Thursday, 10 November 2011

European Football Weekends in Germany


Fortuna Dusseldorf 2-1 Dynamo Dresden
Borussia Dortmund 5-1 Wolfsburg 
Alemannia Aachen 2-2 Duisburg

Chris Durning from The Bar and In blog on his European football weekend in Germany...

Its good to be back. After taking in two matches around this time last year in North-Rhine Westphalia involving Borussia Monchengladbach and Rot Weiss Oberhausen we just couldn't get enough of the wonderful world that is German football. This time we were set for three games in three days across the region which many refer to as 'Football heaven'. Flying out from London Luton Airport after spotting the legend that is Terminal Duty Officer Pat Salmon (from the ITV and now Pick TV's Luton Airport documentary) we landed in Dortmund a little after 9am. First on the menu for this footballing feast would be a game around an hour away in Dusseldorf between high-fliers Fortuna Dusseldorf and Dynamo Dresden. Arriving in Dusseldorf you quickly notice that its a far bigger city than Dortmund with the Konigsallee boasting Gucci, Prada and Armani amongst others, the only street we were interested in however, was Bolkerstrasse. Home to breweries Zum Schlossel and Im Goldenen Kessel which were quite literally heaving with fans from both sides.

Pitching up at the Esprit arena gives the impression that you are there for a conference exhibition rather than a football match, until you get through the turnstiles that is. Once inside the Arena is both modern and enclosed which aid's the noise of both sets of fans to be heard clearly creating an immense atmosphere even with the ground half full, as is regular. Fortuna bossed the game in the early stages and duly took the lead through Maximillian Beister's deflected effort, people around us were showered with the pre-match beer during the celebrations. As Dusseldorf went on the offensive again I spotted three large men from the row behind us sporting freshly re-filled pints of Altbier, I was beginning to regret not purchasing a Fortuna brolly. Thankfully Dusseldorf didn't score, in fact Dresden decided they had seen enough of their own half and went up the other end with Mickael Pote prodding a neat shot past the Fortuna 'keeper. This didn't do anything to dampen the spirit of the Fortuna support with a man behind us doing his best Gerard Butler of '300' by yelling 'FOOOORTUUUUUUUNAAAAAAAAAAA' at the top of his lungs.

The noise never let up inside the ground and the home support were rewarded when Jovanovic killed the ball on the thigh and lashed it into the top corner in stoppage time giving Fortuna the points. Getting away from the ground wasn't too difficult with the station being situated inside the complex of the Esprit Arena, bizarrely on the way back we caught sight of a Fortuna supporter cradling his pet hedgehog, only in Germany eh.

Fresh from the delights of Dusseldorf we had a second game to go to, my voice newly refreshed by an ice cold pint of Dortmund ale and we found ourselves at the quite magnificent Signal Iduna Park, the largest stadium in Germany I'll have you know. As we joined the sea of black and yellow cramming into the ground for what was to be a sell out, the sheer size of the place really hits home. Steep stands and unobstructed views aplenty with the largest standing area in Europe (known as the Sudtribune) it really did feel like the home of football. The lads at EFW of course love their roof's in stadiums and as far as roof's in stadiums go, this was a bobby dazzler, surely worth five UEFA stars? Dortmund I should mention were playing Wolfsburg and some of their supporters had gathered in our section around five rows in front which made a pleasant change. A huge display went up in the Sudtribune as the teams emerged with the message 'Dortmund until the death' underneath a headstone bearing a skull, if that doesn't say passion I'm not sure what does.

Dortmund started the much brighter and soon took the lead through German sensation Mario Gotze, surely bound for Real Madrid or Barcelona in January on this kind of form. Shinji Kagawa added a second and Wolfsburg's patchy away form began to haunt them. The second half saw Alexander Hleb, formerly of Birmingham City, find a way back into the game for the away side, with a tap in for 2-1. Sadly the Wolfsburg fan's joy was short lived as the towering Sven Bender powered a header over the line (just) to restore the two-goal cushion. Wolfsburg may have regretted sticking Liverpool reject Sotirios Kyrgiakos at centre half as Dortmund focused their attacks on the Greek defenders alarming lack of pace. Soon after Robert Lewandowski chipped the Wolfsburg 'keeper and Gotze helped himself to a second, the rout was complete. The Sudtribune were bouncing and Wolfsburg left with their tails between their legs.

At a little over 200 Euros a Dortmund season ticket on that magnificent Sudtribune is well worth considering as the yellow army play some truly magnificent football, next week its the big one against FC Schalke and it's sure to be a thriller.

Sunday's normally a day of rest for the Germans, but not for us. Up bright and early at 7:30am (ouch) we were off on the final leg of our journey to the border town of Aachen which straddles both Dutch and Belgian borders (in case you're interested). This would be Alemannia Aachens 1000th game in the second tier of German football and a near-sell out was the order of the day as once again we were surrounded by people dressed in black and yellow. A large police presence greeted us at Aachen Hauptbahnhof as this was a local derby and a full house at the new Tivoli stadium but as per, the fans mixed with no problems at all with a large travelling contingent from Duisburg. On the approach to the new stadium we passed the ruins of the previous Tivoli with those magnificent floodlights still standing strong along with some of the turnstile entrances.

The new stadium is literally a goal kick away from the old stadium and is of very impressive quality. Simple in design and execution with an entire end dedicated to standing, which would be our home for the afternoon. As we entered the Bitburger wall terrace we were handed large sheets of yellow paper, this would be for a display later on. Standing beside one of the Aachen flagbearers (top tip if you want a little more room on the terrace) the views of the action were superb and the atmosphere even more so. Aachen wasted no time in taking the lead through Radu's towering far post header, bizarrely pre-match the tunes played included Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline' and 'Three Lion's' by Baddiel,Skinner and The Lightening Seeds. Aachen's theme however, is the Gloria Gaynor classic 'I will survive' very apt for a team who only managed one goal in their opening 10 matches. Duisburg soon responded testing Aachen stopper Boy Waterman who pulled off impressive saves throughout. Sadly Waterman was beaten when another Duisburg break resulted in Valeri Domovchyski levelling for the zebra's.

Aachen fans continued to lead the chants as the Duisburg away support jumped up and down and soon they were jumping for joy as Andre Hoffman peeled away at the far post to nod Duisburg ahead, mad celebrations in the corner as Aachen stood stunned. Aachen soon brought on two substitutes in a vain effort to rescue a point and with 68 minutes on the clock, star striker Beni Auer broke clear resulting in the Aachen man's shot turned in by the unfortunate Branimir Bajic. As 'I will survive' blasted around the ground the party atmosphere was back, with Aachen surging on for a late winner Duisburg stood firm and the game ended 2-2.

So three games and 13 goals later it was all over for (possibly) another year, top class entertainment and top marks once again to the German football system, free rail passes on the match tickets are a real god-send to those wanting a budget weekend watching football as we remember it. Go on, give it a go...

Chris Durning is the Editor of The Bar and In.

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