Florida Cup 2015: From BayArena to Orlando

Say “hello” to Frank Rüdiger.

I have to put “fan” in parenthesis, because the word doesn’t quite capture Frank’s passion for his club. He’s the sort of fan who seemingly cannot resist the allure of travelling to follow his favorite team. It’s the sort of passion the Bundesliga can inspire a man to fly more than 7,000 kilometers to stand next to a training pitch and intently watch his team play football-tennis.

Because we are the Bundesliga Fanatic, we felt it was our duty to interrupt his focus and find out what compelled him to make the journey.

“I’d been to some training camps before,” explained Frank of his decision to come to training camp and to see the Florida Cup. “But with it being in the US, I thought, ‘It’s too far away and a lot of money . . . but I’ve never been to the USA.'”

Now Frank can add the United States to a growing list of destinations to which Bayer Leverkusen’s international exploits have driven him. When asked whether he also travelled to Champions League matches, he responded, “Many, but not all.”

Despite having been to Portugal, Turkey, Grand Canaria, Lisbon, and Paris, among others, Frank already believes that by the time he gets on a plane to return to Germany, that he’ll have a new favorite place to have visited while following his club.

“It’s very nice here,” explained Frank when asked what his favorite destination has been. “Lisbon, Lagos, Valencia . . . they all were nice, but this is great.”

“I’ll have to think about it later, but I believe my favorite will end up being here.”

Not only is Frank impressed, but he also believes everyone with Bayer Leverkusen is quite pleased with the early returns on making the journey to the Sunshine State.

“I think they (Bayer Leverkusen) will come back here, maybe even next year,” he said.

And, if they do, should we expect to get a second visit from Frank Rüdiger?

“If I can get the holiday from work, I think so.”

Another visit a year from now will give Frank more time to plan his trip, but also to practice his basketball skills.

Frank is teaming with Stefan Kießling as Bayer Leverkusen’s fan-and-player representatives at halftime of Wednesday night’s Orlando Magic game in a three-point shooting contest between the four Florida Cup clubs. Each footballer will take two shots, and each fan will get but a single try at NBA halftime glory.

Good luck tomorrow night, Frank. It was a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for your time, and we hope to see you back here next winter.

(almost) Anywhere Bayer Leverkusen goes, Frank will follow.


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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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