Football experiences cannot get more surreal than this.
Scott Sutter, Spurs fan from Potters Bar, followed his football dream to Switzerland aged just 16 in 2002. After playing 78 games for Grasshoppers Zurich, he switched to Young Boys of Berne in 2009. A year later, he watched the draw for the Champions League play-off from the stadium with his father.
“We’d always say ‘imagine if we were drawn out against Tottenham,” recalled Scott, now 30. “There was a chance it could happen. We’d been drawn against Middlesbrough in the UEFA Cup before and that was the first time I’d faced English opponents, but we’d missed out so many times…”
Young Boys will play...Tottenham Hotspur.
So there it was, reality. Some 15 years after marvelling in the attacking play of the likes of Klinsmann, Sheringham and Anderton from his Season Ticket in the West Lower (‘left of the tunnel, level with the six-yard line, three or four rows from the front’ he remembered), Scott would be playing on his field of dreams, against his boyhood heroes, for a place in the Champions League.
Then events took a turn – very much for the best for Scott, but towards Champions League hell for the rest of us.
Young Boys stormed into a 3-0 lead in the first leg. After the joy of finishing in the top four and that memorable win against City, were we heading out before the Champions League adventure had begun?
Below: Scott chases Gareth Bale in the first leg
Thankfully, no. Sebastian Bassong pulled a goal back before half-time, Roman Pavlyuchenko reduced it to 3-2 and Young Boys were swept away on a night of high emotion back at White Hart Lane, one of the great ‘glory, glory’ nights as Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick in our 4-0 win.
“At 3-0 up in the fist leg, I couldn’t believe it,” said Scott. “I had a lot of friends, my brother’s friends - I’d grown up as a Tottenham fan and where I grew up in Potters Bar you were one or the other, Arsenal or Spurs.
“A lot of my friends were Tottenham fans and I had a lot of people come out. They all had a great time but suddenly we were 1-0 up, then 2-0, then 3-0 and they suddenly weren’t enjoying it so much! That was a great night.
“We trained at White Hart Lane ahead of the second leg, my dad and brother came along and we sat in the seats where we once had Season Tickets when I was younger, West Lower. It was Klinsmann, Sheringham, great times.
“They all spoke afterwards about how electric it was in the stadium for the second leg, trying to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, which the team had never done before. I remember it was pouring down with rain and that made it tough for us, against that Spurs team on such a slick surface, in that atmosphere.
“We were a young side and there were plenty of nerves out there. Regardless though, I loved every minute.”
Below: Scott at Young Boys in 2015
ON HIS JOURNEY TO ORLANDO...
Scott: “It was always a dream for me to play in the Premier League, but it never worked out for me. After that, I always wanted to go to the States and play in the MLS. I’ve always been a big fan of America, travelled over on holiday for six, seven years - LA, Vegas, New York, Florida. I always wanted to live over here.
"There was an initial interest in November but it didn’t happen and that was a tough time, my contract was running out after eight years at Young Boys and at 30, it was the right move for me and my girlfriend. We resumed the season after the winter break with Young Boys and then I got another call from my agent saying Orlando were still interested. Young Boys didn’t stand in my way and it all happened. There are a lot of places to visit in the States and Orlando is right up there, sunny Florida. We’ve a new stadium and one of the best followings in terms of fans in the MLS. We’re doing well, we’re aiming for the play-offs for the first time and that would be some achievement. If we can make the play-offs then anything could happen.”
Scott: “People always ask me - friends, people off the street, interviews - they always ask what he’s like. What a player! He was the last player to win the World Footballer of the Year (2007 at Milan) before the Messi and Ronaldo era. He’s such a nice, humble guy, so down-to-earth. It’s crazy. I’ve played with guys from national teams before but when this guy moves, he’s just mobbed everywhere he goes, every stadium, airports, every 20 yards he walks people ask for photos with him. He’s a bona-fide legend but he takes it all in his stride, stays grounded, gives his time to everyone. On the field, he’s still got that magic, that eye for a pass. In terms of the club, he’s the whole package. It’s been great to watch him from close quarters.”
Scott: “Disney is obviously massive part of Orlando but there are a lot of things to do here. There are beaches either side side of Orlando, Daytona is a 45-minute drive or the other way, a touch further, Tampa. Everything is within a drive - Miami is a four-hour drive. You can also fly an hour to places like the Bahamas or Cuba. If you love your golf – like I do and so many English guys do - then this is golfer’s paradise. It will be hot though! The players are in for a treat! It rains pretty much every day in the afternoon, I’d say six days out of seven between about 3.30pm and 5pm. It will rain like you wouldn’t believe. Uusally mornings are nice up to about 3pm, sunny, hot, it was 39C when I was driving home from training the other day. You have to factor in the humidity as well. Drink plenty of water!”