As I’ve said previously on the pages of news.bwin.com/en/, doing the £10 to £10k Challenge means I have developed an unhealthy obsession with following games in which I would otherwise have little or no interest.
I consider myself to enjoy football from all corners of the globe, but never have I previously tuned into BBC Radio Merseyside to listen to Tranmere v Coventry and certainly, I have never seen the need to sit through an entire broadcast from the Slovenian PrvaLiga.
Having picked NK Maribor to beat Mura 05 as the eleventh bet of my challenge on Sunday evening, I streamed the game to see how my new charges would fare. It was either that or the second half of Aston Villa v West Brom, so there was more than a little method to the madness.
Maribor are the dominant force in Slovenian football having won the last two titles and Mura just make up the numbers. I was confident my bet would come in and rather than just watch the game for that reason, I assumed the mantle of a long-distance internet scout, hoping to unearth the ‘Slovenian Messi’ or some such equivalent.
After persevering throughout the entire 90 minutes, it’s safe to say that if indeed a Slovenian Messi does exist, he wasn’t playing in this game.
My appreciation for Slovenian football was not enhanced by Maribor’s valiant attempts to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory and scupper the £10k challenge when, for the final five minutes, they demonstrated the sort of defending last seen in an episode of Grange Hill.
The whole match was a surreal encounter, with quite a lot presumably lost on the uneducated observer. Maribor’s Ljudski Vrt Stadium was a tidy new-build thing, albeit with a capacity of only 13,000 and seemingly only a couple of hundred in attendance.
The Ljudski’s stands were made up of a mosaic of multi-coloured empty seats which proved only slightly less garish than the football on display. The hardcore Maribor support half-filled one end behind the goal and were unrepentant in their choreographed singing and flag waving, but in no way was this one of those eastern European hell holes where Danny Dyer would dare venture.
Down the other end, Mura’s hardy band literally numbered about a dozen and I genuinely felt a compassion and respect towards those loyal enough to make the 80-mile round trip.
I’ve always had an obsession with eastern European football which was initially borne from the mystique of unknown aces from behind the Iron Curtain humbling the continent’s elite.
I remember the brilliant Red Star Belgrade side of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and the gloriously talented, if somewhat tainted, Ceausescu-run Steaua Bucharest side before them.
However, Maribor were nothing of the sort and the entire backdrop resembled a community stadium attached to a leisure centre in the home counties.
The football didn’t rise much above that, either.
Maribor took a seventh-minute lead when Goran Cvijanovic’s shot from the edge of the box took a double deflection to trickle past the keeper and although that goal calmed my nerves in terms of my bet coming in, the rest of the match was a wholly underwhelming affair.
Maribor’s slick blue and yellow kit was about the most attractive thing on display – even if it did occasionally merge into the assortment of coloured seating – as I found myself becoming frustrated and then infuriated by the hosts’ inability to kill off limited opposition.
With the Slovenian Messi conspicuous by his absence, his team-mates continually over-hit crosses and through balls, shot when they should have passed, passed when they should have shot and generally floundered with a performance of wonderful ineptitude.
My appreciation for Slovenian football was also not enhanced by Maribor’s valiant attempts to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory and scupper the £10k challenge when, for the final five minutes, they demonstrated the sort of defending last seen in an episode of Grange Hill.
But thankfully, Mura matched Maribor’s profligacy in front of goal, allowing the champions to collect another three points and allowing me to collect another £11.90 to add to my £47.60 balance.
So the sum total of a brief dalliance with the cream of Slovenian football is that I’m eleven bets in and boasting a pot of £59.50 in pursuit of turning £10 into £10,000.
As regular readers will know, I often like to frequent the sublime and the ridiculous, and with Maribor firmly in the latter category, it’s time to turn my attentions once again to the Champions League action.
Tuesday night’s results went slightly against the grain with Juventus drawing and Bayern Munich getting beaten by BATE to knacker one of my accumulators and the other half of the draw is perhaps even less predictable in terms of perming results.
There are plenty of games in Groups A through D that I’d want nothing to do with and of the eight fixtures overall, I’d only say with some certainty that Arsenal to beat Olympiakos and Real Madrid to beat Ajax would even be worth considering as results-based bets for my £10k challenge.
I was tempted to lump my £59.50 on Madrid to win in Amsterdam after finding out they’ve beaten them four times in the last two years with an aggregate score of 12-0.
But of course, Jose Mourinho’s men play Barcelona at the weekend and conscious of them taking their eye of the ball with El Clasico in view, I’m going to leave that alone too.
However, I will have a punt on the number of goals in the game, much as I did when Real played Manchester City on matchday one.
I reckon Real have more than enough to beat Ajax, but placing bet 12 of the £10k challenge on over 1.5 goals in the game covers the unforeseen and will still take me up to £66.64 at odds of 3/25.
Bet 12: Over 1.5 goals in Ajax v Real Madrid @ 3/25
Current Balance: £59.50
Potential Balance: £66.64
If you want a pop at the £10k challenge or simply fancy a flutter on any of the other Champions League ties, you can pick up a free £20 betwith bwin by registeringhere.