2014-2015 DFB-Pokal Final: Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund

The most famous domestic cup in the world has to be England’s FA Cup, a cup where every club in every tier is eligible to potentially win the thing, where a team of amateurs has the chance to unseat a team of paid professionals. Germany has their own version of such, the DFB-Pokal, translated to the German Football Federation Cup. Not exactly as known worldwide or as open as it’s English counterpart, the DFB-Pokal still gives plenty of chance for upsets, Cinderella stories, and intriguing storylines. Rules of participation are as follows (via Wikipedia):

“The DFB-Pokal begins with a round of 64 teams. The 36 teams of the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, along with the top four finishers of the 3. Liga are automatically qualified for the tournament. Of the remaining slots 21 are given to the cup winners of the regional football associations, the Verbandspokale. The three remaining slots are given to the three regional associations with the most men’s teams. They may assign the slot as they see fit but usually give it to the runner up in the association cup. As every team is entitled to participate in local tournaments which qualify for the association cups every team can in principle compete in the DFB-Pokal. Reserve teams like Borussia Dortmund II are not permitted to enter.”

Many in England have said that “the magic of the cup” is dead. During my two experiences with the DFB-Pokal, (I went to a second round fixture this past year, which I wrote about here) I have found that there is a great deal of mystique, magic, and interest, still surrounding the DFB-Pokal (I also went to a first round fixture back in August of 2013, back when I was first getting into groundhopping). The nice thing about the cup is it has the potential to present match-ups you would otherwise never see. One that springs to mind for me this past year was Bayer Leverkusen- 1. FC Magdeburg. Magdeburg from the Regionalliga (4th tier) nearly upset Bayer Leverkusen at home. The two are seperated by 3 tiers, 100’s of kilometers, and a few decades of vastly different history. Another was Dynamo Dresden and Borussia Dortmund. Two of the most feared home field advantages and passionate sets of supporters in the country squaring off. One of the most successful teams in the Germany in BVB, against one of the East’s most storied clubs who has recently fallen on hard times and is the the 3. Liga, Dynamo Dresden.

I play with a Kreisliga club, which is the 8th tier of German football. The Pokal is not impossible to reach for a club like mine, but it is damn near close. In order for my club to qualify we would need to: 1) win the Kreis-Pokal (regional cup). 2) win the Landes-Pokal (state cup).

The Match:

The question I have been asked most is how I managed to obtain a ticket to the final? Well, many Bayern fans purchased tickets to the final thinking their team would be in it (rightfully so). So, when Bayern lost in the semis to BVB on PK’s many Bayern fans sought to get rid of their tickets. A friend of mine (BVB fan) had decided to buy tickets with his Bayern mates hoping for a Bayern-BVB final. So, when Bayern lost, he reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in buying one of his Bayern mate’s ticket. I said absolutely.

The day of the match I took the train from Dessau, where I am living for the summer, to Berlin. The final was at 8:00 PM. I got on the train at about 12:30. When I arrived at the platform I was greeted by about 30 black and yellow clad BVB supporters. I was planning on sleeping during the ride, anticipating an afternoon and night full of beer and celebration. After about 15 minutes into the ride it was evident that this would not be the case.

Berlin Bound

Berlin Bound

The Dortmund supporters occupied my car and brought the party with them. A wide variety of chants and songs were broken out and the beer flowed freely. Turns out they were the Dortmund supporters group of Leipzig. I eventually was handed a beer and told to sing. Some of the chants I knew, some I didn’t. (Many clubs in Germany share chants with the same cadence or rhythm, just with slightly different lyrics).  I asked one of the guys how many times a year they make it to Dortmund matches, he said about 4 or 5 . I then asked if they were Chemie or Lok fans, the guy said he was for Lok, but the group was quite split. I didn’t ask about Red Bull for obvious reasons (one of the first things the group did upon boarding the train was plaster the car with anti-RB and anti-Schalke 04 stickers). The group wasn’t going to the match, rather just going for the party and to attend the public viewing in the city.

Eventually when we got to Berlin, the group of Dortmunders got off at the station “Zoologischer Garten” which was where the Dortmund fan fest was. I got off at the Hauptbahnhof. At the Hauptbahnof was the Wolfsburg fan fest. A little underwhelming for a cup final. However, it was early in the day.

The Wolfsburg "Fan Fest"

The Wolfsburg “Fan Fest”

I then caught the U-bahn and went to check into my hostel and meet my friends. We spent the afternoon walking around various parts of the city, beers in hand. It was a beautiful day and Berlin had temporarily turned black and yellow. The entire city was buzzing in anticipation of the cup final.

Late afternoon we set out toward the Dortmund fan fest. We arrived a bit late and the Dortmund supporters were already heading toward the S-bahn in droves. We grabbed a currywurst (A Berlin specialty) and then hopped on the S-Bahn ourselves. The Olympiastadion lies in the far west of Berlin. You simply can’t walk there from the center of the city, public transit is a must. On the train we encountered a Hertha fan, a local Berliner, who was either drunk, delusional, or both, who kept trying to explain Hertha was a better side than both playing in the final that night. Needless to say we, and those around us, had a good laugh at that.

Pre-match fuel

Pre-match fuel

We finally arrived at the stadium station. We were greeted by even more black and yellow. Green was a rare sight. The Olympiastadion is outside the city enough where there are swathes of space around the stadium for beer tents, bratwurst stands, and so on. We loitered outside the stadium for a while soaking up the scene before heading in.

This was my second time at the Olympiastadion. I had already seen Hertha play there two years before while in the 2.Bundesliga against Engergie Cottbus. The Olympiastadion is, with the Rose Bowl, the most immaculate sporting venue I have ever witnessed. It is a beautiful structure with immense historical significance. The stadium hosted the 1936 Olympics. The very Olympics where Hitler was defied by Jesse Owens’ four gold medal performance. Owens now has a street named for him near the stadium as well as a secondary school. The stadium also hosted the 2006 World Cup final, and is scheduled to host the 2015 Champions League final.

If you are ever in Berlin, it is worth a visit, I would however recommend to do a tour on a non-match day. When Hertha plays there, it rarely sells out, and the track around the field makes the viewing experience less than ideal. The stadium also does not sell alcoholic beer for Hertha matches, if I recall correctly. What is worth a visit though, is the club across the city in Köpenick, Union Berlin.

Entering the stadium took a while as there were a series of checkpoints to pass through and the Germans aren’t exactly the best at queuing.  We took our seats in the upper ring, in the Dortmund section. Our vantage point was actually quite good, even if my photos don’t necessarily reflect it. We had a very clear view of all three Wolfsburg goals on our end.

IMG_3298

The Dortmund end (the majority of the stadium, really) exploded when Aubameyang put BVB up 1-0 inside the first 10 minutes. The excitement was short-lived though, as Wolfsburg scored three unanswered goals in the first-half. Sadly, there would be no scoring in the second-half. In my opinion, Wolfsburg had the better squad and played a far better match and completely deserved the win. I was, however, cheering for a BVB victory and was disappointed they were not able to pull it out, especially given it was Klopp’s last match in charge.

The Dortmund support was on point the whole match. The ultras, who were below us to our left, put on a pyro show at the beginning of the match and after halftime. The stadium, according to the looks of it was 70% Dortmund, 30% Wolfsburg. Wolfsburg has a reputation in Germany as having weak support. They may not have the numbers of other clubs on their success level, but I found their fans passionate and enthusiastic. For example, they put together a few very nice tifos. The demographic of the two fan bases was also interesting to note. The Dortmund fan base was largely comprised of 18-35 year olds. Whereas the Wolfsburg fans seemed to be more families and older men. Of course there are exceptions both ways, just something that stood out to me and I took note of.

BVB ultras, not only the some of the best in Germany, but all of Europe

BVB ultras, not only the some of the best in Germany, but all of Europe

After the match, the stadium remained full. Dortmund fans stayed to give their legendary manager Jürgen Klopp one final sending off. It was an emotional moment that I’m glad I got to experience, as he walked over the the Dortmund end, and said one final good-bye to the supporters. There were reports after the match he was crying while he did so, and I wouldn’t doubt it. He will forever be remembered in Dortmund as a larger than life icon who brought Dortmund back to the forefront of German football.

The Wolfsburg fans, of course, stayed for the cup presentation.

I have had many memorable experience while groundhopping. This particular experience ranks near the top. The importance of the match, standing with the passionate Dortmund supporters, watching players like Marco Reus, Mats Hummels, Kevin de Bruyne, and Andre Schürrle live as well as seeing the legendary Jürgen Klopp’s last match for BVB made it a night I won’t soon forget.

 

BVB players thanking the fans for their amazing support. A very common thing in Germany post-match.

BVB players thanking the fans for their amazing support. A very common thing in Germany post-match.

Pre-match

Pre-match

The trophy presentation

The trophy presentation

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VfB Stuttgart vs. Schalke 04

I finally made it to my first Bundesliga match this past weekend. After having seen nearly every other competition in German football (Oberliga, Regionalliga, 3. Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga, and the DFB-Pokal), it was about time to see the big show.

I did not go to Stuttgart for the lone sake of seeing VfB Stuttart vs. Schalke 04. Rather, I was visiting my friend, Jacob, who if you follow my blog you may remember. It was also not my first time seeing Stuttgart play.

When Saturday afternoon came around, I attended the match solo. Sadly, Jacob had other matters to attend to that afternoon.

The match was scheduled to start at 3:30, and not knowing the city a single bit, I decided to err on the side of caution and set out for the stadium a bit before 1:00. While waiting for the S-bahn I saw many red and yellow clad supporters of VfB Stuttgart and decided it best to follow them.

They exited the train a stop before I had anticipated. Since I was early, I decided to follow them, since they obviously knew what they were doing, and I was just kind of winging it. Normally, I do at least a little bit of research before a groundhop on the club history, stadium, etc., but this time was an exception.

Initially, I figured they were headed to a pub. Instead when we exited the S-Bahn Station there were a large number of supporters already gathered in the street. The mass began to walk, procession style, down the road. Police had blocked off traffic.

Apparently I had stumbled upon the Stuttgart ultras march to the stadium. The total number of supporters was probably about 100, with another 20-30 like myself, sort of walking alongside or behind the main group.

The Stuttgart ultras call themselves “CC 97” or Commando Canstatt 97. Bad Canstatt is a district of Stuttgart.

It just so happened that this ultra group was also celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

A banner on the way to the stadium celebrating 10 years for the Stuttgart Ultras.

A banner on the way to the stadium celebrating 10 years for the Stuttgart Ultras.

When the group arrived at the stadium, it was largely deserted. The march seemed only a little over a kilometer. Looking at the time it was barely 1:30, giving me two hours to kill before kick-off.

Luckily, I found something to pass the time. Adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Arena (Name of Stuttgart’s Stadium) sits their youth academy. Two matches were taking place on parallel fields. The Stuttgart 15 year old’s were playing Hoffenheim, while next to them the 17’s were taking on Saarbrücken.

Stuttgart u17's taking on Saarbrücken u17's.

Stuttgart u17’s taking on Saarbrücken u17’s.

Watching these two matches ended up being one of the highlights of the day out for me. I could not believe how talented some of the Stuttgart youngsters were. This is coming from someone who watches most of the Ajax youth squads weekly highlights, thanks to the Ajax TV Youtube channel.

VfB Stuttgart is renowned in Germany for their youth academy. German international Sami Khedira is a Stuttgart product. The latest star to come out of the Stuttgart academy is Timo Werner, the 18 year old who already has 40 appearances for Stuttgart to his name.

As someone who has always been interested in coaching soccer and tactics, watching the youth teams was interesting for me. One of the things I found most fascinating was the tactical knowledge that these youngsters already had for the game. It was quite remarkable really.

The other thing that stood out was how good these kids were in the air. Every single ball in the air was contested. In the United States, kids who play soccer get a reputation as being afraid of contact. Perhaps rightfully so, perhaps not. However, these German kids were going up for every ball with such an intensity. None of them seemed afraid of the contact, rather they seemed to embrace it.

Playing Sunday League in Germany I get a sense of this as well. Using your head is a point of emphasis here. It is something that is taught, and worked on extensively. This is different then say in the Netherlands, where short, quick, concise passes is the preferred style and thus stressed more by coaches.

Anyway, back to the match.

After watching the youth teams battle it out (the 15’s lost to Hoffenheim while the 17’s crushed Saarbrücken), I made my way into the ground.

My seat (Which I paid 38 Euros for in total and bought off the Stuttgart website. Absurd, I know, especially given the result, but it did include public transit for the entire day, so that was at least a little bit of a silver-lining.) was in the Canstatter Kurve. I was situated above the standing terraces, but still lower tier.

The overhang of the upper-tier came down quite low. It didn’t have any effect on my ability to see the pitch, but it definitely wasn’t ideal. As kick-off approached the Stuttgart supporters began to present a tifo. Unfortunately, for them they had some problems raising it and I don’t think it ever got fully displayed; a sign of things to come.

 

The Stuttgart ultras trying to raise their tifo.

The Stuttgart ultras trying to raise their tifo.

My view during the first 45.

The match could not have gone worse for Stuttgart, they went down 0-1 in the first minute. They would go on to lose 0-4.

By half-time the Stuttgart supporters had pretty much stopped singing and all that could be heard was the party that was going on among the Schalke fans in the guest block.

The stadium wasn’t anywhere near capacity, which is 60,000 according to Wikipedia. The announced attendance was 44,000, which I estimate was more toward 40,000.

The low attendance came with advantages, I was pretty much free to roam around the stadium and have my choice of spot in the second-half. I settled on a spot in the upper reaches of the upper tier. The vantage point was great, and I was able to stand, which I much prefer to sitting.

View from the upper tier

View from the upper tier

As far as my thoughts on the match go, I was gutted not to see Huntelaar score. He is one of the players I grew up watching for my club, Ajax. Also, defender and Japanese international Asuto Uchida was an absolute beast for Schalke. I had never really rated him that highly, but I was really impressed by his play.

The Schalke fans lit some pyro in the second half, which is always fun. Didn’t really evoke too much of a reaction from the Stuttgart supporters, seeing as they had already checked out.

Pyro from the guest-block

Pyro from the guest-block

Overall, it was a bummer that my first Bundesliga match was such a one-sided affair so devoid of atmosphere. Credit to the Schalke fans, without them I may well have fallen asleep in the second half. I also blame myself a bit, my expectations were too high. Stuttgart is now is in dead last in the Bundesliga, nowhere near the team they once were (they were league champions in 2007, pre-Bayern and Dortmund domination). So I don’t want to be too critical of them, I went to see them on what very well could have been their lowest point in decades.

Haupttribüne

Haupttribüne

Pre-match outside the stadium

Pre-match outside the stadium

Schalke 04 block

Schalke 04 block

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Lokomotive Leipzig vs. Carl Zeiss Jena II

This past weekend I continued my quest to visit every ‘major’ club of the former DDR-Oberliga by visiting Bruno-Plache Stadion, home of Lokomotive Leizpzig.

Today, Lokomotive Leipzig plays in the Oberliga Nordost-Süd, which is in the 5th tier of German football. Few clubs in Germany have been hurt by the rise of “modern football” as much as Lokomotive Leizpzig has.

The club won the German championship in 1903, 1906, and 1913 as VfB Leipzig. During the DDR years, the club was given the name Lokomotive Leipzig.

During the years of the DDR-Oberliga, Lokomotive Leipzig was one of the more successful clubs in East Germany. They played in European competition throughout the 70’s and 80’s. In 1987 they lost in the final of the European Cup Winner’s Cup to my club, Ajax Amsterdam, thanks to a Marco van Basten goal.

They won the East German Cup 5 times, but never won the league, finishing runner-up three times. They never found the success of the two Dynamo clubs, BFC Dynamo and Dynamo Dresden. Leipzig was a company, or industry club, built around the railways, as the name indicates. Contrarily, Dynamo teams, such as BFC and Dresden, were the clubs of the Stasi….you can read more about the dynamics of the DDR-Oberliga here.

Today, Lokomotive Leipzig’s problems no longer stem from Stasi corruption, rather a new foe has arisen. RB Leipzig, a club owned by the energy drink company Red Bull, is on track to play in the Bundesliga next year. RB Leipzig has dominated the Leipzig football scene in the past few seasons, climbing the ranks of German football, their attendance numbers growing each year.

Lokomotive is still fairing better than their hated rivals. BSG Chemie Leipzig, the other traditional club in Leipzig, went bankrupt and they are now trying to make it back as a phoenix club. BSG Chemie Leipzig, like many East German clubs, has a long, complex history.

Their are a couple reasons why RB Leipzig is popular and Lokomotive Leipzig is struggling to fill the terraces of Bruno-Plache Stadion.

For one, as is common for many East German clubs, some sectors of the Lokomotive Leipzig, or “Lok”, support have right-wing ties. For many, this is a big turn-off. Politics is part of what drives Lok’s rivalry with BSG Chemie Leipzig (named after the chemical industry during DDR times), as many Chemie supporters are on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Lok and Chemie need one another. At it’s peak the derby was one of the fiercest rivalries in all of Germany. The two clubs have dedicated fan bases, who despite some problems with hooliganism, still display many positive aspects of football supporter culture.

Success obviously plays a role as well. Red Bull has money, a new stadium, and Bundesliga football. Meanwhile, Lok is in the 5th tier of German football.

Fans see Red Bull as an apolitical, family-friendly alternative to old-Eastern clubs like Lok and Chemie. It is a chance for those people to sit in a seat in the newly renovated Zentralstadion (now called Red Bull Arena) and watch top-level football free from political strife and  hooliganism. Fans of clubs across the country have expressed their displeasure with the RB Leipzig situation. RB Leipzig, as the Union Berlin fans eloquently pointed out with their protest and tifo during their match against Red Bull, marks the death of supporter culture.

Many in the former DDR proclaim how great it will be for the region when an East Germany team FINALLY is in the Bundesliga again.

I am not from East Germany and I am not a Leipziger, but personally, this is not the way I’d want to be represented in the Bundesliga, by a marketing ploy disguised as a football club. A soulless club owned by a soulless company.

I love to see an East German club to return to the Bundesliga, but RB Leipzig is not a true East German club.

How any fan can have an emotional attachment to a club like Red Bull Leipzig is beyond me. But I digress, this post is about Lok Leipzig, not RB Leipzig.

The Match:

Bruno-Plache Stadion lies in the south of the city. The stadium is in a residential area, not far from the The Monument to the Battle of the Nations. The Stadium itself is quite run-down, but I like that about it. It’s got personality. The stadium has been around since 1922.

"das Bruno"

“das Bruno”

Throwback scoreboard

Throwback scoreboard

I bought my ticket for 7 Euro, for the “Fankurve”. The ground has a dirt track around the pitch, so the curves are quite far from the action. That coupled with the fact that the Fankurve was home to some of the most sorry “Ultras” I had ever experienced, made me inclined to move to the long-side of the ground at half. The “Ultras” consisted of about 25-30 teens. To there credit, they were giving it their all and supporting their club. They had a drum and some cool hand-made flags, but that’s about all they had going for them.

Ultras 1966 Fan Kurve

The stadium is unique in that on the main side, under the main stand, is a terrace. The terrace has a very gradual slope, but still offers a nice vantage point. That is where I moved at the half-time break.

The second-half was much better. My view was better, as well as the football. I also found that most of the hardcore supporters of Lok stand on the long-side, on the terrace below the main stand rather than the Fankurve, at least not for a match like the one I was at, against Carl Zeiss Jena II. Looking around me, I could see why Lok has the reputation they do. I had made a point to not wear any green (the color of hated BSG Chemie Leipzig) that day, a wise decision on my part looking back.

An empty Bruno-Plache Stadion post-match. A proper ground.

The match itself was entertaining. Lok won 2-1. It should have ended 3-1, but Lok missed a PK.

The thing I love about watching lower-league German football is the directness of play, often times through the air, and the physicality. The chances are plentiful and the tackles are crunching. For me, it is a nice contrast to watching the Eredivisie, where technique reigns supreme.

Lok has fallen a long way since their heyday. Yet, they still have a dedicated core following. It was refreshing to see. One day, I hope to make it to a Lok-Chemie derby.

Floodlights

Floodlights

Mural outside the ground

Mural outside the ground

A nice flag from Ultras 1966

A nice flag from Ultras 1966

2nd half view

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DFB-Pokal 2nd round: Dynamo Dresden vs. VfL Bochum

Nearly a year and a half ago I was sitting on a bus full of Ajax supporters following a 3-0 Ajax victory over Dynamo Dresden in a summer friendly. The bus belonged to the city of Dresden. After standing in the holding area for over an hour, we were being transported to an unknown location somewhere in the city. Police in full riot gear had cleared a path through the city.

Needless to say at that moment I never expected to return to a Dynamo Dresden match.

Fast forward 15 months. I found myself on the very same guest block terrace I had stood on during the Ajax friendly.

The Match:

The DFB-Pokal is the German equivalent to the NCAA basketball tournament in American sports in the sense that it is a competition that on any given night, anything can happen. In Dresden’s first round match-up, they defeated Schalke 04, one of the traditional German powerhouse clubs. Dynamo Dresden plays in the Bundesliga 3 this year. It was a huge upset. Their second round opponents, VfL Bochum had also pulled off an upset of their own in the first round, although not quite as big. They defeated Bundesliga side VFB Stuttgart in their first round match. VfL Bochum plays in the Bundesliga 2.

I would equate the match-up Dynamo Dresden – VfL Bochum to a 12 seed vs 13 seed match-up that you sometimes find in the NCAA tournament second round, after they have each completed an upset of a higher seeded team in the first round.

Going in, I knew the product on the field wasn’t going to be great. What I did know, was that the atmosphere would be unparalleled.

I decided to give it a go and buy a ticket…..for the guest block.

I know it is unfair to paint a whole fan base based on the actions of a few, but with Dynamo Dresden, it is not just a few. The club has been plagued by instances of hooliganism and racism for years now.

Plus, there have been reports of certain Dresden fans not exactly welcoming Americans and Brits. Some in Dresden have still not forgiven the bombings carried out during the end of WWII which resulted in some 23,000 casualties.

When my ticket(s) came in the mail, I was surprised to see I had mistakenly purchased two. It turned out to be a good mistake to make. I ended up asking my good friend Jacob if he wanted to attend his first ever soccer match.

Jacob and I come from the same hometown, attended the same university, and are both living in Germany for the time being.

Jacob plays water polo for German club SV Ludwigsburg 08, near the city of Stuttgart.

I asked Jacob, who is in many senses a very typical American sports fan, some questions about our experience.

The match ended in a 2-1 victory for Dynamo Dresden. The match was 1-1 after 90 minutes, so we got to see extra time, which was amazing. The atmosphere, which was already electric, bumped up a few notches in those last 30 minutes.

Questions for Jacob:

A: I gave you an idea of what to expect going in, what was different from what you expected? What was the same?

J: I think a key difference was that I expected the stadium to be bigger? It was fairly large, but it felt small standing inside (physically). Could have been because Spartan Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium are so big, but the atmosphere made it seems ten times bigger than either place. I expected the police to be out in full force. I wasn’t surprised when they were guarding the area surrounding the Bochum buses and fans. As you said, the guys we spoke with were very friendly once you told them you were a groundhopper. Made me feel a lot more comfortable during the match that we weren’t being targeted because we had ZERO team apparel on. From everything I had seen on television too, this seemed like much more of an intense atmosphere than a normal game. The fans seemed electric the entire time; there was virtually no pause at all for cheering. Someone took up the rallying cry at different points throughout the night, made being a fan FUN.

A: Dynamo Dresden, as I warned you about before the game has a reputation in Germany for their fan scene, did you feel unsafe at any time?

J: No, there were a couple of times I was a bit leery, but all in all after seeing all the police that were there I was quite confident we’d be okay. I think had we been wearing any kind of Bochum apparel it may have been a different story.

A: Good, no one should ever go to a football match and feel unsafe. Although I suspect Dynamo Dresden fans were on their best behavior because of their past transgressions. I suspect the DFB has began to lose patience with them, just last week some of their fans kicked off with Duisburg supporters INSIDE the stadium. Anyway, what were some of the fundamental differences between the match and an American sporting event?

J: Well for starters, no commercial/TV timeout breaks. One of my biggest pet peeves with American Football and Basketball are the unnecessary timeouts taken. It takes away from the game, as in it makes the game take longer than it needs to. The athletes are the best in their sport, let’s see them play.

Home advantage I think is bigger than ever in this sport. Granted I’ve got a small sample size to work with, but at home a team that looked significantly worse beat, in my opinion, a much better looking team. They looked intimidated from the get-go (Bochum that is). Something you and I discussed heavily too was the amount of pressure the fans put on their own players to perform, which I think had a lot to do with Dresden’s win as well.

The standing only opposing fan section is pretty neat. I think that helps with the above point about home court/field advantage (putting all your opposing fans in one place). Not only this, but the very openness they have with smoking and drinking at a sporting event I think makes it more enjoyable to all groups of people. We stood next to some older fans who were there to cheer, but weren’t getting drunk like some of the younger fans, and they seemed OK with it.

It seemed to me that we were the odd men out, in that we were neither a Dresden fan or a Bochum fan. I’ve been to many a game (NFL, College Football, College Basketball, NBA) where there are people not wearing team colors in some regard. The Dresden fan section (aka the rest of the stadium) had on black and yellow. I rarely saw someone dressed that didn’t have some kind of team apparel on. Can’t say the same about American sporting events I’ve been to.

A: What sort of relatively small things really stood out and made an impact on you?

J: The electric vibe you got from walking in. There was a humming/buzzing sound from the crowd on the other side of the field and you could FEEL the air vibrating. It was an intense atmosphere, and gave me a little adrenaline. I’d love to be able to play in that kind of atmosphere. I would imagine you would feel on top of the world if you had those kind of dedicated fans.

How easy it was to get in the stadium. I half expected to be patted down way more than I was, but people weren’t too worried about what I had in my pockets or anything like that.

How passionate all the fans were! It was truly incredible to witness.

How much fun you can have, even when you don’t care who wins or loses. I really did not care too much about Bochum or Dresden winning, I wanted to see a good match. We saw a very closely contested match!

I was shocked at how friendly the guys we met were and how readily available they made themselves to talk football and ask us what we were doing/where we were from etc.

A: You’ve mentioned the atmosphere a couple times, can you elaborate on this?

J: The minute you walked into the stadium there was an understanding that it would be loud. As it got closer to the start of the match it became quite evident that the fans made this match one of the best parts. There was not a single fan that wasn’t cheering in some form or another throughout the game. That made the atmosphere incredible! It truly seemed that the fans were their respective teams 12th man. From where we were sitting, there was a group of Dresden fans almost opposite of us behind their goal dressed in all black and yellow. It wasn’t the faces that I noticed, but the coordinated movements and gyrations of what looked like a giant black and yellow block of extremely loud people.

It was for me the passion that made the atmosphere so enjoyable. The only time it got ‘quiet’ (quiet being a relative term) was after Bochum’s only goal.

In retrospect I would say the most impressionable part of the atmosphere was realizing that these fans were SO intense about their sport that there was a buffer section on either side of where the visiting fans were sitting. Not to mention, a net and glass wall protecting us from potential debris that could have been hurled at us, among other things.

It really made me appreciate the fans of soccer, I’d argue even more than the players themselves.

A: Can you describe the experience sitting in the guest block or away section as a neutral?

J: Although it would have been a doozy to have been amongst the famous ‘K-Block’ the atmosphere we had was pretty sweet! We were with the most intense fans (it’s a longgg drive from the other side of Germany for a Tuesday night game). You even got to wave one of their flags! I found a appreciation and acceptance of football fans. Anyone that would do that to watch their team on a Tuesday is what you call a die hard, and the fact that they let us in on whim into their tight-knit supporter culture so to speak was extremely gratifying. I felt apart of the fan section from the minute the ball kicked off until the very last whistle.

Guest block pre-match. Filled in a bit more, but was by no means full.

Guest block pre-match. Filled in a bit more, but was by no means full.

A: To be exact, Bochum is just under 5 hours by car, and over 6 hours by train. Sounds like you enjoyed the experience quite a bit. Do you plan to attend another match while you’re here?

J:I will 100% attend more matches while I’m here in Germany. I think that a large portion of being a citizen of the world is taking in cultural experiences that are unique to the place you’re living in, and attending football games is unique here in Germany (can’t speak for any other European country, yet.). The atmosphere is one of a kind, and I will definitely chase that buzz again when I can!

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Bochum players expressing admiration for their fan’s support, passion and dedication after the match.

 I think that my perception of what a ‘true fan’ is has changed. I think a true fan of their team needs to take time out of their lives to physically support their team in any way shape or form possible.
-Jacob
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SV Babelsberg 03 vs. Union Berlin II: Where Politics and Football Meet

This past Saturday I took in a Regionalliga Nordost (4th tier) match between SV Babelsberg 03 and Union Berlin II. The game was held at Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion, which lies in Babelsberg, the largest district of Potsdam.

I only knew a little about Babelsberg before the match, but  what I had heard intrigued me. When I was at the TeBe friendly this past summer, I asked a couple of their supporters what other lower league clubs in the region would be worth seeing. One replied Babelsberg could prove an interesting groundhop, to which another chimed in, “only go to Babelsberg if you care more about politics than football.” Well, it just so happens I care about politics and football. The complex relationship between the football and politics has been of great interest to me, and is a topic I have wrote several papers on for my courses in James Madison College at Michigan State University.

Matchday:

I arrived in Babelsberg (by car) quite early, around 9 A.M. to be exact. I wanted to get some sightseeing in before the 1:30 kick-off, as Potsdam is a city full of rich history. Potsdam has some beautiful palaces, castles, monuments, and parks. It was the seat of many of the Prussian rulers.

However, before taking in the city’s history, I decided to check out the ground. The stadium was not hard to find. I found it almost right away thanks to some well-placed street signs. When I arrived, I found a gate open and walked right in. The groundskeeper was busy at work preparing the pitch for that afternoon’s match. He paid me little acknowledgement as I climbed the terraces and got a feel for the stadium. Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion has an official capacity of 10,500. 1,500 of those are seats, the rest is standing, larger than I would have guessed after having seen it. Yet, the stadium had a very intimate feel about it, tucked into a forested, residential area of Babelsberg.

The ground

The ground

Something unique about Babelsberg is that their standing support is situated on the long side of the field, opposite the main stand and dugouts. At stadiums I have visited in Germany, the home support stand is almost always behind one of the goals, with the away support located in one of the opposite corners of the stadium.

Another thing I noticed while wandering the empty, albeit for the groundskeeper mowing away, stadium were the stickers plastered to nearly every surface. The stickers contained phrases, slogans, and logos illustrating the club’s socially liberal stance and friendship with St. Pauli.

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Babelsberg is among one of the most left-leaning clubs in Germany. Perhaps the only club more so, is Saint Pauli, of Hamburg.

 

After getting a feel for the ground and getting acquainted with the area, I crossed the Havel river and got my sightseeing out of the way.

I returned to Babelsberg around 12:30. I found a parking spot and headed toward the ground. I followed a crowd of Babelsberg faithful to their local watering hole, not 200 meters from the ground. Had it not been match-day, I would have walked right by it. It looked like normal house.

It was a crisp fall day, the kind where it’s too cold to wear just a sweatshirt or sweater, but too warm for a coat. The majority of the Babelsberg supporters were outside the house, beer in hand, enjoying the afternoon. I walked through the crowd into the house.

Inside was not as crowded as outside. I headed for the corner of the room, where a bar stood. Behind the bar stood a guy, late 20’s, and a girl no older than 10 years old. The guy asked me what I wanted and went to the fridge to grab my beer while the young girl took my 1 euro and 50 cents. If any 30 second encounter could sum up the nonchalant and relaxed attitude of Germans toward beer and alcohol, that would be it.

The room I stood in drinking my beer was plastered with stickers, just like the ones I had seen earlier. There were couches, tables, a foosball table, cans of paint (presumably for painting tifos), flags, a trophy shelf, and other staples of a lower-league fan hangout.

I told the guy working the bar I was a groundhopper and asked him if he’d mind answering a few questions about the club. He was more than happy to answer all of my questions, explaining to me that their season had been up and down so far. Not great, not terrible. He told me they were an extremely tough side to beat at home (which I would later see). According to him, Babelsberg hoped to win the Brandenburg Cup, which would give them a spot in next year’s DFB-Pokal. However, he didn’t seem too optimistic about their chances against Energie Cottbus, who is also playing in the cup after having been relegated to the third tier last year.

After a while another guy joined our conversation. He turned out to be a Saint Pauli supporter. I knew the two clubs had a friendship by that point so I wasn’t too surprised. I asked if he was from the area (Saint Pauli is one of those clubs that has fans from all over the country), he told me he was not, and that he was in fact from Hamburg. He went on to tell me there was a small contingent of supporters that had made the trek from Hamburg for a special cause.

The special cause was the two matches to be played after Babelsberg vs. Union II. The first match was between two refugee teams, Welcome United 03 and FC LAMPEDUSA Hamburg. The second match was between the supporter teams of Babelsberg and St. Pauli.

Click here for more info on the refugee match, including photos.

” Refugees Welcome”, an awesome TIFO and pyro display by Babelsberg earlier this year.

Ad for the refugee match in the window of a local business.

Ad for the refugee match in the window of a local business.

When I asked the St Pauli fan from Hamburg if he was playing he said he was “more of a coach” for the supporter team. I couldn’t get over what a cool idea both of those matches were. The three of us talked football over beers for while, swapping stories.

It was approaching 1:30 and I asked the friendly bartender if it was possible to buy a ticket in the Babelsberg standing section. I usually try and stand with the home support on my groundhops if possible. He said, “of course” and handed me a ticket. I pulled out my wallet to pay him back for it, but he brushed me off, insisting it was his pleasure. I shook his hand and thanked him for his kindness. The St. Pauli fan handed me a business card, and told me to contact him if I was ever in Hamburg and he would try and fix a ticket for me. I’ve met some awesome people through groundhopping, but those two guys were two nicest I’ve come across.

I walked the 200 meters or so from the fan “pub” toward the ground. I found a good spot on the terrace with the Babelsberg support.

“Filmstadt Inferno” is the name of the Babelsberg ultra group. The name pays homage to Babelsberg’s historical, and contemporary, significance as film city.

The Babelsberg supporters were loud and passionate. They had a large repertoire of songs and chants, which was fun. Their drummer was extremely talented, and I got a kick out of listening to him play. The players on the field fed off the terrific support and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Union Berlin would eventually get back 2 goals to make it respectable, making the final score 3-2 for Babelsberg.

To my surprise Babelsberg played really aesthetically pleasing football. A lot of the Babelsberg players had what you might call, “old man game”, especially compared to their competition, Union II, many of whom are teenagers or in their early 20’s. After watching this match, there is little doubt in my mind that a team like Babelsberg would run away with the NPSL, the fourth tier of American soccer.

One of the highlights of the match was my halftime meal. I had heard through the grapevine that some of the best curry (yes, curry), can be found in a tiny shack on the concourse of Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion. A mother and daughter run it together. Best might be a stretch, but for 3 euro 50 cents I had a bowl full of some damn good authentic Indian food.

Not your typical terrace grub

Not your typical terrace grub

Some members of “Filmstadt Inferno” held up a small TIFO several times throughout the match. I wasn’t able to read it, as I was standing behind the guys holding it up, it was not until after the match that I found out what it said.

The home stand

The home stand. Can you find me?

A wonderful day on the terraces. Babelsberg embodies some of the best things about football: grassroots supporter culture, acceptance and tolerance, beautiful play, and an intimate, supporter friendly ground. It is a breath of fresh air from many of the clubs in Eastern Germany that have problems with racist, hateful, far-right supporters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FC Union Berlin vs. FC Nürnberg

Stadion an der alter Försterei, home of Union Berlin. The ground is well-known to football fans across Europe. There are a numerous aspects which make the Stadion an der alten Försterei such an appealing place to take in a match.

Perfection

The stadium was literally built by Union Berlin supporters  for one. In an age of modern football, with stadiums built in non-intimate settings (outside city centers, in industrial parks, etc.), Union was a breath of fresh air. The stadium right next to a forest, which I’m sure you could have guessed by the name, even if you don’t speak any German. Surrounding the forest are residential and commercial areas of Köpenick, which is a beautiful district in Southeast Berlin.

Perhaps the biggest draw for me about the stadium though, is the presence of standing terraces. When I first got into football, the idea of standing terraces was completely foreign to me. I had grown up going to basketball and American football games, where the majority of fans sit, and even those who opt to stand, like students, have an option to sit, as a bench or seat is present.

The first time I stood on a terrace was when I went to Ajax-Dresden, away. Since then I have always preferred a terrace to a seat. My experience at Union reinforced that opinion. When you are standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow supporters on a terrace, there is a sense of camaraderie not found while sitting down. Additionally, when you are seated, it’s like you are there to be entertained. If I wanted to sit silently, golf-clap every 10 minutes, and be entertained I’d go to the cinema, or a theater. When I go to football I want to drink beer, sing, shout, jump, laugh, and let loose. When you are on a standing terrace you feel like an active part of the match rather than passively observing it. It’s one of those experiences you can’t truly explain, you just have to experience it for yourself.

Terrace

I understand the dangers of terraces, as Hillsborough is a subject that I have researched extensively. Yet, when done correctly, terracing can work.

The match:

The match was scheduled to be played on Friday evening at 6:30. I went Thursday to buy my ticket at the Union ticket office.

I wanted to buy a ticket for Sektor 2, or the “Waldseite”, where the Union Ultras stand, unfortunately, tickets for this stand were not available. Instead, I opted to stand in Sektor 3. Sektor 1 is the main stand, with boxes and seats, the only side with actual, physical seats, sektor 2 (Waldseite) is for the ultras , or the fans who are a bit more active in their support, 3 is the side opposite the main grandstand running the length of the pitch, also known as the gegengerade in German, and sektor 4 is opposite the ultras, the smallest sektor, because dividing it down the middle is a great glass wall marking where the away fans section is. I opted for sektor 3.

If my description did not do it justice, click here.

After buying my ticket I went to check out the ground (the ticket office was nothing more than a house in front of the stadium). I found the stadium gates open and I was able to walk anywhere I liked once inside. I fell in love immediately. Ever since I found out I would be going to Germany, the Stadion an der alten Försterei was near the top on my “to-do list” of football grounds.

The majority of fans take the metro to come to Union matches. This makes sense as there are no real substantial parking lots near the stadium and Berlin has an excellent public transit system. I, however, had some errands to attend to in that area of Berlin earlier in the day, and thus came by car. I parked in a neighborhood side street about a 10 minute walk from the ground.

Seen on the way to the ground

Seen on the way to the ground

I had asked a few people familiar with Union what the pre-match scene was like, they told me there were numerous fan bars in the area of the ground. The first one I came across seemed nice enough, and I stopped by for a beer and to talk with some fans. It was evident this was the bar of the Union ultras, as many people there were wearing matching “Szene Köpenick” t-shirts. This was confirmed when I struck up a conversation with one of the members of Szene Köpenick. Friendly enough guy, sold me some Union stickers for a couple euros and we talked briefly about the club and squad. One of the things I noticed at this bar, and throughout my match day experience was the diverse age-demographic of Union supporters. I saw young children, teenagers, students, fathers, grandfathers, it was so mixed. In addition there were a lot of female fans, perhaps the most I had ever seen at a match.

Strong sticker game from the Union ultras

Strong sticker game from the Union ultras

I continued on my trek to the ground, this time stopping for another beer, at another bar. This one recommended to me, it was called the “Abseitsfalle” (off-sides trap in English). This was an older-looking building near the beginning of the “forest path”. While most supporters stood outside of the bar enjoying one of the last few beautiful summer evenings, I checked out the inside. A typical football bar, framed pictures of jerseys, past teams, and other Union accomplishments hung on the walls. The TV’s were turned to Sky Sports, which were covering the recent transfer of Xabi Alonso to Bayern Munich.

It was barely past 5:30, but I noticed the flow of fans toward the stadium was starting to get pretty dense. It soon hit me that it was because the tickets of Union are not for a particular seat, as I pointed out before, but for a section. Arrive too late, and you could be stuck craning your next the whole match, or behind some 6’4 guy. I decided to follow suit and took the forest path to the stadium. The path was cleared, but not paved, big enough for people to walk 4 or 5 wide, and was about 200 meters long. One of the best stadium approaches there is. Then the stadium emerged, and I was glad I left when I did, as it was already quite crowded despite the match not starting for another half-hour or so. I received a thorough pat down when going through the gate, which I have reluctantly gotten used to while attending matches in Germany.

I made my way to the terrace and noticed that the best places were already gone, but there were also still plenty of pretty good spots still available. I ended up being more than satisfied with the spot I found. The only downside to where I was standing, is that the sun had not yet set so I was at times forced to use my hand as a shield to ensure not missing any action. There are far worse things.

I looked to my left where sektor 4 and the Nürnberg away fans were, they had traveled well, their section looked completely full, I estimated they numbered about 2,000. Nürnberg is, historically, a very good club. They have fallen upon some poor fortunes of late though and that is why they find themselves in the second tier. The relegation did not seem to effect their support, as the many fans that had traveled were a presence the entire match, (then again it’s easy to sing when you dominate a match…)

Something I noticed before the match was the abundance of police. Again, I have gone to enough matches and to realize this is normal, but there were SO many. I thought this a bit odd, as Nürnberg and Union have no qualms with one another, quite the opposite actually. Many of the rivalries and hooligan issues with Union and other Eastern German teams stem from the DDR days. Nürnberg, located in Bavaria, was not in the old DDR. Had it been a match against a team like say, RB Leipzig, Hansa Rostock or Dynamo Dresden, I would have understood.

I encountered a couple of FC Nürnberg fans on the forest path heading to the stadium. From what I could see they were not subject to any verbal or physical problems from Union supporters while en route.

During the pre-match warm-ups the Union announcer read off the Union line-up. After each player was announced the Union fans would chime in with a resounding “Fußball Gott” or “football god”. The loudest of these cheers was for club cult legend Torsten Mattuschka. Unfortunately, he was on the bench and did not see the field. The other notable thing that happened pre-match was the Union entrance tradition, in which everyone in the stadium holds up their scarf and the club anthem is played, and sung along to. I am a scarf junky and try to get one from every ground I go to, so naturally I had picked one up before the game, so I followed suit with the Union fans. One of the better pre-match entrances I’ve seen, enough so to send chills down my spine.

Sun over ground

Sun over ground

The match could not have gone worse for Union. After playing some promising football early and nearly scoring on a free-kick, a straight red card was issued to a Union player. Harsh from my perspective.

The match would go on to see Nürnberg win 4-0 and Union reduced to 9 men, as another Union player was sent off later in the match.The refereeing was some of the worst I had seen in a long time. A few of the Nürnberg players spent more time  on the ground than on their feet. At no time was this more evident then when, on a 50-50 challenge, in which the Union player got all ball, the Nürnberg player went crumpling to ground like he had been shot by a sniper. The man next to meet immediately, shouted, “Schauspieler, Schauspieler!’ (Actor, Actor). The Union player received a yellow, much to the dismay of the Union fans, who were already irate over the red cards and the scoreline. The call was met with of beers and debris flying onto the pitch.

One of my favorite things about the match was that with 10 men on the field, and losing handily, the Union faithful got louder. With 9 men, down by even more, even louder. The game was well decided with over 20 minutes to play, but hardly anyone standing on the terraces left. Everyone stayed, and not only did they stay, they continued to sing. The fans knew the players were out there were giving it there all, and as a result, they continued to give it their all.

It was some of the best support I have ever witnessed. I loved every moment of it, joining in on cheers of “EISERN UNION! EISERN UNION!” (Iron Union, the team’s nickname).

After the match the players thanked the fans for their support, and the Union fans thanked the players for their efforts. A common sight in football which I wish happened more in American sports, although I suppose lot of fan bases in America don’t deserve any thanks, because if this had been an American football game or a basketball game, the stadium would have been long empty, and instead of singing and cheering there would have been booing and jeering.

The attendance was just over 10,000.

After the match I grabbed some currywurst (a Berlin specialty) from a local joint and went on my way. I was a bit let down about the result, but overall extremely satisfied with my Union experience.

I don’t have a German club I support, per say, but Union made a solid case and I will be visiting the Stadion an der alten Försterei again in the future.

Self-explanitory...

Self-explanitory…seen from the top of the terrace

 

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TeBe vs. Viktoria Berlin

I headed into Berin this past weekend. Mostly because it seemed like the best place possible to watch the World Cup final, as the public viewing at the Brandburger Tor is among the most famous in the world, but also because Berlin is one of my favorite cities.

Berlin has something for everyone. History, nightlife, art, nature, you name it, Berlin has it. Including football.

It’s not exactly a footballing hotbed. The city, with about 3.5 million people, had only one player make the 23 man roster for the German national team, in Jerome Boateng. Hertha BSC is a perennial mid to lower level Bundesliga team, Union Berlin is a consistent 2. Bundesliga team, while Berlin is not represented in the 3rd tier of German football.

Yet, the city has over 300 grounds (this number was told to me by a TeBe supporter, I took his word for it). So for a groundhopper, or fan of non-leauge, Berlin is a perfect city.

That said, I was eager to check of the slate of fixtures for the weekend. It was the heart of summer, so I knew there wouldn’t be a whole lot. I settled on a testspiel, or friendly, of TeBe (Tennis Borussia Berlin). They were founded in the early 1900’s as a ping-pong and tennis club. They have had a tumultuous history, going up and down the levels of German football. They now play in the sixth tier of German football, in the Berlin Liga.

I chose TeBe over a few other matches for a couple reasons. The first being their history. I enjoy seeing clubs with long, outstanding history’s. TeBe qualifies in my mind. In a city like Berlin it is easy for a smaller club to get swallowed up in a merger or to go bankrupt,especially if the success is not there and is not sustained. However, TeBe has withstood the test of time and proved resilient, they have played for over one hundred years and bounced around in tiers 2 through 6. The second reason I wanted to see them was their support is well-known beyond Berlin. Though it is not what it once was when they were playing in higher tiers, they are known now as the best-supported side in the Berlin Liga (6th tier). The supporters are known for their anti-homophobia and anti-racist views. They are a leftward leaning club, although the supporters I stood with and spoke to did not seem all that interested in politics.

I inquired about the match on the Facebook group EFW or “European Football Weekends.” EFW is something I’ve followed(?) Subscribed to(?) Been a part of(?) on Facebook for some time. It is made up of groundhoppers. Groundhoppers are people who like to travel around Europe, and sometimes the world, attending matches of different clubs. Anyway, I posted my plans on there and got a nice response from a TeBe supporter.

I was informed that the match would not be held at the Mommenstadion, the typical home ground of TeBe, but at a random park in the district of Zehlendorf. The Mommenstadion holds 15,000 people and was the home training ground of the German national team during the 2006 World Cup. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed the match would not be there.

I gave it some thought, and though a bit of a trek from the heart of Berlin, I decided it was worth the trip, as Zehlendorf is a nice, green, leafy corner of the city.

TeBe was scheduled to play Viktoria Berlin. Viktoria Berlin plays in the Regionalliga Nordost, the fourth tier of German football. The club was formed in 2013 as the result of a merger between two Berlin clubs.

We arrived for the match a little after kick-off. The ground was nothing more than a pitch with a dirt running track and a small terrace on one side. However, the sun was shining, the football was decent, and the TeBe supporters had beer, which they so kindly shared. So I was in my element.

The TeBe supporters were a friendly bunch. They were mostly German, but a few Brits were in the group as well. Most of the guys had another team besides TeBe, for example one was of the Brits was an Arsenal supporter, while one of the Germans described his love to of Dortmund to me. As one of the supporter’s put it, “it’s hard to take yourself too seriously when the players of the club you support aren’t much better at football than most of us.” That may have been an exaggeration, as what I saw on the pitch impressed me, all things considered.

When they asked me whom I support, and I responded with my club, Ajax Amsterdam. One of the guys came back with the witty retort of of, “ah yeah, they’re alright, but they hadn’t nearly the history we got.” That got a laugh out of me. They also proceeded to ask where I come from, I was a bit surprised as I figured my accent would have given it away. When I told them that I am American, they were a bit taken aback. One of the Brits was particularly surprised, telling me, “What, American? You must be like, one of the only American groundhoppers there is then.”

I am sure there are plenty American groundhoppers. In fact, I know there are. But there is a difference between ground hopping EPL stadiums and the like and doing what I do, which is why that Brit was surprised to hear I as an American showed up to a friendly match between two teams in the 4th and 6th tier of German football respectively. For me, I’d rather stand on a stone terrace with some friendly locals, drinking cheap beer, watching decent (sometimes shit) football, for 5 or 6 euros on a nice day than pay 50 euros to sit in a cold, quiet, atmosphere-less modern stadium, surrounded by fellow foreign tourists. For me, it is no question. That is not to say I would turn down an opportunity to experience a stadium like Anfield, Old Trafford, or White Hart Lane. For I would absolutely not. I would love to experience those grounds.

One thing about those English grounds though is that as a foreigner, you are sometimes treated with hostility. Many locals blame you for what has happened to their clubs. The fact that ticket prices are absurdly high, the fact that the stadium is devoid of atmosphere, the crackdowns on fans and so on. Much of the blame is placed on the foreigners, who, along with Sky sports, have largely ruined the game in the eyes of lifetime local supporters. Even someone like myself, whom I consider quite knowledgable and experienced in the world of football, and wouldn’t consider myself a fan if the club rather just there for the groundhopper experience, would have a tough time being on cordial terms with the locals sitting around me.

For me, one of the best parts of ground hopping is conversing with the locals. For one match, you put yourself in their shoes Singing their songs and chants, hearing the history of their club, their hopes for the future, hearing of the young, breakout left-back whom is being scouted by (insert large regional club here) or the washed up striker who is on his last leg and can’t do anything but poach, drinking the local beer, it makes for an awesome experience. This is often times what you get with lower tier, local clubs.

Back to the TeBe match….

The match ended in a 0-0 draw. Both sides experimented with their line-ups and treated the match like the meaningless friendly it was.

Granted, I have never been to a Lansing United or DCFC game, but I have attended many MSU games. Many of the MSU guys play for one of the two NPSL teams in the state (NPSL is 4th tier). This is purely conjecture, but I’d say both Lansing United and Detroit City FC are a bit below the level of TeBe.

I fully plan to attend another TeBe match in the fall. The supporters told me to try and make a  Friday night match at the Mommenstadion. With the hospitality shown to me by the TeBe supporters, I am already looking forward to it.

Non-League friendly in a nutshell....

Non-League friendly in a nutshell….

 

What the TeBe support looked like in it's better days. The supporters I spoke with  hope to be promoted back to where they believe they club belongs, which is in the 4th tier.

What the TeBe support looked like in better days. The supporters I spoke with hope to be promoted back to the 4th tier in coming seasons, which is where they believe the club belongs.

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