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09th Feb 2023

Spanish family travel to watch League One team they randomly chose on Fifa

Jack Peat

‘It was one of the best weekends of my life.’

A group of Spanish cousins travelled 1,400 miles to watch a League One team they chose to support after playing as them on FIFA – because ‘they liked the badge’.

Fernando Batallon, 25, and his relatives became unlikely fans of Derby County after they randomly started a FIFA Career Mode as them three years ago.

And they grew to become so fond of the East Midlands club that they based their very first trip to England around watching them play at Pride Park.

On Saturday, the seven cousins travelled three hours from Lugo, in northern Spain, for the unglamorous League One clash between Derby and Morecambe.

But they were treated to goal-fest as The Rams came out 5-0 winners and the group have already vowed to return following the ‘best weekend of their lives’.

Fernando said they discovered Derby by chance following a party when his cousins wanted to play FIFA – and chose them as they liked the ‘charming’ club emblem of a ram.

They then began following the team in real life after researching more about the club’s history and how they won the old Division 1 under Brian Clough.

Fernando told the Derby County FC podcast, ‘Steve Bloomer’s Washing’: “It was one of the best weekends of my life, really.

“It all started with a FIFA career mode. We were coming back from a party one night and a cousin of mine wanted to start a career in FIFA.

“We didn’t know what team to pick. So we decided to pick the team with the badge which we liked the most.

“Another cousin of mine who knew Derby, I’m not sure how, but he knew and he said Derby’s badge was the best.

“He showed us and we liked it. It’s charming, I can’t explain why but we loved it instantly. This was around 2019/2020.

“To start with we just played as Derby and then I discovered there was a film about them, ‘The Damned United’.

“We saw the film and thought it was awesome and we started researching the team and the history.

“We knew that Derby were not in the Premier League but we knew that they had won the league with Brian Clough.

“We loved the team, we loved the history and then we started to follow the team in real life.

“I was shocked when I found out Derby had won the league because at first when we didn’t know the history we thought it was like a little club, so that was pretty shocking to me.

“We had been talking about coming over to England since the pandemic in 2020 when we couldn’t travel.

“And also because we had to wait to afford it as it has been a very expensive weekend for us.”

Fernando landed at Luton Airport following a two-hour flight but because of train strikes, they were forced to catch a one-and-a-half-hour cab to their Airbnb in Derby.

Luckily, they made the game and were treated to a 5-0 thriller, including a David McGoldrick hattrick, which kept Derby in the play-off places.

They were able to mix with fellow fans in the pubs around the ground and were even allowed onto the pitch by staff to pose for a photograph with their flags.

Fernando, who works for a law firm, added: “The game we chose was complete luck.

“It was the cheapest [game we were looking at] and a weekend everybody could do.

“Pride Park was bigger than we thought, I did not have this image in my head. It’s not the same seeing the matches on your phone and seeing the stadium.

“And also now we are not in the Championship we can’t watch the games in Spain. It’s been impossible this year.

“Derby have suffered a lot, just like our club Lugo in Spain, who have had problems with owners, so it is a similar situation.

“We just seemed to pick a club in the same situation as Lugo.

“I thought the British beer was very nice and also very big because in Spain we don’t drink that size of beer.

“We had such fun in the pub, we met two guys who were 60/70 and they were so nice. I have really loved Derby as a city too. I thought it was cute.

“It was like an explosion [watching Derby score a goal] we were shouting and celebrating the most I think. The game was awesome.

“We knew Derby had been winning but I didn’t know the game would be so good as we haven’t been watching them the last few months.

“We haven’t decided yet but we are already talking about coming back. We are trying to come back for the last game of the season.”

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