Longest trips: What are the longest journeys in UEFA football history? How far can teams go?
From Reunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, St-Pierroise have caused a stir by reaching the national cup round of 32. Should they qualify for the UEFA Europa League as cup winners, they could redraw the map of the footballing continent.
On Saturday, St-Pierre take on Épinal in the French Cup – a ‘domestic’ encounter that will involve a round trip of over 18,000km. They may have even further to go if they make it to the UEFA Europa League next season, and become the most southerly club to play in Europe. UEFA.com maps the four corners of the continent.
Longest journeys in UEFA club football history
A European record was set in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League group stage when Benfica beat Astana 2-0 at home and drew 2-2 in the return leg in Kazakhstan – the away sides making the longest journeys in the history of UEFA’s club competitions, around 6,173km.
A similar trip followed when Astana met Sporting CP in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League round of 32. Sporting’s Estádio José Alvalade is a little to the east of the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, meaning Astana nominally had a few thousand metres less to travel as the crow flies than they did in 2015.
Longest UEFA club journey
The longest victory parade in European competition history took Kairat back to Kazakhstan after they had won the top prize in club futsal in Lisbon in April 2015, a 6,911km journey west not flustering Cacau’s side. Sporting CP made the return voyage when the 2017 final four event was held in Almaty, but lost 7-0 in the decider. However, they had a happier visit in April 2019, winning the tournament for the first time under its new name.
Longest European/South American Cup journey
Racing Avellaneda 2-1 Celtic
Between 1960 and 2004, the champions of Europe and South America competed for the UEFA-endorsed European/South American Cup – or Intercontinental Cup. The furthest any team had to travel was 11,304km, when Celtic flew south to take on Argentina’s Racing Avellaneda in the 1967 competition. Having won the home leg 1-0, they lost 2-1 in Buenos Aires.
Shortest journeys in UEFA club football history
In the early days of European football, smaller clubs were occasionally persuaded to play both their home and away games at their opponents’ stadiums, but no away assignment involved a shorter round trip than these two Milan derbies. The clubs always have the same dressing rooms at San Siro, ensuring an away trip of 0km for these ties. Ironically, the first of them was won on away goals.
Most northerly UEFA games
Norway’s Tromsø have played 27 UEFA home matches at their Alfheim Stadium.
The city of Tromso’s coordinates are 69° 40′ 58″ N, which is inside the Arctic Circle. The longest UEFA mission to Tromsø was undertaken by İnter Bakı from Azerbaijan, who had to travel 3,717km for a 2-0 UEFA Europa League second qualifying round loss in July 2013.
Most southerly UEFA games (excluding European/South American Cup)
Spain’s Las Palmas have played five UEFA home matches at their Estadio de Gran Canaria.
Las Palmas is in the Canary Islands, coordinates 28° 9′ 0″ N, which lie off the coast of Morocco and are further south than Cairo.
The longest UEFA journey to Gran Canaria was made by Sloboda Tuzla from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who travelled 3,548km for a 5-0 UEFA Cup first round defeat in September 1977.
Most easterly UEFA games
Russia’s Sibir Novosibirsk played two UEFA home matches at their Spartak Stadium Novosibirsk.
The coordinates are 82° 56′ 0″ E, rendering it about as far east as Nepal.
The longest of the two journeys to play Sibir was a 4,951km haul braved by PSV Eindhoven for a 1-0 UEFA Europa League play-off defeat in August 2010.
Most westerly UEFA games (excluding European/South American Cup)
Santa Clara played two UEFA home matches at the São Miguel Stadium in Ponta Delgada.
The main city in the Azores, Ponta Delgada’s coordinates are 25° 44′ 50″ W, meaning it lies about as far west as Cape Verde.
The longest journey to Ponta Delgada was tackled by Armenia’s Shirak, who travelled 5,824km west for a 2-0 UEFA Intertoto Cup first round reverse in June 2002.
Longest possible journeys
Confine the search to clubs who have participated in UEFA competitions and the longest possible would be a 8,046km trip for a game between Sibir Novosibirsk and Tenerife – another side from the Canaries who are even further west than Las Palmas, though not as far south – but even more arduous journeys could theoretically happen.
Luch-Energiya Vladivostok spent three seasons in the Russian top flight from 2006 to 2008; their Dynamo Stadium is 100m from the Sea of Japan. A theoretical game between Luch-Energiya and Tenerife would require an 11,460km trip each way.
Europe’s boundaries can be stretched even further though. Teams from overseas territories are entitled to play in the Portuguese and French domestic cups.
Santa Clara’s base in the Azores is a long way west, but the situation in France is even more startling, given that sides from Mayotte, Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guyana can all theoretically qualify for European competition as French Cup winners.
Should current French Guyanese champions Agouado ever have to play Luch-Energiya in a European match, it would entail a round trip of the best part of 30,000km – and it would be closer for them to fly west than east. The circumference of the planet, incidentally, is around 40,000km.