All aboard the Football Express to Germany
1860 München 3-0 SpVgg Greuther Fürth (23:04:11)
FC Augsburg 1-2 Alemannia Aachen (24:04:11)
Rocco Cammisola waxes lyrical about his trip to Munich before colleague Matt Campbell picks up the baton and runs us through a day of watching football in Augsburg. Both Rocco and Matt write on the splendid Football Express website...
We arrived in Munich on Thursday evening, giving ourselves plenty of time to enjoy the city, and checked in to the Wombats hostel by Hauptbahnhof in the centre of town. It was one of the most spacious hostels I’ve ever stayed in, complete with en-suite. Thursday evening’s entertainments involved a few quiet drinks in a bar called Café Kosmos just a few minutes from the hostel.
As the bell tolls midnight Good Friday starts, and a strange atmosphere descends upon the city. The music and dancing stops and a sombre mood emerges. This continues throughout the city from midnight to midnight on Good Friday. A smattering of places will remain open and allow you to stand around drinking and chatting to the more than amicable locals, and if you look hard enough you will find somewhere where the beat lives on. Just don’t expect to remember where that place is the next morning.
Friday involved a lunchtime walk around the historic city centre, taking in Karlsplatz and Marienplatz together with a few churches along the way, followed by a tour around Munich on an open top bus, taking in the sights with minimum effort. After the tour we decided it was time to experience the beer gardens we had heard so much about. The Augustiner Keller was just a short, but fairly uninspiring, walk away. Armed with a stein of beer – or a Radler (Shandy) for those still feeling worse for wear – and an oversized pretzel we sat in a garden that had the capacity to hold a whopping 7,000 guests and relaxed for a few hours. Friday night’s fun times were had at KultFabrik; a former industrial wasteland which has been converted into a small strip of clubs and bars to suit many tastes.
Saturday was match day (or match day 1, as it would later transpire) and with Bayern playing away from home, the Allianz Arena would be home soil to the city’s less successful, but no less loved, football team. 1860 Munich were founded in a pub, making them a perfect candidate for a European Football Weekends’ expedition.
Getting to the stadium is fairly simple. You can take the U-Bahn to Fröttmaning, or the station with the big football by it on the map. As you exit the U-Bahn station a long snaking concourse, common at most modern stadia, took us toward the Allianz Arena.
The stadium shone in the glorious sunshine, each of its curves and dimples visually enhanced in a way that only the sun knows how. To the right, on top of a modestly sized hill overlooking the ground stood a huge wind turbine providing a clean, green juxtaposition to the excesses of football in modernity.
These are excesses that 1860 were no stranger to in the past, and are once again party to with big spending on aged stars such as Abedi Pele, Thomas Häßler and Davor Šuker. Not to mention the shame of having to sell their 50% share of the Allianz Arena in order to raise funds merely to continue their existence.
Die Löwen’s – the lions – attendances have tailed off since their 40,000 plus averages in their first season at the Allianz Arena. A bumper crowd, 25,000 officially, turned up for the game with Bavarian rivals Greuther Furth, but the stadium was still two thirds empty. Despite the swathes of empty seats the home crowd produced a superb atmosphere, constantly simmering before boiling over with excitement and anger when the appropriate moment came.
The game kicked off with the home side trying their best not to deal with Greuther’s brand of football, they were pressed in the first 10 minutes and mistakes along the entire backline put them under constant pressure. However, as the half wore on 1860 grew into the game and Greuther continued to miss wonderful chances.
On the 26 minute mark, Dominik Stahl scored with a near post flick on from a Daniel Halfar free kick close to the corner flag. This gave the home side confidence, though they should have had plenty coming into the match after taking nine points from their last five games.
Five minutes later the lead had been doubled, a ball was played into the young Kevin Volland in the penalty area who was able to completely turn the defender and was hacked down in the process. Up stepped club hero and fourth highest 2.Bundesliga top scorer, Benjamin Lauth, to calmly slot away the resulting penalty.
Then the party really started. As the ball nestled in the net’s sweet embrace the ground erupted with cheers of delight from all three quarters containing the 1860 fans. Two elderly gentlemen sitting in the seats just in front of me exchange an embrace, made all the more awkward by the necessity to ensure they didn’t stub their cigarettes out on each other – smoking is permitted within the ground it would seem.
The Germans, it would appear, love to celebrate a goal like nowhere else. They even have words set aside for the purpose 'toyhymne' or 'tormusik' – loosely translated as goal music. When Lauth scored the PA system blared out a house remix in honour of their marksman.
The atmosphere in the ground simmered as the game ticked along, not a lot happening on the pitch but a drum at each end of the ground constantly beating out a pulse for the crowd to synchronise with. The Munich crowd kept themselves entertained with renditions of songs based on the Village People's greatest hits, including but not limited to Macho Man and Go West.
The thirty four year old former Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Burnley goalkeeper, Gabor Kiraly, was between the sticks for the home side. The eccentric stopper produced the highlight of the day when he collected an aimless through ball and decided to launch it down field toward Bennie Lauth. Lauth just about out ran his marker before poking the ball past the on rushing keeper, as the ball dribbled into the net the stadium erupted into a party mood once more.
On our way back into town, we stopped off at the Englischer Garten – another of Munich's wonderful beer gardens – for a stein or six and a spot of pork knuckle, while sitting in the shadow of the Chinese Tower. Here you may bump into some of the 1860 ultrà, some scarier than others, but all friendly in their own special way. (Even if some were offended by the outfit combination of a sechzig shirt and Burger King crown - apparently showing grave disrespect whilst the lions are not the kings of Munich.)
Sunday dawns and Matt Campbell continues.........
Sunlight spreads across an increasingly messy hostel room; there are tired eyes and groans aplenty, another night of steins (this time in aid of a glorious 1860 victory) having taken their toll on our bodies. It’s another gloriously sunny day in Bavaria, and feeling a tad weary we decide to take leave of the throbbing metropolis of Munich and head for the quieter surrounds of Augsburg; it’s Matchday 2, promotion-hunting FC Augsburg v Alemannia Aachen.
Purchase the fantastic value “Bavaria Ticket”; up to 5 people can travel on the one group ticket anywhere in Bavaria for only 28 euro (that’s the total price of the ticket, not each, and it’ll even take you to Salzburg in Austria!) Augsburg is a quite nice 45-minute-or-so train ride from Munich’s Hauptbahnhof through Bavaria; a local tram then takes you to the brand spanking new Impuls Arena. Hardly impressively set against the backdrop of a motorway, but a very tidy, modern venue with a capacity of 30,000. The crowds were out for Augsburg today; the club are on the cusp of their first ever appearance in the top division of German football. So close last season, cruelly being denied in the playoff vs. Nurnberg, this season they lie in an automatic promotion spot and are determined to hang onto it. A stark contrast from 10 years ago, when the club were consigned to playing in the 4th division due to the state of their finances. And 25,000 of them came out in force to cheer their side on today.
But for whatever reason, something was sorely missing in the team’s performance at the start. Perhaps the weight of expectation affected the players; they seemed nervous, and the usually tight defence (the meanest of the Bundesliga 2) looked shaky, despite the best efforts of the imperious Lukas Sinkiewicz in the midfield in front of them. Not that Aachen were particularly adept at exposing these frailties- they were playing with the air of a mid-table side who’s season has long been finished. However, their matches generally do produce goals and this was no exception. With relatively little to choose between the two sides and no real clear cut chances to be had, somehow Aachen were 2-0 to the good after 24 minutes. First, in the 13th minute the ball was nicely worked towards the byline down the right, before Shervin Radjabali-Fardi was able to cut in and send a low shot rustling into the far corner of the net. 11 minutes later, Kevin Kratz was afforded freedom outside the Augsburg penalty are and sent a precise shot in-off the bottom of the goalkeeper’s righthand post. Commendable finishes, both from positions that hardly seemed too threatening, but the Bavarians’ backline had been slack and allowed the visitors too much time.
The small minority of Aachen fans that had made the journey south were in good spirits, but suddenly the stehplatz containing the home fans began to rock, attempting to stir their team to life. Being behind gave Augsburg the kick they needed and they went forth in search of a goal. They were rewarded with a penalty in the 40th minute - unquestionably the right call as Torsten Oehrl was rather crudely brought down by Thomas Stehle. Stephan Hain cooly converted, sending Augsburg into the break only one behind. The second half it was almost entirely one way traffic, but sadly for Augsburg they couldn’t find an equaliser despite the high level of pressure they applied. Alemannia’s most active participant was manager Peter Hyballa: dressed in a casual t-shirt and some (uncomfortably-looking) tight jeans, he looked like he should be heading to the KultFabrik for a night out rather than managing a football team. Never still, he encouraged his side with frantic hand motions and little hops in the air - which appeared to do the trick as his side hung on for victory.
We retired to Munich for some contemplative steins, our weekend of Bavarian Bundesliga 2 action providing much to think about. Augsburg had started off the game disappointingly, more being expected of the second best team in the division. However, they could quite easily have gotten a point out of the match in the end and their promotion hopes have not suffered irreparably by any means - currently, with two rounds of fixtures to play, they still sit second with a 3 point cushion (and vastly superior goal difference) between themselves and 3rd-placed Bochum. Hopefully, the Impuls Arena should be playing host to Augsburg’s first ever season of top flight football come the new season. And for 1860? The future may not be so rosy. Some positive results as of late can’t compensate for the continuing financial struggles the club find themselves in and it’s hard to see much improvement in the future, although we can hope they somehow mesh together an attempt at promotion next season. Any thoughts of the Munich derby returning to top flight must be put on hold for the foreseeable future: and any hopes of Die Löwen once more wearing the crowns as kings of the city can for now exist merely in dreams.
For more of the lads work, head to the excellent Football Express website
And European Football Weekends for that matter
- Feel free to comment below -