Sunday, 27 April 2008

Past EFW Classics Part 2

Schalke 04 1-2 Borussia Dortmund 14:05.05

Beers save the day on a boring boat trip around the Rhine.

The away end at the Arena Auf Schalke.

The Dortmund fans in full flow.

Another dull pre-match.

Post match team photo.

The home fans do their best.

This European Football Weekend was organised by Nick for my stag do. It was the start of our love affair with Borussia Dortmund. They won at their fiercest rivals Schalke for the first time in umpty thrumpty years. We stayed in Cologne for the weekend, a City which was to become a favourite base for future EFWs.

Past EFW Classics Part 1

Portugal Euro 2004

Czech Republic 2-1 Latvia 15:06:04 (Averio)

England 3-0 Switzerland 17:06:04 (Coimbra)

Italy 1-1 Sweden 18:06:04 (Porto)

Holland 2-3 Czech Republic 19:06:04 (Aveiro)

Denmark 2-2 Sweden 22:06:04 (Porto)

It was all go in between matches.

It could only be Sweden v Denmark.

Better than work!?

Just prior to thrashing the local Portuguese lads.

Outside the Estadio de Municipal Aveiro.

Can you spot the Dutch fans!?

Cheesy grins.

Czech Republic v Latvia -More balloons than fans.

In Coimbra en route to England v Switzerland.

Estadio Cidade de Coimbra.

Another hard day at the office for Danny and Deaks (batting).

I thought I'd start adding some pictures taken from previous footballing trips. These ones were undertaken before I started writing about them. This one was one of the best. Strictly speaking this wasn't a European Football Weekend - it was a European Football Fortnight. Two of the best weeks of my life. 5 games of live football, friendly locals, good company, nice food, beers aplenty, beach cricket, great accomodation. It really was a carnival of football. Four years have passed since this holiday and if you ever stumble across one of us in a pub, you'll probably still overhear us talking about how brilliant it was.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Munich weekend

The Allianz Arena from the ouside. Art or is it!?

Me (left) and Nick. Dortmund til we die!

Inside the Allianz Arena - large beer hall just out of shot.

The most impressive stadium ever* (*from the outside)

Generali Sportpark home to Spvgg Unterhaching.

The home fans trying their best at Unterhaching.

Nick and Big Deaks in drinking beer shock.

Inside the Olympic Stadium with predictable results.

Nice views from the Olympiaturm anyone!?

Friday night in Ingolstadt and we couldn't be happier. (L-R Big Deaks, me and Nick)

FC Ingolstadt 04 1-1 Karlsruher SC II (11:04:08)

Spvgg Unterhaching 1-1 Wacker Burghausen (12:04:08)

Bayern Munich 5-0 Borussia Dortmund (13:04:08)

Germany is synonymous with many things but for me and my mates, the two things it does best are both football and beer. This is why we keep coming back for more.

We have become firm friends with members of ‘The Unity’ who are the ultras group that follow Borussia Dortmund. We first met during my stag do when we were in the away end as Dortmund beat their old enemy Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirken for the first time in umpty thrumpty years and since then we always try and include a Dortmund match on our travels.

Initially on the Friday of this trip we were due to attend the Augsburg v FSV Mainz 05 match which kicked off at 18:00. The fact that we were flying out from the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport put pay to this cunning plan. A not entirely unpredictable delay to our flight meant that we missed the kick off.

Years of attending European football weekends has stood us in good stead however and we had a back up plan which was to attend FC Ingolstadt 04 v Karlsruher SC II which kicked off at the later time of 19:30.

Ingolstadt is located on the banks of the Danube River and lies around a 30 minute train ride north of Munich. It is also home to the Audi HQ which is why their sorry excuse for a football ground is smothered with the Audi logo.

It was a balmy evening in Germany when the match kicked off. We were relaxing on the terrace with a few nice cold beers and trying to enjoy the turgid football on offer. Ingolstadt 04 are top of the Regionalliga Sud in the third tier of German football but lord only knows how.

As the match – which finished 1-1 – drew to a close the most almighty storm passed over the ground. Thunder and lightning, very, very frightening. We dashed over to a nearby garage for cover, brought a few beers inside for our journey back and hitched a lift back to the station for the journey back to Munich.

The trouble with football in Germany is that it’s very easy to find yourself fairly drunk at the drop of a hat. You don’t get served watered down Fosters inside the stadiums. Instead you get quality premium beer and with this being Friday night, we were understandably a bit giggly, in a fine mood and the beers were flowing very freely indeed.

Upon our return to Munich we headed to a pub which had a couple of replica world cup trophies in a cabinet on the wall. Believe it or not we ended up singing “Da ya think I’m sexy?” with Rod Stewart in this pub! It was a mad night and quite frankly it was a brilliant one.

The next morning we headed to Unterhaching which is the second largest municipality in the district of Munich. Unterhaching is probably most famous for either its football team ‘Spvgg Unterhaching’ (who we were about to see) or the fact they have a very successful bob-sledding team, which is why there is a bob sleigh on the football teams club badge.

There is a brilliant set up outside the stadium at Unterhaching. It’s cut off from the town but this doesn’t matter as they have a large area to consume beer and food and soak up the pre-match atmosphere. As per usual we couldn’t help ourselves and down the hatch went some aforementioned beer (Lowenbrau – ouch) and food like it was going out of fashion.

This was another match in the Regionalliga Sud and again the quality of football on offer didn’t amount to much. At times like these it’s very for me to perform the ol’ switcharoo and start looking at the fans instead of the game.

Both Spvgg Unterhaching and visitors Wacker Burghausen had small but loud and active sets of ultras. They created noise, jumped about, let of flares, backed their team and provided a wonderful alternative to watching the football.

The game was 0-0 up until the last 5 minutes. Then both teams scored and a red card was issued. All and in fact the only action of the match crammed into the last few minutes. Enough to leave us thinking we’d seen the best game ever and certainly enough to give us a spring in our steps as we headed back into Munich for a night on the beer.

We met up with our friends from Dortmund back in town and they gave us our tickets (thanks chaps!) for the game the following day against Bayern Munich. We then rolled back the years and engaged in what can only be described ‘brilliant night out’ in which at 2am we found ourselves in a bar singing traditional German songs in our newly discovered fluent German language.

What better way of a Sunday morning to rid ourselves of a bit of ‘tiredness’ than to visit the Olympic Stadium in Munich, home to last good performance by an England team in 2001. For 2 euros we were allowed inside the stadium and have a good old reminisce which we certainly did.

Just outside the stadium stands the Olympiaturm – a huge tower which dominates the Munich skyline. We went up to the top of said tower where we were afforded wonderful views of Munich (e.g. The Olympic Stadium and Allianz Arena) and the Alps.

After this we headed to the north of the city to the Allianz Arena – home to both Bayern and 1860 Munich. From the outside the stadium is the most impressive I’ve ever seen. On the inside it’s nice but really just like any other modern stadium of its size. It is occasionally nicknamed Schlauchboot (“inflatable boat”) in Germany.

I was amazed at the lack of security outside the stadium. We had tickets in the away end but there weren’t separate turnstiles and we were allowed to wonder all around the stadium before taking our seats. A huge amount of beer was being consumed by all but there wasn’t a hint of trouble.

Bayern Munich won the game 5-0. They had it wrapped up inside the first 22 minutes, scoring four quite outstanding goals in the process. In Luca Toni, Bayern have the best finisher in Europe at the moment – he really is different gravy.

There is a small amount of terracing behind one of the goals inside the Allianz Arena. This is where all the support and noise comes from the home fans. Why they don’t extend this and rip out a few seats I will never know. In fact I do know, they’d rather have a few extra quid than a better atmosphere.

As mentioned we were in with the Dortmund supporters and you would have thought being five goals down would dampen the fans spirits – not a bit of it. They sang for 90 minutes as did we. No goals!? It didn’t matter, after a while they decided to start randomly celebrating goals anyway. All brilliant fun, they don’t come much better than The Unity when it comes to fan support.

If you could dream up a better of way of letting a crowd of 69,000 die down than by attending a large beer hall built into one of the stands serving up quality beer in glasses not plastic then please let me know about it. That’s what we did before returning to the city and enjoying our last few beers of the weekend.

I started this piece by explaining that for us Germany does football and beer best. I hope by reading this you’ll have just a flavour as to the reasons why. Good old life!

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Thursday, 10 April 2008


Real Mallorca 1-1 Real Madrid (05:04:08)

I raised an eyebrow when my wife asked if I wanted to visit some friends of hers who she hadn’t seen for 15 years on the Balearic island of Mallorca. I raised a second eyebrow when she said they lived a stones throw from the ONO Estadi, home to Real Mallorca. Upon finding out that during our stay Real Mallorca were playing at home to Real Madrid - I raised both eyebrows, threw my arms aloft, and dived in with both feet.

Before visiting Alberto and Isabel, we spent four days in the Tramuntana mountain range of the island. Based in Sóller we walked everyday and ate and drank like both were going out of fashion. I’d no real idea of how beautiful Mallorca was beforehand but if you like good food and walking as I do it’s a perfect destination.

The night before the match we met with the family who frankly couldn’t have been nicer. We’d brought along a couple of football shirts for their two kids which went down well, as did several bottles of wine during a long evening of mirth and hilarity.

On match day - or this case match night as with this being Spain the game didn’t kick off until 10pm - we headed to a bar, which rather amusingly was called ‘Depression’. It turned out to be anything but.

In Mallorca the Spanish tradition of cañas (small beers) doesn't really apply. Pints at 2 euros apiece flowed freely as I met with pals of Alberto’s who made me feel very welcome - once I told them I didn’t support Real Madrid.

One of his mates was a German chap from Wolfsburg which gave me a good excuse to wheel out one of footballs great stories. You know, the one about the ex-Wolfsburg manager whose name could not have been any more apt – Wolfgang Wolf.

I got into the match for nothing. Just before I entered the ground a Real Mallorca season ticket was thrust into my hand, and before I had time to think about what had occurred I was sitting in the third row behind the goal. Nice job.

The ground is a symmetrical save for a roof on the main stand. At either end there are two semi circular all seated stands, and two very steep banks of red seating which run alongside the pitch.

Fans of football grounds worldwide look away now when I tell you that the ground also has two words which make every football fans heart sink to the depths of despair. Deep breaths now -around the pitch it has a ‘running track’. Nooooooooo!

The game itself was fairly entertaining. Real Madrid dominated the early stages. They took the lead after a mazy run, and then pass from Robben which Sneijder converted. Real Mallorca equalised with a Ronnie Whelan type curler into the top corner by Borja Velero.

It between all sorts of hell broke loose. Spanish football followers will tell you that referees and officials are biased towards Real Madrid in pretty much every game. This game was no exception. Real Mallorca had a perfectly good goal disallowed and were denied a blatant penalty after the ‘hand of Canavaro’ stopped a cross in the penalty box.

For the neutral this was great fun. Out came 20,000 white handkerchiefs following each decision. Cries of ‘Asi, Asi, Asi gana el Madrid’ rang out across the stadium which basically means ‘like that, like that, like that win Real Madrid’. All around me, formally passive and laid back people were losing it – marvellous scenes.

The atmosphere wasn’t quite as bad as I’d been led to believe it would be beforehand. To my left there were a group of ultras, who Alberto told me were probably Argentineans who lived on the island. To my right the crowd were occasionally stirred by a huge chap with a red face who is known by everybody as ‘Big Billy’.

Big Billy is from England. He wears a replica shirt with the number 100 printed on the back which was given to him after he’d attended his 100th match. In a world exclusive, I interviewed Billy at half time. It turns out he flies in from Sheffield for every home match, and the 100 on the back of his shirt I think relates to the number of pints he has before each match!

The only other point to note during the match followed the Veleros equaliser for Real Mallorca. Alberto and I shared a little cuddle. I’d known him for 2 days but we got on famously with our ‘Spanglish’ conversation. Following the goal, emotions were running high and at that moment a friend for life was made. Sniff.

As it was only across the road from where I was staying, I went down to the stadium the following lunchtime. My wife and I were able to walk into the ground unopposed. After walking across the pitch and taking a few photos we sat on a bench by the corner flag and had our lunch. Good old life.