RR: Hey Jochen! Tell us a bit about yourself...
Hello, my name is Jochen Claus. I’m a 32-year-old husband and father, born and raised in Kuurne, Belgium. After marriage I moved to live in Moscow, Russia with my wife.
RR: How come Sunderland became your team, then? Your backstory is interesting given where you are from, and where you live currently!
It’s not like most, who find their love through family. When I was younger I didn’t pay much attention to football, and I didn’t have a favourite club. Since meeting my wife and traveling to Russia, I started following Aiden McGeady’s old club, Spartak Moscow. Because of the World Cup build I got more interested in football, and I started playing FIFA - and I was looking for an interesting team for a road to glory.
I did some searching online for some of the oldest clubs around, of a working-class fanbase, who had success and then fell down through the leagues. I found Sunderland ticked the boxes and got intrigued by the history and passion of the club, and started to follow them. They were in the Championship and facing back-to-back relegation.
Sunderland got under my skin, and through the lows and disappointments, I kept somehow sticking with them.
RR: Do you know any other Sunderland supporters that live nearby?
At the beginning of the 19-20 season, I got in contact with “Black Cats Russia” on Twitter, and then a British ex-pat in Moscow.
We would meet with other British ex-pats to watch the game, but Sunderland being Sunderland, at the time we found ourselves in trouble again, on and off the field. I lost interest in paying money to watch them play, and then covid happened to put a complete end to the plans of meeting. Maybe next season it will be possible to meet with them.
RR: What have the club done to make you, as an international supporter, feel connected to what is going on?
The first year of the Donald & Methven era, it seemed they really invested in getting the fans back on board, and invested in the international fanbase, which I understood is huge - with the International Fan’s Day, and the SAFSEE streaming service.
Hopefully, KLD will pick that up and improve Sunderland’s international experience again.
RR: What is it that you love the most about Sunderland?
The passion! Sunderland doesn’t give you many more options.
And, of course, because it’s a working-class club.
It’s a club for all but is of the average person, not only of the richer people.
RR: What would it mean to you for you to be able to see a Sunderland game in person?
I have only been to England once, and spent a couple of days in London while on a school trip. Otherwise, I’ve not seen much of England. I hope somewhere in the near future I can visit the stadium alone or with my wife and daughter. I would like to feel the energy in a full Stadium of Light - especially when it’s a derby day!
RR: What’s it like supporting Sunderland from so far away?
It’s not always easy to watch the games. Time difference and working different shifts every week make it more difficult. But, I still try to watch when I can, or otherwise follow through podcasts, YouTube, media and Twitter.
RR: Do you have any interesting Sunderland memorabilia?
In the four years of following Sunderland I have ordered the home shirt every year! I have some away shirts, the light blue third kit and the Checkatrade Trophy Final shirt. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the pizza trophy shirt, but hopefully, I will receive the Wembley ticket soon by mail.
RR: What is your one wish for the football club?
That KLD is the savior of the club. That together with his backroom staff and Lee Johnson we will win the league next year. Maybe, after a couple of years in the Championship, we’ll return back to the Premier League, stay there and then battle for European places.