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 By Chris Wright

Italian Football Manager fan makes epic trip to meet Derry City hero

It's no secret that Football Manager does strange things to the otherwise sound-minded people who play it, with fans losing countless days (and nights) in an insatiable lust for simulated footballing glory.

Alessandro Colombini, a 19-year-old lad from Livorno, Italy, is just the latest in a long line of victims to go off the deep end when it comes to Football Manager obsession. Many came before him and doubtless many will come after too.

Having fallen in love with the Northern Irish town of Derry, Alessandro chose to take over the town's football club on Football Manager.

What followed was three years of unprecedented success, with Alessandro leading his Candystripes side on a meteoric assent into Europe, spearheaded by the goals of star striker Patrick McEleney.

Indeed, so indebted to McEleney was he that Alessandro decided he simply had to meet the man in real life to thank him for his efforts. With that, he packed his bags and proceeded to make the 2,500 kilometre trip to Northern Ireland.

Alessandro made it to Derry in time to take in City's 0-0 draw against Limerick at Brandywell Stadium last month, then stationed himself outside the changing rooms after the final whistle, hoping for a brief meeting with McEleney.

"Paddy [McEleney] looked at me like I was an alien -- he must have thought I was mad," Alessandro said, recounting the moment to the Derry Journal. "I wanted to meet Patrick after the game because I wanted to tell him how good of a player he is for me in 'Football Manager'.

"I told him I was from Italy and that he was brilliant in the game. I don't think he knew how to react but he gave me his autograph and we had a good laugh about it."

He also managed to bag himself a souvenir: McEleney's autograph on a print-out of the Derry forward's Football Manager stat screen:

Well worth the 5,000-km round trip, no? As we said, Football Manager does strange, strange things to people.

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