Die Unabsteigbaren (The Unrelegatables), oh.
Bochum 1-4 FC Ingolstadt (20/11/10)
EFW regular Andy Hudson spent last weekend with Ed Barrett immersing themselves in some German ultra culture. Ed - from the FCUM A.D. blog - kicks us off with a trip to VfL Bochum, who, it would be fair to say, are at a low ebb:
Saturday and my first match of the weekend, my friend Andy’s second, and still feeling pretty sleepy, we caught the train down to Bochum. The Ruhrpott, for those who haven't been, has (or had) the industry of the North East (steel and coal) but the footballing make up of North West England i.e. a football club steeped in history, everywhere you turn. This of course brings its problems, as just like say Blackburn Rovers or Wigan Athletic might have to compete with Manchester United or Liverpool for fans, clubs such as VfL Bochum or RW Essen also struggle with their bigger rivals pinching fans from within their own town boundaries. The issue was highlighted when I spotted a couple of fans in blue and white on our train. Great I thought, now we can simply follow them to the ground. Who needs research or a smart phone! However, on closer inspection the fans were wearing Schalke badges and would be staying on a few extra stops to make the match later on that day in Gelsenkirchen.
After a quick stop at the Bakery to pick up much needed supplies of water, food and strong black coffee, we continued on our extremely smooth, journey with public transport with the tram to the ground. A moment to stop in wonderment at a public transport system given proper investment. We travelled from Dortmund to Bochum, then got on Bochums tram system (a tram system for a population of less than 400k!), all of which ran regularly and, had we been organised enough to buy the tickets in advance, this would all have been included for the price of our €11 match ticket!
The tram eventually spat us and another hundred or so Bochum fans out onto the roadside and we were immediately presented with the Ruhrstadion. Or, in line with the sponsorship of most ground names in Germany, as its now called, The REWIRPOWER Stadium. The ground is a wonderful structure inside and out. There are no glass facades, no escalators to executive lounges, it’s an angular Eastern European looking structure from the outside , somehow creating beauty from concrete. Inside its 3 quarters seated, has around 4 VIP boxes and then one big terrace behind the goal. It would appear lack of recent success does have some upsides, as your stadium remains unmeddled with!
Having polished off our food and coffee, we took a little wander around. As with most Ultra’ groups in German football, Ultras Bochum have made their own little additions to the ground with various examples of street-art dotted around the place from sprayed stencils to home made stickers. Perhaps this was why, having paid in on the gate, the security were wise to my game and took so many of my own English team’s ones off me. Damn!
Collecting a beer which I gingerly sipped at for about 40 minutes thereafter, we climbed up the steps onto the home terrace. The angle of the terrace, older style crush barriers and low roof caused immediate excitement. Relegation to the 2nd division and the success of neighbouring BVB Dortmund and Schalke 04, means the 9k or so fans who attended had no hope of filling the 31k capacity ground. This meant that even arriving relatively late by German standards, a mere 30 minutes before kick off, we found our way up the steps and to plenty of space towards the back of the terrace with great ease.
Angular terrace + beer = cheesy grin.
Art. Or is it?
Block A give us a song, Block A, Block A give us a song.
In terms of fans, I was disappointed to witness a Ruhrpott based club with so few “kutten” (the jeans jackets covered in badges, still so popular in the region). Instead we had a relatively boisterous seated section to our left (Block A), the seemingly Italian-style orientated Ultras Bochum below us, a few normal fans around us and then a little corner of about 10 fans perched up behind the corner flag and a rather dubious looking banner. Ive always wondered about this corner, as whenever I see it on television, it always appears to be a banner with the sort of straight winged bird you'd expect on a German WWII uniform. On closer inspection there was a little curl to the wings, suggesting that perhaps that Bochum don’t have any knuckledraggers present.
After a small amount of soft-rock, including a club anthem written by famous German pop singer Herbert Grönemeyer, the match kicked off. Having a vested interest, my eyes were however on the Ultras below us rather than “World Cup Star” Jong Tae-se (his appearance on the team sheet had to be pointed out by Andy, who had bothered to watch the World Cup). Bochum probably have a hundred or so ultras. Their main logo is a cartoon chap wearing a bar-scarf, a sort of cross between the Ultra’ Sankt Pauli cartoon figure often featured on stickers and the main logo of Ultras Tito of Sampdoria. A good mix of large flags, were accompanied by one “capo” who was conducting the group. He did this without the usual megaphone and with no help from his mate on the fence, who just sat there with his hood over his head. On the pitch, a truly wretched Bochum went a goal down and unrest started to trickle in to the atmosphere. The lad on the fence, began to pull on the net between him and the goal making the masts holding it swing violently. No steward came across to ask him to get down.
A second goal came for Ingolstadt (the opponents for the afternoon) and something bizarre happened, the home fans cheered it! This was probably just as well, as approximately 20 Ingolstadt fans had bothered to make the journey, and despite two rather animated teenagers, they needed Bochums ironic cheers to help register the goal vocally.
Cheers of irony roll out across the stadium*. *Use your imagination dear reader.
Time passed by and with a backdrop of abuse, a few of the Bochum players began to wake up and make a bit of effort. Midway through the second half, Tae-se pulled a scrappy goal back for the home side. Belief started to return and Bochum had a couple more chances to get an equaliser. This however did not save them from a chorus of boos as the halftime whistle came.
In the second half Bochum started brightly and would have deservedly made it 2-2 about 10 minutes in when they forced the Ingolstadt keeper into a full stretch save. That was however as close as they came. A breakaway goal on 60 minutes for Ingolstadt finished off the fightback and produced more ironic cheers. The Bochum ultras who had been the only ones left singing and waving their flags, now stopped and for the remainder of the game all that was witnessed was sadness at the plight of their side and anger towards its management.
The lad on the fence had now been joined by a further 3, all of whom were pulling on the net in front of them. A further goal went in for the away side, which was met with an almighty roar from the home side as if it were their own goal. Some fans began making their way to the exit, some even making the detour to throw their scarf onto the pitch in disgust. Every Ingolstadt pass was ole’d, whilst chants such as “Wir haben die Schnauze voll” (We’ve had it up to here!), “Wir sind Bochumer, wer seid Ihr” (We are Bochumers, who are you?) and “AB-STEIG-ER!” (Relegation fodder!”) were directed at the pitch and directors box. I cant stand the booing of your own team, but it was quite painful standing there watching so many people sad and angry, their week ruined by the lack of effort of a team and seeming misdirection of a club.
Ingolstadt? They've got the power.
The match came to a close. The Ingolstadt team climbed up the fence in front of the away block to thank their fans. They were also applauded off by the Bochum fans. A few of the Bochum team ventured bravely to the home end to convey apologies and thank the fans, but were greeted with only abuse. They returned to the dressing room, replaced by stewards and truncheon bearing police, no doubt fearful of a repeat of last seasons pitch invasion.
We made our way outside. A group of Bochum fans and visiting fans from Bayern Munich (they have a friendship with Bochum and were playing nearby in Leverkusen later that day) had congregated and were getting ready to march back into town. A few bangers were thrown, meaning the police in attendance reached for their cameras. A march back to the city centre followed. Roads were closed, police vans milled around, further officers on foot ran alongside and filming frantically. It’s a familiar scene on a matchday in Germany, where an often mutual hatred between many fans and the police is stronger than perhaps in England. Fearing being kettled, myself and Andy, slipped off the back of the group and headed for the train station, thankful to have witnessed the match as mere neutrals.
A sign of the times at the Ruhrstadion.
For more of Ed's work, head to his FCUM A.D. blog.
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