This is just brilliant.
An Italian football fan last month completed a 5000km round trip from his home in Livorno, Italy to Derry, specifically to watch The Candystripes play at The Bradywell after he fell in love with the club due to a successful career as manager of Derry City in the ridiculously popular game Football Manager.
19 year old Alessandro Colombini first became interested in Derry when he read a book about Bloody Sunday when he was 16, but when he lead Derry City to the Champions League on football manager he became determined to visit and pay homage to the stars that fired him to success, such as Paddy McEleney, who he was lucky enough to meet after the game.
The best part? McEleney signed a print out of his Football Manager stats:
— alessandro colombini (@carlovich78) August 19, 2015
That is just gas. Alessandro revealed that Paddy McEleny didn't quite know how to react to the news that he was an FM star while speaking to the Derry Journal:
I wanted to meet Patrick after the game because I wanted to tell him how good of a player he is for me in ‘Football Manager’. I told him I was from Italy and that he was brilliant in the game. I don’t think he knew how to react but he gave me his autograph and we had a good laugh about it.
Paddy looked at me like I was an alien, he must have thought I was mad.
The whole trip came about when Alessandro became friends with a Derry City fan on Facebook and began exchanging scarfs and shirts, and after making the Football Manager pilgrimage he expressed his appreciation for the welcome he was given by the locals:
I loved Derry and all the guys that we met were so kind to us, they treated us like brothers.
Unfortunately, while he does still have a special place for The Candystripes in his heart, in Football Manager terms, Alessando has moved on to bigger and better things:
I’ve been managing Derry City in ‘Football Manager’ for the last two or three years. I had my best season last year when I took Derry to the Champions League but AS Roma offered me the chance to come and manage them and as football fans know, when Roma ask, you must answer.
Bloody typical those Serie A giants poaching League Of Ireland managers!
Fair play to Alessandro for experiencing the League Of Ireland and thanks to the Derry Journal for bringing this to our attention, there's something special about stories like these.