"I ended up leaving Scotland on the Monday after the wedding, flying to Vegas for a meeting for three days then flying back to Scotland on the Friday, going to the cup final on the Saturday and flying back to Minnesota on the Monday."

Sitting in his home in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Alistair Dobbie recalled the "wild ride" he undertook, racking up the air miles, to ensure he didn't miss Heart of Midlothian's demolition of Hibs in the 2012 Scottish Cup final. 

In 2006 work took him from Scotland to New York. What was originally meant to be seven months in the States has turned into more than 17 years, the vast majority of that time in Minnesota. He is one of many Jambos scattered around the globe relying on "HeartsTV or whatever stream I can find" to watch the team in action. 

Alistair, along with Callum Baptie, represents one category of Hearts fan abroad. Those who grew up in Scotland regularly attending games only for work to take them to different parts of the world.

Then there are others, like Fabio Marra and Andy Teruzzi of Lombardia Hearts, and Lois Guzukian, the man behind HMFC France Twitter account. All found something that resonated with them in the Tynecastle Park club.

They all shared their experience of following Hearts from a distance with Hearts Standard.

Why Hearts?

While Alistair and Callum grew up Hearts fans, that wasn't the case with Fabio, Andy and Lois. The former duo are two of 24 Italians who make up the 66-strong Lombardia Hearts. And it was Andy who founded the supporters group with Colin Cameron playing a key part.

"I was following Scottish football since 1978, especially the national team, but I hadn't chosen any club to support until I came to Tynecastle in 2001 and saw Hearts win 1-0 against Aberdeen with a wonderful goal scored by Colin Cameron.

"I knew already the rich history behind this famous football club and I had already a soft spot for the Jam Tarts when I watched them playing Bologna [in the UEFA Cup] in 1991.

"I started to follow, supported by a great Jambo and friend of mine, Ray French, and after a couple of years, I was curious to learn if there were other Italians who fell in love with Hearts like myself, so we formed the Lombardia Hearts SC in May 2003, holding the first official dinner a couple of months later and coming to Tynecastle with our brand new banner for a derby in November."

"We won 2-0, by the way," he was sure to add.

READ MORE: The making of Hearts' 150th anniversary kit: UEFA rules, release video, huge demand

Fabio would go on to become a member of the club after what started as "a true obsession for all things Scotland". After some "research," he found the "perfect match" in Hearts. 

Lois' route into a love of the men in maroon revolved around a Celtic-supporting friend of his brother and playing FIFA in his parents' home in France in the mid-2000s. The colours and crest of Hearts would stay with him and by 2010 he realised he was a "huge fan".

"For my friends and family, it's a bit strange because the knowledge in France of Scottish football is Celtic, Rangers and perhaps Aberdeen if you talk to older people or Hibernian because of Franck Sauzee," he explained.

"The first years it was a bit strange because why? Why this club? As I grew up people saw that it was not a phase, it was something that really grew on me and a club that I really appreciate. They understood and began to check out the club because they thought of me.

"For people my age you support the club where you live or perhaps PSG or Lyon or Marseille. If you want to support another team it is a top team in England or one of Spain’s top two. It’s not my vision of football and it is also a reason why I love Hearts so much, there are still bits of older football. It’s a huge family club, it’s not that much around money even though money is the central point of football now."

Lois still supports Lyon, the team that dominated French football in the 2000s, and lives 40km outside the city. But the passion for Hearts has grown stronger than his local side.

"I see all the negative stuff from modern football, the takeovers, the money," he said. "This is not what I want when I support a club. I want players on the pitch and showing the best they can. They win it’s great, they lose it happens, it’s football."

There are elements of what Lois said that Andy can relate to.

He said: "My family thinks I am radge! But I don’t care! My passion for Hearts is so strong that I really feel more at home when I am in Gorgie, than in Milan!

"I have taken a few of my friends into the club and they like it very much, although they are not active like Fabio and me. I would define most of them as 'sympathizers' instead of real supporters."

Fabio added: "To be honest, they’re all kinda intrigued when they find our social media pages, scroll through them and see the pictures of our gatherings, hear our stories about our trips to Edinburgh to watch Hearts, the passion that drives us all over there, the strength of the friendships we started because of all this… to the point that some even ask us to join our Supporters Club!"

The adjustment

The trio have all grown up supporting Hearts from a distance. But what about Alistair and Callum who were so used to going to games on a weekly basis to then watching via a 'dodgy' stream or on HeartsTV?

"It does feel strange," Callum, who moved to Dubai a year ago from Aberdeen where he has gone to university, admitted. "It’s almost like you are a second-hand supporter. I am not there, I can’t go to the game, I can’t make my voice heard physically anyway.

"My partner knows how much it means to me as well so it is definitely one of those things you have to weigh up. It was never going to stop us from coming but it was definitely one of those things that you miss. It’s the ability to go. It’s not just down the road from Aberdeen, a two-hour train journey. I can’t go. I can’t be there. The time zones are different which makes it very strange for me, especially with the weather outside.

"What was never in question was the fact I’d completely follow them."

While Callum is tuning in on Saturday evenings for 3pm kick-offs, Alistair confesses that if the team lose it can ruin the start of his weekend with an early rise to be able to watch.

"It’s murder in some ways and in other ways it is great," he said. "You don’t get sucked into the nonsense as such but Saturdays especially can be a bit of a nightmare because you want to go to the pub with your mates, you want to go to the game, you want to have fun.

"My wife says it is so noticeable what my mood is depending on the result. If you get up at 6am by 8 it is over, you’ve lost and your weekend is ruined for a little while because you are pissed off, you got up early for no apparent reason.

"Back, in the beginning, it was tougher, HeartsTV wasn’t quite as good, Hearts weren’t on the TV that much. When I lived in New York you had to go to a pub called Nevada Smiths which showed all the English games and the occasional Scottish games. You’d sometimes be piling up to a pub door at 8am to get into watch the football."

READ MORE: The beating heart of Gorgie: How Big Hearts is changing lives in the community

Game day

For many reading this, you will have your matchday ritual. It may be a pint (or three) with pals in a pub in Gorgie or Dalry. It might be a trip to the Gorgie Fish Bar. You may buy a programme from the same vendor each week or go through the same turnstile, ensuring not to shoulder any of the blame for a defeat.

When you are hundreds, thousands of miles away, it's different. It requires some sacrifice, some compromise, HeartsTV, Twitter and WhatsApp.

"In Italy many of the official members live quite far away from Milan so apart from our official trips to Edinburgh," Fabio explained. "When we manage to arrange a meeting to watch a game all together in Italy, usually it’s a derby or some cup game, it’s hard to be more than five people.

"In a certain way we do watch them all together though, a few years ago we decided to create an official WhatsApp group chat for the official members both Italian and Edinburgh-based so we comment on every game in real time on that."

Callum, who tunes in three hours ahead in Dubai, has a similar experience. Rather than turning around to speak to family and friends at a game he is doing so over WhatsApp, often being asked to clear incidents up via the pictures and commentary from HeartsTV.

In addition, he can still experience that community feel. With many Hearts fans living in Dubai there is the option to go to a bar in the Media City area where they congregate for games. 

"It’s the known thing in the household that that’s what will be watched, then you have to compromise in other ways," he said. "It does make it more difficult. It can be a bit intrusive especially if you have plans on a Saturday evening or people over.

"I've been out there and that’s brilliant. It means we can go out, have drinks, speak to a few fans and just watch the game. I’d like to go more but probably shouldn’t go all the time because it’s not great for the bank account. But it is great we have got that over here for so many Hearts fans and it makes you feel right at home."

READ MORE: Eviction to extinction threat: Why staying at Tynecastle Park was crucial to Hearts

In Minnesota the ritual for Alistair revolves around trying not to wake up the rest of the house, noting 6am is not an ideal time for a pre-match beer.

"In 2012 when we played Celtic in the [Scottish Cup] semi-final we had friends staying over so I sneaked down into the basement to watch that and woke the entire house up when [Craig] Beattie scored," he said.

The importance of HeartsTV is evident. The operation has grown with the addition of pre and post-match build-up and analysis. Whether it is Rob Borthwick and Gary Wales in the studio, or Laurie Dunsire and Jimmy Sandison in the commentary booth, the quartet are part of the community of supporters abroad, playing a key role in their matchday experience and the connection they feel with their club.

"As soon as I got over here I knew I had to get HeartsTV," Callum said. "I couldn’t miss Laurie Dunsire speaking on a Saturday.

"I feel up to date thanks to social media and everyone doing HeartsTV. I hope these people know how much of an impact they do have. It’s good to hear familiar voices each weekend and it is a new way of watching Hearts. From being there now my way of watching is Saturday night with a few beers, maybe a takeaway, listening to Laurie and enjoying as much as I can."

It is a different but as important and fulfilling an experience for Lois.

His HMFC France Twitter account is familiar to many Hearts fans who use the social media plaform. He will provide updates in French during games.

"With the Twitter account it is difficult because I need to be fast with the live tweeting and with my HeartsTV stream it is a bit behind so sometimes I am checking the other screen to type something and I see the alert or Hearts goal," he said. "I am happy but now I see it coming! 

"It’s my habit now and I like it."

More than that, it is an education.

"I’m French, it’s in my DNA, I’m bad at English. All French are bad at English so it is great for me to have Laurie every week. It’s like my two-hour lesson to understand English.

"I can understand well what he says and there are now only a few players where when they speak it is difficult for me. I like Laruie’s voice and when he is with Jimmy Sandison or Robert [Borthwick]."

READ MORE: Tynecastle Park Hotel: Hearts income boost, Romanov, Donald Ford, Taylor Swift

The connection

Perhaps the most interesting aspect about a Hearts fan abroad, certainly from the outside looking in is the connection with the club. How is it maintained? Does it grow?

For Callum it does because of the distance. That separation "makes the heart grow fonder".

"I guess it makes you fall in love even more with the club, it makes you want to do more," he said. "When I came over I knew I couldn’t go to the games so maybe increase my contribution into the Foundation of Hearts. Do everything I can but more."

He added: "It’s not one I want to get too comfortable with. It's a distant feeling."

Alistair, who has got his US-born sons into the club, has had 17 years of experience of supporting the club from thousands of miles away. Until the win over Livingston recently, he hadn't seen a Hearts game at Tynecastle Park since before Covid.

While he speaks to pals on WhatsApp and hoovers up anything he can find on the club there appears to be a longing to sit with those same pals in the pub to chat all things Hearts. It leads to decisions like going to Istanbul to see the team in Europe even if it means travelling for longer than actually being in the city.

"Stuff like FOH makes you feel more connected because you are a part owner and when all the bad stuff happened in 2013 that’s when you really felt a connection because I was chucking money into Hearts," he said. "We bought a season ticket that year because the club needed the money. We were never going to use it but it was just to help out. You feel that connection but you feel disconnected because you are not at Tynecastle. You are not seeing the players, you are not feeling what is going on. 

"That’s why I went to Istanbul, I’ve had to go to a European game. A couple of the guys were going so I decided I was going. That’s what has made it different, you are doing it because you have to."

Those same decisions provoke bemusement among friends and colleagues in the States.

"A lot of them understand it because I have bored them stupid with tales of 16th of May 1998," he said. "Things like the 2012 cup final or Istanbul they are like, ‘Are you serious?!’

"One of my mates Chris now follows us via Twitter. He texts me now and again, ‘Is this a good thing, is this a bad thing?’ Everyone at work knows. My boss said, ‘You want three days off to do what?’ I’m going to Istanbul. I’ll be there for about 36 hours and travelling 48."

For Lois, Fabio and Andy that distance has always been there.

Since "social media has taken over our lives" as Fabio put it, it has made it far easier. Previously the Italian-based members of Lombardia Hearts relied on the club's website to keep updated. Not only are they much more aware of what is going on but they can keep everyone up to date with their own activities.

When it comes to travelling to Edinburgh, or more specifically Gorgie, it is extra special. The club and the fans making it so. When Lombardia Hearts celebrated its 20th anniversary Gary Locke was present in Milan for the celebrations.

Andy said: "Cannae live without Hearts! I mean, Tynecastle’s roar, the Jambos who practically adopted me and made me feel like part of the maroon family, the atmosphere in The Diggers, the way people at the club, especially Gary Locke, treat us so kindly and gently and helping us for everything we ask, meeting the players at Oriam every year to deliver our Stefano Salvatori Player of the Season Award all this is so special!

"We cannae find a football club in Italy who could give us all this! They are richer, bigger, stronger, but they lost their football soul."

Fabio would add: "A club driven by the love for the beautiful game and managed by people who care about the sense of family and unity... The same values I also found in the people who support this club and since the very start of this adventure made me feel so welcome even after having seen me just once.

"If you love football as a game, you do that in the most genuine way and that’s why we love Hearts, that’s what makes us travel each year, what makes us keep supporting our team even through the bad times. In the most romantic possible way, supporting Hearts is a love affair for us!"

Lois has found a similar welcome. Not only has he been sorted with tickets by a fan through Twitter - for one of the all-time memorable games this century - but he also found the club willing to help with his passport so he could attend the Scottish Cup final against Rangers in 2022.

"In a perfect world, I’d love to be at every Tynie game," he admitted. "I’ve only been to a couple of games at Tynie and it was incredible, a perfect moment especially because I saw two victories. The 4-0 against Celtic. Second game at Tynie, second game watching Hearts in real life and it was 4-0.

"I got tickets for those games because a fan on Twitter said he loved what I created, ‘I will give you those tickets because I will be happy for you to see the games’. It’s those moments when I realise I created something cool. I’m just a fan but I try to be as passionate as I am in real life. 

"The club helped me to get my passport. I asked them a favour to create something to tell the authorities and they did it immediately. It feels great that the club helped me.

"It is the little thing that makes me think this is something special. It was great, even though we lost that game the club helped me see it in real life and it was awesome."

Always Hearts

The article started with Alistair sharing his passion for Hearts, the lengths to which football fans will go to see their team in action. It is therefore only fitting that it finishes with Alistair summing up what it is like as a Hearts fan living abroad, thousands of miles away from his team.

"You do what you need to do is the best way of putting it."