Around 100 of the Gelsenkirchen side's North American members joined the players in watching Orlando Magic’s NBA game on Saturday night, before rounding off the weekend by taking in Die Knappen's 2-0 win over Fort Lauderdale Strikers courtesy of goals from Franco Di Santo and Leroy Sane.
On the rise stateside
The USA-based fans, some of whom had travelled to the Sunshine State from as far away as Hawaii, also helped the club in its quest to continue expanding its support base in North America by participating in a round-table discussion about what overseas members want from the Royal Blues. "We wanted to know what we could do for the North American Schalke family and how we can get more people interested in our club," said Florian Hartmann, head of Schalke’s member department. "Out of the discussion, we heard some good suggestions about what we can do with our US members in the future."
The final treat for the American fans was the chance to meet their heroes when Matija Nastasic, Marco Höger and club legend Gerald Asamoah visited the supporters' hotel to meet fans, sign autographs and – of course – take some selfies. "It is impressive how many fans we have in the US who want to be involved with the club," said Höger. His belief is backed up by the numbers, with Schalke’s US Facebook page boasting over 45,000 likes, the US Twitter account continuing to grow and, according to the club, the US online store "becoming ever more popular".
All the way from Gelsenkirchen
That popularity is reflected in the support the club also received from around 150 fans who came from Germany to watch their side limber up for the second half of the Bundesliga season. The travelling fans enjoyed their own special thank you from the club by way of an evening with the players, organised by fan representatives Thomas Kirschner and Daniel Kowslowski.
After taking photos with the team on the training pitches in the afternoon, the travelling fans were invited to the team hotel where the club laid on a traditional American buffet – replete with burgers and hot dogs – alongside the players.
"The fans' support is just great," said Schalke left-back Sead Kolasinac. "It really is unique." The Bosnia and Herzegovina international was one of many star-names in high demand as fans mingled with players – with plenty of time for selfies, autographs and one-to-one discussions about shared hobbies and interests.
Before returning to their own hotel, the fans joined the players in singing happy birthday to Sane, who turned 20 on Monday.