They may be UEFA Europa League opponents, but Cologne fans are guaranteed to receive a warm welcome when they travel to Red Star Belgrade in early December.
In their eagerness to follow the Billy Goats home and away during the clubs's first Europa League campaign in 25 years, many fans of the North Rhine-Westphalia club purchased ticket packages for Group H matches - including all three of Red Star’s home games - the moment they went on sale.
They are only interested in attending matches involving their own team, of course, so tickets obtained by Cologne supporters for the Belgrade outfit’s two other home group-stage encounters have now been donated to an outstanding cause.
“Cologne fans were so eager to follow their team to the Marakana, so they bought ticket packages for all three Red Star home games in the Europa League,” a fan account of Serbia's joint record champions tweeted. “They didn’t want to waste tickets for Bate and Arsenal games [sic], so they arranged for the tickets to be given to Belgrade orphans.”
Some of those tickets have already been put to good use, with many of the children at Zvecanska orphanage attending Red Star’s 1-1 draw with BATE Borisov earlier this month.
“The fact that football fans […] in a country 1,500 kilometres away have done something like this has caused great joy here,” Bogdan Mitrovic, who helped deliver the tickets to the orphanage, told effzeh.com. “The head of Zvecanska has even sent Cologne supporters a certificate as a token of appreciation.”
Other Effzeh fans have donated their spare tickets to a children’s hospital in the Serbian capital, while several schools in the area have also been beneficiaries of the German supporters’ generosity.
Some fans are also planning on donating club membership hoodies to the Zvecanska orphanage when they attend December’s clash between the two teams at the Rajko Mitic Stadium, also known as the ‘Marakana’.
“Football has great potential to bring people together,” added Mitrovic. “If this wonderful gesture from Cologne fans helps that happen, it’s fantastic!”