Even at 2am, there were Eintracht Frankfurt fans scattered in every direction on the otherwise deserted streets of Bordeaux. Having watched their team seal a spot in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 as part of a group phase-record 12,000 travelling contingent, these enthusiastic stragglers were not quite ready to draw a long and memorable day to a close.
"It was unbelievable, awesome," commented Guido, one supporter still savouring his side's 1-0 Group F-clinching victory against FC Girondins de Bordeaux long after the final whistle. "We formed an orange curve and [Martin] Lanig scored directly in front of us. It was something I've never experienced before."
It is safe to say he was not alone. For a start, Bordeaux's inhabitants are unlikely to have ever seen the city's Place de la Victoire occupied by hundreds of orange-clad football fans before, but the famous venue seemed to act almost as a magnet for Eintracht devotees during the afternoon.
What those bewildered locals were witnessing, though, was a club's supporters relishing their return to the European stage after a prolonged absence. And with three charter planes, 70 coaches and hundreds of mini-buses organised to ferry fans – not to mention all those making their own journeys – Eintracht's presence in Bordeaux outstripped even the 10,000 followers VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach took to SS Lazio for a round of 32 tie in February.
"Europe is really special for Frankfurt," explained Markus Katzenbach, who reports on 'Die Adler' (the Eagles) for Frankfurter Neue Presse. "Frankfurt have a big European tradition. They won the UEFA Cup in 1980 but they haven't played European football for seven years, and before that there was another big gap.
"There's a hunger for international games, and Frankfurt is a very international city, with its airport and people of all different nationalities. Coach Armin Veh said Frankfurt has a 'European flair' and I think that's correct. The fans are really passionate and really supportive. It's not the same as in other cities, like Stuttgart, where they're used to playing European games and it's become normal."
"People have a real thirst for this," added Bernd, a fan whose succession of train journeys to Bordeaux with wife Petra had started at 5am on Thursday. "We've been desperate for European events, and now we're getting the opportunity we're taking it. I had to take two days off work, but it's worth it. We're more productive throughout the rest of the year, so it's OK."
The Frankfurt native also shared an insight into why Eintracht's supporters opted to descend on France in orange – a tradition that "has its roots in the movie Clockwork Orange," according to Katzenbach. "The club's colours are red, white and black, but going into a stadium in black, you're not distinct from everyone else," explained Bernd. "The fans got together and said we want to be orange so that everyone recognises us."
As for why the so-called Orange Kaos Tour made itself felt far more powerfully in Bordeaux than in Cyprus or Israel for Eintracht's other Group F trips to face APOEL FC and Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC, even football romantics have to consider practical realities. "It was the closest game to Frankfurt," said Sebastian, a fan making his first excursion of the group stage. "It's exciting to go to European games, but the distance and cost explain why there are so many people here."
Eintracht finish their group duties against APOEL on 12 December, but thoughts among their supporters have already turned to where they would like to journey as part of the club's moveable feast in the new year. One location in particular has fans dreaming. "Italy," said Guido. "Turin – to see the final."
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