The summer months stretch out barren before the football lover, starved of life-regimenting salvos of blockbuster match-days.
However, their humid expanse also offers a chance to wander the hedgerows and byways of the beautiful game free from the endless incitements of Murdochvision.
It’s with this in mind that news.bwin.com/en/ relish the early rounds of qualifying for the Champions League and Europa League, offering as they do the chance to acquaint ourselves with the stories less read.
Ahead of the second leg of the second qualifying round of the latter competition, here are some utterly random facts about the competitors to celebrate the off-season in all its diffuse wonder…
* Shakhter Karagandy’s maiden voyage into the Champions League saw them censured by UEFA for the ritual slaughtering a sheep before their home tie against Celtic.
* Manchester United hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started his career at Molde, returning to Norway in 2011 to lead them to consecutive Tippeligaen titles.
* Hapoel Be’er Sheva’s finest hour in continental football came when they drew Barcelona in the first round of the 1995/96 UEFA Cup – they were smashed 12-0 on aggregate by a side including Josep Guardiola, Luis Figo and Robert Prosinecki.
* The widely acknowledged worldwide home of winemaking is doubly represented, with Georgia’s Zestafoni and Chikhura Sachkhere both in action this evening
* Nomme Kalju and Sillamae Kalev represent Estonia, the lowest-ranked country with remaining representatives in the competition according to the UEFA coefficient – only the clubs of San Marino, Andorra and Gibraltar have faired worse over the last five seasons in Europe.
* Aberdeen’s second qualifying-round foes Groningen have a knack for unleashing a world-class talent, with Ronald Koeman, Arjen Robben and Luis Suarez donning the green and white early in their careers.Neither are they averse to fielding comically-named representatives, with Foeke Booy and Brian Pinas both Euroborg alumni.
* Hungary’s Győri ETO FC reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1964/65, where they were eliminated by a Benfica side including the great Eusebio.
* Northern Ireland’s Crusaders play their home games on a 4G artificial pitch – they’ll need it to flummox IF Brommapojkarna, who arrive with a 4-0 aggregate advantage.
* In September 2012 St Johnstone were responsible for the downing of an audacious wager by one Maurizio Mustapha.
The Celtic fan lost £9,000 he had ‘borrowed’ from his mother-in-law in the hope of winning enough money to purchase a motorcycle when the Saints ended a 14-match winless streak with a shock victory over Celtic.
“She obviously asked why I had not just taken the money and bought the scooter” he told the Daily Record.