Saturday, 21 June 2008

Past EFW Classics part 5

Hannover 96 0-2 Vfl Bochum (04:11:06)

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Arminia Bielefeld (05:11:06)
Heracles Almelo 0-3 Ajax (06:11:06)

A Hannover 96 toaster anyone!?

AWD Arena Hannover

Me on the Sudtribune - the largest terrace in Europe - hence silly grin.

Evidentally - You'll Never Walk Alone.

The Westfalenstadion home to Borussia Dortmund.

The Polman Stadion home to Heracles Almelo.

The Ajax fans in the corner.

Ajax engage in some 'total football'

This is the sort of agenda we love - three games in three days in two different countries. It was to involve a lot of travelling (we don't mind that), lots of drinking (that's ok as well) and three games of football (oh go on then).

The European Football Weekends crowd varies in number from two to eight. For this particular weekend we were down to just two; Big Deaks and I. However, I had arranged to meet up with some Borussia Dortmund ultras on Saturday and some Heracles Alemelo ultras on the Sunday and these were to become our drinking buddies for the weekend.

We flew into Cologne early on Friday morning and then jumped on the train to Hannover which took just over two hours. Hannover is actually quite a nice City so we had a look around before easing ourselves into the obligatory pre-match drinking session. Save for one establishment which was full of the 'Stone Island brigade' all the pubs were very welcoming and served up beer to die for. In that one pub we downed a swift beer, doffed our caps, smiled and then left.

Hannover 96 play in the AWD Arena which was re-developed for the 2006 World Cup Finals in which it staged five matches. Crowds for home games can fluctuate wildly and for this game against Vfl Bochum the ground was only just over half full and tickets were obviously very easy to get hold of.

The actual match was pretty poor and Hannover went down 0-2. Bochum brought about 2,000 away fans and they were having a great time so we tried to get into their section but without success. Afterwards we pitched up in a couple more pubs in town and staggered back to our hotel in the early hours.

The next day was to prove one of the all time EFW classics of all time. Thanks in no small measure to our friends at The Unity - who are the ultra group that follow Borussia Dortmund. We got the train from Hannover to Dortmund (1hr 40mins), checked into our hotel before meeting Ivi and friends from The Unity who were to take us under their wing for the day.

They took us to their pre-match pub where naturally we drank a few too many beers and chatted with the group and handed over an Albion pennant which still hangs proudly in the pub to this day. To be honest it was such a good pre-match that it was a bit of a chore to leave the pub. The pull of an 80,000+ crowd and the thought of standing on the biggest terrace in Europe was just enough to convince us to down our beers and leave for the ground.

After a hearty rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' the game got underway. Often you'll find on these trips that the actual 90 minutes of football prove to be the most boring bit of the day that was the case here. Arminia Bielefeld took the lead, made a few negative subs and tried to hold on for the win. They were undone in the last minute though as Dortmund were awarded a penalty in front of the biggest terrace in Europe (did I mention that!?) and converted it to earn a draw.

Luckily for Deaks and I, The Unity were holding one of their infamous parties that night and we'd been invited. They hold parties to fund their terrace displays which have to be seen to be believed. The Unity are one of the best ultra groups around and having survived one (just) I can confirm they organise one of the best parties around. Needless to say it was a great night - ladies and gentlemen - The Unity - Cheers!

It took an enormous effort to get out of bed the next day. Ahead of us was a 2.5 hour train journey to Almelo in Holland for the 'Battle of the Greek' (both teams obviously have Greek history) between Heracles Almelo v Ajax. It's alright getting up after 3 hours sleep when you're 21 but when you're 34 it's the hardest game in the world.

We picked up our tickets at the ground and headed off to the pub to meet up with the Almelo ultras who I'd arranged to meet in the week leading up to the match. There is only one pub near the ground and it was rammed full of what looked from the outside to be a bunch of loons. We were so hungover and devoid of caring about our health that we took a deep breath and went in anyway. Before entering I did a quick take over my left shoulder to see if Danny Dyer was behind me with his film crew as it looked 'a bit naughty'.

Within a nano-second of walking through the door they tapped Big Deaks on the shoulder. Game over for us!? Not a bit of it - Are you guys from Brighton!? Erm...yes we squeaked - then come over here we have a beer waiting for you. Phew! We were in and tensions were immediately eased when our beers arrived in a huge watering can - strange but true.

After a couple of enjoyable hours swapping 'tales on the terraces' it was time to head to the match. As we exited the pub 'the lads' all got on their bikes and rode with us to the ground! I've seen some funny sites in my time but beers in watering cans and ultras staggering out of a pub, riding their bikes to the ground!? - I've not laughed as much since the opening credits to Terry & June where a dodgy garden chair left Terry with a glass of orange juice on his lap.

We had tickets for the seats but not for the first time on our travels the ultras were having none of that. A quick nod and a wink with the gate man and before we could say 'health and safety' we were standing on the terrace behind the goal helping the lads with a terrace display.

Heracles Almelo play on an artificial pitch and Ajax hate it. It didn't stop them winning at a relative canter (3-0) even though they were down to 10 men after 54 minutes. Almelo huffed and indeed even puffed but Ajax produced a few inspired minutes of 'total football' and the rest of the game petered out into large periods of 'anti football'.

It took Big Deaks and I about a week to recover from this weekend but it really was worth it. That trip took place in 2006 and even today we are on very friendly terms with members of The Unity at Dortmund who we often try and hook up with each time we are in Germany - broust!


PGN said...

Yet another interesting report! I almost get the impression you like German league football more than English......Looking forward to read about your future trips (including Sweden!)

Danny Last said...

Thanks for the comment PGN! I actually do prefer watching games in Germany than here in England. I prefer the atmosphere, the way the fans dress ridiculously in club colours (often with up to 10 scarves on them) and as you might gather from my reports I am very partial to German beer.

The football certainly isn't better but the experience as a whole is preferable.

I'd love to come to Sweden for a European Football Weekend. I'll add it to my ever increasing list - Helan går my friend.


LLF said...

I'm going to see Dortumnd play Hannover at the weekend; after reading this I'm even more excited!