Tonight my team will be travelling to Cameroon to play a friendly game. Whilst Cameroon is a reasonably rare flag this would normally not be anything to write home about (or indeed write a blog post about).
However the game tonight will mark the 128th different country my team has travelled to to play a game in, thereby completing my away flag collection. Naturally, I’m pretty happy about this.
A long time ago I looked at the idea of flag collecting as pretty stupid. After all, even if you went out of the cup at the first round every season and managed to secure a game in a different country every week without fail, it would still take over 8 and a half seasons to complete a flag collection. When the HT’s introduced a home collection too that time doubled and made me wonder why anyone would bother even more.
But when you get that first really rare flag you see where people are coming from and before long it starts to eat away at you. Every week you try to get a new flag to add another notch to your collection. You don’t care how long it will take – you just think about where your next flag will be, living from one flag to the next. It becomes addictive.
For me the first really rare flag I got was Syria. Before that I hadn’t bothered with the whole idea much and didn’t care where my friendlies were, although I still had around 20 common flags I think. But after being Syrian U20 coach I was lucky enough to get a game against a local and at that point I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I’d played everywhere.
Around 7 seasons later I would find myself playing a game in a 128th country to complete my collection and being well and truly in with the flag chasing crowd. Even 4 new countries added recently couldn’t stop me, Cameroon being one of those.
There are downsides though. When you concentrate on chasing flags you lose the ability to play against your friends, or in friendly cups. The GMC cup has been running for 7 seasons now and I only played in the first – ironically enough forfeiting one of my group games, leading me to go out, so I could play the game in Syria. I also haven’t played a friendly with any friends on the game (real life friends as well as friends made in Hattrick) for so long now I can’t remember. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss that. Whilst collecting flags is fun, it’s just another facet of Hattrick that I enjoy and others have tended to lose out because of it.
So what does the future hold now that my away collection is all done? Start on the home collection? Probably not. I only have 19 home flags at the moment and to be honest I’m happy to take a break from chasing flags for a while. Sure if I have nobody to play in a certain week I’ll go for a flag I don’t have, but I certainly won’t be making sure to get a different flag every week at the expense of everything else. I want to play friendlies against friends, participate in the GMC cup and end of season challenges, and let any and all teams come to The Scorpion Arena to sample the fine stadium that it is. It’s been underused for friendlies for 7 seasons now – it’s time to rectify that.
I’ll also be using my flag chasing contacts to continue to provide games to win in The Hattrick Lottery, a federation I run. I know how hard it is to get some of the more rare flags in HT and I’m more than happy to help people do that for free. Who knows, maybe the flag I give them will be the first rare one that starts their whole flag collecting journey.
However in The Hattrick Lottery I have actually set up a flag collection of its own. I’m aiming to give away at least one flag from every country in the HT-world. I’ll effectively be flag chasing for the federation rather than myself. When you’re into flag chasing it’s hard to get out of it, and I guess in that respect nothing has really changed at all…