x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

What's it like ... to travel overseas to see your team play

The hardest thing I have found since relocating to the UAE is you that cannot support "punk football" by not being there.

It is hard work being a supporter of an English non-league football club at the best of times. We have to put up with comically poor football, bleak grounds and unless we have a rich benefactor, financial uncertainty. Not to mention the complete ridicule we receive at the hands of condescending fans of the bigger clubs. I would not change any of it for the easy life of Premier League football though.

However, the hardest thing I have found since relocating to the UAE is you that cannot support "punk football" by not being there. It has been a fantastic season for Nuneaton Town, my hometown club, and we were in the Southern Premier League (the seventh tier of English football) play-offs after finishing runners-up in the league. To my surprise the local radio station moved away from their love-in with Coventry City and decided that our semi-final against Brackley Town warranted full match coverage.

The Boro put in a sterling shift, winning 6-0. It was, according to friends, one of the most memorable nights in our history. The radio coverage was not enough though. I now needed my live football fix. After an hour deliberating, my heart took over and I booked a Dh4,585 ($US1,248) flight for the final against Chippenham Town. It was the silliest purchase of my life. I did not care. The flight got me into to London at 7.30am. A fellow Boro fan was on hand to pick me up and drive me the further 160km home to join the rest of a 3,000-strong crowd. As for the match; it was torture. I did not have a wink of sleep on the plane, riding on adrenaline alone for more than 24 hours.

After going a goal down on 70 minutes we fought back to win in extra-time to book our place in the Conference North. By then I was an emotional wreck. The celebrations, with the players of course, continued long after the match, but it was our subtle rendition of Doris Day's Que Sera, Sera that struck a chord with me. We may not be going to Wembley next season but we do have the mouthwatering joys of Guiseley.

Watching my team earn that honour was worth every penny and I would not think twice about doing it again. Stephen Nelmes is an online sports journalist at The National and an avid Nuneaton fan sports@thenational.ae