1. FC Köln coming to the USA?! Can it be?!

“Fahr met mir an’t Meer?” “wo mer Dräume leeve kann?”

Let’s start this with a disclaimer: As the club has not yet announced any such thing, I don’t know that we should treat the news as “Perfekt!” the way Express has announced it.

Yet, there seems to be a lot of smoke emanating from the idea that the 1. FC Köln will spend some part of its preparations for the return from winter break in Florida.

Yes, THAT Florida! The one with the giant rodent, the giant cockroaches (or giant bugs in general), and the one that brought the world a second term of the second George Bush!

The word is that Bayer Leverkusen was already planning to take part in something called the “Florida Cup” this winter, somewhere in the greater Orlando area and recommended their neighbors as a second German participant in a four-club tournament meant to also feature a pair of Brazilian clubs.

Keep in mind, I’d never heard of this thing before, so I’m extrapolating a bit from what I’ve read since I first learned that Jörg Schmadtke had been in Florida to assess some possibilities. I could very well get some of the details wrong, but the details, for me, drop sharply in importance after “Effzeh in the USA.”

The quote in the Express story today that stands out for me is “Nothing is signed yet.” Alexander Wehrle maybe is just waiting for everything to be formalized before confirming things, which would be well in line with the “but a trip to Florida would give us an opportunity to tap into new markets” that followed.

It would only make sense for any and all German clubs to eventually follow the lead of their English cousins and start to include the USA as a potential home for exhibitions. The interest in the sport is growing, without question. Germany’s World Cup success makes the nation a highly visible entity to fans of the sport. That said, the Bundesliga continues to toil in relative obscurity when it comes to “soccer” fans here. The partnership with an obscure cable channel over the last several years has severely hindered any growth that could have come from, not only the World Cup victory, but also from the Champions League final in London two seasons ago with two German participants.

But next season, Fox has secured broadcast rights, which has potential to bring the Bundesliga to a much wider audience than its had here to date. Because FC Bayern remains, far and away, the smartest club in Germany as far as marketing is concerned, they’ve already opened a stateside operation in New York City, seemingly ready to be the first club to jump to the attention of American audiences when they suddenly find Bundesliga among their televised sports options. Considering the overwhelming popularity of Chelsea FC here since the Premier League has gained a huge US following, their odds of success are great. Everyone was already going to be starting at a deficit anyhow, because if anyone knows just one German club, it’s almost always going to be Bayern, but, as is Bayern’s way, they’re not resting on their advantages, rather using them to build more.

Even so, there are plenty of US fans who would bristle at the idea of getting in with the most-powerful club in the midst of their glory. Many will prefer to get in with a club before they rise to international prominence. The time to get those club names in front of American eyeballs is definitely here.

So, JA!, get your asses over here!

That said, I hate that Florida is the natural place for this to take place. I remember learning fairly quickly during my time in Germany that our most-popular retirement destination is a favorite vacation spot for Germans to use some of that generous amount (by comparison to us, of course) of vacation time they get.

I am not as much a fan of the place. When I had to train for a new job in Orlando for three months, I changed my departure flight to eight days before the end of training, putting my job status at risk, because I had simply had enough. Florida and I are not a great match.

But if my beloved club is coming . . . we shall see. On one hand, it would be a huge regret to miss it. On the other, I’m no fan of exhibition games or friendly matches. It’d be one thing to drive across town to see one, but an entirely other to fly across the entire continental part of the nation to get there, not to mention the fiscal outlay.

Yet . . .

This is going to torture me until we know whether it’s happening or not. It’ll be worse when I know some of my fellow fans from overseas are going to be there, especially as I’m goaded to be there (I am certain this would happen). It would, in fact, be ABSURD for me to not be there. I’m the American Geißbock, for crying out loud.

So, stay tuned and wait for word before you act, but it might be time to look at your calendar and start putting some pennies away for an unexpected winter trip to sunny Florida.

And then, if the club manages their goal of staying in the Bundesliga, there are plans for a tour of Japan and Thailand after season’s end. Those are two places I’ve long wanted to visit, even if only for the amazing food to be enjoyed there . . .

I should have known that being a fan of a German club had potential to get expensive.

This is a good excuse to add one of my favorite songs of one of my favorite Kölsche pop-rock bands. Cat Ballou’s “Lokal Patriot” album is full of ear candy, so I won’t pretend to be able to really say how this rates among the other tracks, but it’s a good, catchy tune. The lyrics don’t seem particularly deep, rather dangling an invitation to head to the sea for some relaxation and general enjoyment of life . . .  or something like that.

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