TWO brothers travelled 10,000 miles from Australia to the Channel Islands to visit the football minnows they fell in love with playing a computer game.
Nicholas and Anthony Geurts became obsessed with managing a virtual version of Guernsey FC in the PC game Football Manager.
The “Green Lions” are in the seventh tier of English football, drawing average crowds to their real-world games of just 677.
But Nicholas and Anthony, from Cobram, Victoria, are not afraid of a challenge and picked the team to manage in their computer game.
Over 15 virtual seasons, the pair won promotion to the English premier league and finished high enough to compete in the Champion’s League, bringing the coveted trophy back to the Guernsey capital of St Peter Port.
And after that there was only one thing left to do – visit the real club. So the boys, during a trip to Europe, organised a special stop-off.
After the 10,615 mile (17,084 km) trip from down under to Guernsey, the virtual management team watched their side beat the Walton Casuals 4-1 at the Guernsey FC’s 740-seater Footes Lane stadium.
Nicholas admitted he was delighted to finally see the players who had done so well for him in the game, play a match in real-life.
“A few years ago I downloaded an editor pack on Football Manager, which allows you to manage teams down to the 10th level of English football,” he said.
“I went looking for a club that was a bit different from the rest and found Guernsey and being an island way off the coast, it was perfect.
“I started managing them and had a lot of success with promotions early on, with Ross Allen banging in 40 goals a season. I kept going until I won the Champions League, which took about 15 seasons.
“It’s still a lot of the same players that were on the game when I started, which is rare this far down the leagues. We really enjoyed the experience and it was great to see them win in an exciting match – we picked a great night to visit.
“We’ve been following the team’s progress in real life and will continue to follow them. We bought a Guernsey shirt and scarf as souvenirs.”
Guernsey’s star striker, Ross Allen, has drawn plaudits for his goal-scoring exploits, with some comparing him to former non-league player, Jamie Vardy.
The prolific striker has scored 224 goals in 203 games for the team but doesn’t receive any wage from the club.
Nic Legg, Director and Communications Manager at Guernsey FC, said: “The story is fantastic and makes all the hard work worthwhile!
“Being discovered via the iconic Football Manager game and having people from the other side of the world, with no prior connection to Guernsey, choosing to play as Guernsey FC shows how far the club has come.
“We really appreciated the effort made to visit our club and hope they enjoyed their time on the island. We look forward to welcoming many more people.”
Football Manager is a worldwide phenomenon, with stars such as Paolo Nutini and James Corden taking the reins of their favourite clubs whilst the world’s most expensive footballer, Paul Pogba, is known to be a fan of the franchise.
Guernsey currently sit 18th in the Ryman Isthmian division south table, some way from the riches of the Premier League.
The part-timers are the first and only club from the channel islands to compete in the non-league pyramid.