and meet them there.”
So there you have it - the impressive efforts of the lone Braunschweig fan who is intending to spend every work holiday cycling 150-200 km, numbers which will mean that by the end of the Bundesliga season (Braunschweig are away at 1899 Hoffenheim on the final day, a cool 457 km) he’ll have racked up more than 6000 km. Are there any drawbacks? “Well…” Schlums chuckles, “My wife won’t let me go to home games anymore.”