Thursday, 3 February 2011

Fortuna Düsseldorf II, Werder Bremen & Arminia Bielefeld

German European Football Weekend Bonanza 

Take three lads; Andy, Dan and Thomas, stick them in Germany for a long weekend and what do you get? Tales of football and beer of course. Andy starts the ball rolling in Düsseldorf....

Fortuna Düsseldorf II 0-1 Pressen Munster (28:01:11)

A freezing evening in Dusseldorf; I’m typically underdressed wearing a hoody and a lightweight jacket. When you’re typically underdressed for cold weather and arriving at a football ground you know that you should rely on at least one of the following: enough beer to cut off the discomfort of the cold; simply ‘man-up’ and through gritted teeth endure the temperature, after all, you’re hardly Shackleton disembarking from the Discovery; fill up on pies and bovril – preferably the far-too-hot-kind-that’ll-burn-your-mouth-off.

Unfortunately I completely missed the target with each of these. Arriving in Dusseldorf in plenty of time for kick-off, I took the opportunity to hunt down a quiet beer close to the Haubtbahnhof. I was due to meet a friend who was travelling over from Dortmund. Due to the pesky scenario of both being delayed at work and then catching a delayed train he never arrived until 15 minutes after the match had started. After chiselling my frozen solid feet from the pavement outside of the station we jumped in the nearest taxi and arrived at the Paul-Janes-Stadion a few moments later.

How we arrived at this match can be blamed on the Eurovision Song Contest (right, raise your hand if you can also make this boast!). The original plan was to see Fortuna Dusseldorf v FSV Frankfurt in 2. Bundesliga at the 54,000 capacity Espirit Arena. The successful bidding of hosting the Eurovision and Fortuna having to play their last three home games of this season at their old Paul-Janes-Stadion (capacity being a little over 7,000) meant that I’d rather not provide money to the huge new ground and would check out Preussen Munster taking on the Fortuna II (the second team who play in the Regionalliga West – the fourth level of German football) instead. After all, if Fortuna have an average crowd of over 7,000 then it might be a struggle to squeeze them all in without the aid of some monstrous temporary stand!

The games were oddly played at the same time. It was only afterwards that I discovered this was due to safety reasons. Munster had travelled with a decent away crowd and this being a Rurhpott derby the decision was made to avoid any clashes and hope that the home fans head to the Frankfurt game (which ended up with Fortuna running out 6-0 winners). The away fans at this game probably made up 95% of the total attendance.

We rushed into the stadium and made our way to the main stand where we bagged a row of seats in which to stand. The terracing behind the goal to our right was all green and white, both Ultra’ groups travelling from Munster being separated by a fence down the middle. This is rather common at Munster games due to the animosity between the two groups and the occasional scuffles between them. At no stage during the match were they on the same page with singing or drum beats. If one group started a quick paced ditty then the other group would attempt to drown them out with a slow paced tune. The older away fans gathered at the back of the main stand and the handful of home fans stood sheepishly in the corner.

Animosity International. The two Preussen ultras groups are split down the middle.

The Paul-Janes-Stadion was built in 1930 by the team (the team!).

The only goal of the game arrived before we were even in the taxi. The majority of the match that we shivered through was notable for a lack of clear chances but plenty of midfield challenges. Oh, and you can add to that the sight of Munster’s forward Sercan Guvenisik shuffling around wearing a black hoody under his top. We know this because he kept putting hood over his head. German players see English based players wearing snoods and raise them a fancy new fashion accessory!

With the final whistle we went in search of the underground station in Flingern. We evetually stumbled upon it by chance and after a 20 minute wait we clambered on at 20.28. We had to collect a hire car at Dusseldorf Airport and then drive to Dortmund; a trip we estimated would take no more than an hour. After receiving dodgy information on where the hire car was parked, and then finding the multistory level but no Nissan in the stated bay we eventually found the motor though random presses of the key-lock and trying to notice the light. The Sat Nav displayed a 34 minute journey, enough time to have a few beers before the early morning wake up call to catch the train to Bremen. Not far from Bochum we hit the back of 4km of tailbacks – perfectly sensing the the cold weather and the lack of beer to warm us the tailbacks led to a closed section of motorway and a non-signed diversion. We arrived back in Dortmund at half midnight; sober, cold, knackered and still with no idea that Munster had won 1-0.

Splendid work Mr Hudson. Arf. Dan Richardson takes up the story....

Werder Bremen 1-3 Bayern Munich (29:01:11)

I'd earmarked Werder v Bayern since the start of the season. With the exception of HSV, Bayern is about as big as it gets domestically in these parts. Werder entered the second half of the season with an arguably weaker squad than that which found itself sitting precariously close to the Bundesliga relegation zone, embarrassed itself in Tottenham's CL group and were eliminated in the first round of the DFB cup, worrying times indeed for the Green-Whites.

Attending the match with a Sankt Pauli fanatic and a pocket Dortmund fan, I knew it was a gamble. It became even more of a gamble when alternative methods had to be applied to acquire tickets, despite being a fully paid-up member of the club. Bremen is a decent city to visit, the construction works in the home-end of the Weser Stadion were complete, both teams are entertaining to watch, what could possibly go wrong?

Let's start at 11:42. Having set off early from Den Haag, we'd arrived in good time in the North of Germany. In true German football fashion, we hit our first bar while it was still morning. The first couple of beers were slipping down a treat over discussions about European Football Weekends, football blogging and the like, and it was only the arrival of 15 English adolescents which persuaded us to leave and head for the ground.

Bobs Full House at The Weserstadion. 

Matchday in Germany is renowned for the masses of fans who congregate in city centres, drinking vast quantities of beer while managing to mingle with very little animosity. Again I was struck by the number of friends, couples and families who were wearing colours of both sides of the 'Nord-Sud-Derby' together with a very passive police presence in the city. A quick tram ride had us in the area of the ground well before the match. Bayern fans were everywhere and our attempts to get off the beaten track were unsuccessful as we ended up in the local Werder bars surrounded by red and white. Not that Huddo was complaining. A quick rendition of some Newcastle song about who they dislike soon had him fully endeared to his Bavarian friends and that was without mentioning the St Pauli fan link.

To be honest we'd consumed more than our fair share of beer before we entered the ground. If it wasn't for the highlights I saw yesterday I wouldn't be able to tell you much about the match, but that's not what we're here for. We were here to see how many Werder player-named beer glasses we could collect. Receiving repetitive Petri Pasanen pint glasses frustrated in the way one used to acquire football sticker 'swaps' - you just had to keep going back for more.

Thomas and Dan put on a brave face after receiving yet another Petri Pasanen pint glass. 

The atmosphere wasn't bad. OK, Huddo will continue to claim it's nothing on the Millentor and I'm sure he's right, but Werder tried their best given the dire state of their team at the moment. There was a decent set of flags in the home end and the new upper tier and roof behind the goal offered a vast improvement to the atmosphere compared to the 2010 tower crane. Bayern fans were everywhere but they were not a patch on HSV last year. Who. Were. Loud.

Werder went 1-0 up just after half time, with a well taken goal from Per Mertesacker, but it was downhill from there. Anyone who still questioned whether Mikel Sylvestr was worthy of top flight football just needs to watch his shocking defending for Bayern's equalising goal scored by Arjen Robben. The own goal by Mertesacker, the schoolboy defending by Torsten Frings and red-card earning kamikaze karate kick from goalkeeper Tim Wiese were all just depressingly symptomatic of Werder's decline. Forget Werder in Europe, if this carries on, you can consider Bremen as a decent destination for a boozy 2. Bundesliga football weekend next season ..

Thomas Archer takes over the baton for the final leg....

Arminia Bielefeld 1-3 Hertha Berlin (30:01:11)

Day Three and the lads are starting to flag.

Having retired early the previous evening (through tiredness I hasten to say rather than the thought of the ensuing hangover the day after) I bounced out of bed around 9 o’clock looking forward to the day ahead. Once my other two companions had woken up it was a quick jog, or stumble, down the seemingly never-ending stairs to the car parked conveniently outside the hostel.

A quick look at the map was enough to get out of the quiet streets of Bremen and back onto the Autobahn heading towards the Westfalian town of Bielefeld via Osnabruck. Once on the way, the Kia Picanto managed to outpace a few Nissan Micras before the usual deluge of BMWs, Mercedes and any other car with an engine greater than 1 litre careered past at close to 200 kph.

The drive took about 2 hours and the weather seemed to be getting colder as we travelled south. The lack of scenery and the previous nights debauchery caught up with my ‘team-mates’ and there was soon a lot of snoring coming particularly from the back seat! At least the thoughtful BFBS (British Forces Radio) kept the journey entertaining by streaming 5Live’s Sunday morning shows.

Despite the sudden disappearance of the autobahn somewhere between Osnabruck and Hannover the journey took a little over two hours and we arrived about an hour and a half before kick-off in a much larger town than any of us expected. We happened upon the stadium and abandoned the car, keen for a bratwurst and a Krombacher.

The locals seemed friendly enough outside...

...with a traditional German football welcome inside.

The stadium itself, the Schuco Arena, is a stadium worthy of much higher standing than the current 2.Bundesliga status that Arminia Bielefeld are unlikely to sustain. Once we had collected our tickets and bought the token Arminia scarf, more for warmth than anything else, we traipsed to the other end of the ground via the sausage and beer stands. A crowd of over 20,000, including about 2,000 visitors from Berlin cranked up the atmosphere as Bielefeld’s mascot paraded around the pitch. The choreography from the away fans adding to the usual German stadium experience and the Bielefeld supporters replied with the traditional scarf waving a la ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. 

Bielefeld started off poorly and it took ex-Liverpool and Blackburn defender Markus Babbel’s Hertha until just after the quarter hour to go into the lead through midfield Ronny and this lead was soon doubled, either side of a sure fire penalty shout for the away team, through fellow Brazilian Raffael. Raffael scored another after half-time before the useless (though more effective Arminia player), Tadic scored in the 87th minute for Bielefeld. The last two minutes could have been made even tenser if Bielefeld had capitalised on a chance straight after scoring. As it was a 3-1 win for Hertha was a fair result and both sets of supporters seemed fairly satisfied. Bielefeld seem dead certainties for relegation whereas for Hertha, the Bundesliga is calling following their secondment to the 2.Bundesliga for a season.

All concerned were happy to get out of the freezing conditions and return to the car where we had found that the local Bielefeld police had decided we had parked illegally and stuck us with a 35 Euro fine. A short trip to Dortmund followed, via a McDonalds, to drop off one of our ‘team-mates’. This provided the perfect opportunity to have a look at the Signal Iduna Park (and possibly sneak in to the stadium to display Britski Belasi’s Slovak flag), Borussia Dortmund’s spectacular stadium. As we drove up we discovered the fanshop was still open (this being 7 o’clock on a Sunday night) and even more importantly the supporters bar was open. A better way to round of the weekend, we could not have wished for. A peruse of the fanshop (to buy the second scarf of the day), quick pint and our first experience of 3-D tv whilst watching Eintracht Frankfurt versus Borussia Moenchengladbach prepared us for the further two hour journey back to Den Haag.

Bono Andy ponders the future of fan ownership in Germany...

....whilst Dan and Thomas clear out the BVB clubshop. 

Follow the three amigos: Andy Hudson, Dan Richardson and Thomas Archer on Twitter.

The lads also have their own excellent websites concentrating on Slovak Football (Briski Belasi), Dutch Football (Eredivisie Life) and other wondrous adventures watching the beautiful game (Gannin' Away).

- Feel free to comment below - 


Anonymous said...

Was at the Esprit Arena 2 weeks beforehand for Fortuna - Cottbus. Pretty good stadium with good seats right behind the trainer bank for a damn good price. The Fortuna crowd seem like a mixture of St.Pauli (probably due to the Toten Hosen connection who were behind us) and your passionate local fans. Will be going there again, but not for Eurovision. Next game will either be FSV Frankfurt or off to Cottbus. Will also be going to Münster games due to being there in the week.

dave said...

i went to the reverse fixture of hertha/bielefeld back in september, by the sound of it i was a lot more fortunate with the weather but not the result! (i was in with the bielefeld lot) fantastic find this blog, sounds great fun!