Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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.
You can follow Ed, Andy and European Football Weekends on Twitter.
For more of Ed’s work, head to his FCUM A.D. blog.
– Feel free to comment below –
Advertisements

Me Tarzan, you Jane
Manisaspor 0-2 Bursaspor (20:11:10)
Ulas Gürsat continues his new weekly column for EFW. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:
If you fancy a trip to watch Manisaspor, one of Turkey’s oldest clubs, then bare in mind that you don’t need to hang around in the city of Manisa for too long – it’s very dull. Just 45 minutes away by car is Izmir, and that’s where you want to be staying. Izmir: party capital, Manisa: probably not.
But don’t let that put you off completely, because their football team, brilliantly, are nicknamed The Tarzanlar (Tarzans). They may not be famous for their partying, but they are rightly celebrated for their Tarzan, seriously. His real name is Ahmet Bedevi, and he fought in the Independence war of Turkey. After retiring from the army, he dedicated his life to planting trees, and took residence in the Sipil Mountains – wearing just his shorts. When the Tarzan movie showed in Manisa, locals thought it mirrored the life of Bedevi. He died in 1963 and became known as Manisa Tarzani (Tarzan of Manisa) – a famous cult hero. Statues of him adorn the city, and ceremonies are held for him each year on the anniversary of his death.
Manisaspor Megastore open for business.

A pre-match Simit bread with sesame anyone?
The Sipil Mountains overlook the stadium. On a quiet day you can make out the screeches and calls of Tarzan, Jane and little Cheetah.
This Manisaspor v Bursaspor match attracted the biggest crowd of the season to the Manisa 19 Mayis Stadium. After their spectacular win against Galatasaray, Manisaspor fans fancied a repeat of that success, and the thick end of 17,000 fans turned up. Bursaspor fans, for their part, also packed their section arriving in a dozen or so buses.
Planning isn’t quite what it should be at Turkish football matches. There wasn’t enough room for the away fans, and so some of them adopted a ‘Trojan tactic’. They purchased tickets in the home sections and 15 minutes into the game they broke through the line of security and tried to gain access to the visitors pen. It’s a common tactic at busy matches in Turkey.
Unfortunately, the jungle instinct came out in the local Tarzans, and there was sporadic violence in pockets of the stadium. Hooliganism at Turkish league matches still occurs on a regular basis, actually. You can see a fight nearly every 3 or 4 games.
A small fight breaks out in the stands. Luckily, Tarazan was later seen swinging through the trees to put a stop to it.


The Bursa fans using their ‘Trojan tactic’.

Locals respond with a bit of a sing-song and some pointy arm action.
Bursaspor won the game with an own goal from Ömer Aysan Baris, and a Pablo Batalla effort in the last minute of the first half. Manisaspor’s performance failed to reach the dizzy heights of that victory away to Galatasaray last week. They seemed over confident after that win. And Bursaspor returned to winning ways after losing against Trabzonspor. Normal service resumed.
In terms of food, Manisa is not so different to many other Turkish towns. Sunflower seeds, rice with chickpeas, meatballs are the things you can try. But there are some specialities of Manisa. The Manisa kebab isn’t too special, consisting of a spicy meatballs on pita. But for something different, how about the Mesir Macunu. It’s a paste made up of 41 varieties of spices, herbs and roots. And furthermore, it is believed to be a natural form of Viagra. Perfect for ‘getting you up’ after a 0-2 home defeat no?
We are top of the league, say, we are top of the league.

– Feel free to comment below –

Galatasaray

Welcome to hell! Anyone?

Galatasaray 0-2 Manisaspor (14:11:10)
Ulas Gürsat continues his new weekly column for EFW. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:
Welcome to hell? If only. They’d roll out the red carpet to greet anyone from overseas to Galatasaray next season. Right here, right now, they are in a very bad place, and – possibly not for the first time – their fans are a little unhappy with life.
After serving Gala and Turkish football for 46 years well-ish for 46 years, the infamous Ali Sami Yen Stadium is soon to be no more. In January, the club will move into their new Seyrantepe Stadium, and the two stadiums couldn’t be any more contrasting.
Ali Sami Yen was the founder of the club.

A corporate new world of mod€rn football awaits.
So, this match was one of the last to be played in the old ground. And fans of the Cim bom would have preferred for this to be remembered as a celebration, ah.
Galatasaray are having one of their worst seasons in recent memory. After 12 rounds of the Turkish league, they sit in tenth position. The board reacted by sacking Frank Rijkaaard and called back the legendary Gheorghe Hagi, but things have not improved.
During this game, the fans let their thoughts about the board be known. They turned their back to the pitch and chanted names of past heroes; Metin Oktay, Hakan Şükür and the like, to remind the current regime of just how big this club is. At the end of the match, they refused to leave the stadium for over an hour and continued chanting obscenities against the current owners.
Who turned out the lights? Fans remain behind to voice their anger.

Don’t look back in anger.
Manisaspor won this game with ease by utilising their pacey wingers to good effect. Gala barely had a shot worthy of note. Last years top scorer Aziza Makukula and Simpson’s penalty secured the points for the, ahem, Tarzanlar (Tarzans).
Just three more home games left until the bulldozers demolish the Ali Sami Yen, and turn it – rather like Highbury – into a block of flats. The fans are hoping that the new stadium will bring with it some fresh optimism and new hope.
Istanbul is a huge metropolitan city and the Ali Sami Yen was smack bang in the middle of that city. It was easy to come and go from the stadium. And with all the buildings and stuff surrounding the ground, you are spoilt for choice in terms of food. Sultanahmet Koftecisi (Sultanahmet Meatballs) are always popular with the fans, as are the kebab, but good luck with getting a kebab, because the queues are always enormous.
Misir (corn) is maybe not the normal thing you’d think of eating before a match, but these are very popular in Istanbul. And you have to finish eating them before you get to the stadium, because the Turkish police won’t allow you take a corn cob inside, bizarre eh? If it’s cold then opt for Kestane (chestnuts), they are sure to warm your cockles – and no mistake.
Pre-match Turkish style.
Salad with that Sir?
Offensive weapons?
Next up on these pages will be a trip to see Manisaspor v Bursaspor, until then Sağlığınıza!
– Have you been to Galatasaray? Got any stories? Feel free to comment below –

This badge is your badge, this badge is my badge
Andy Hudson describes the joys of following a community, co-operative football club – and travels with FC United of Manchester fans to experience one of the greatest nights in their short history:
A curry house in Rusholme sounds an unlikely setting for a revolution, but over chapattis came final consensus that modern football was out of touch with its fans. The story of what happened in 2005 when Malcolm Glazer knocked on the door of Old Trafford and demanded the richest club in the world be saddled with huge debts has been well documented, especially during the week that FC United of Manchester introduced themselves to the nation by defeating Rochdale, who currently play a whole four divisions above them, live on TV in the FA Cup. Suddenly the media and football fans were either queuing up to love them or lining up to run them down.
We live in a time where football fans have less say than ever in how their football club is managed but over in Manchester it is the fans of FC United that make their own decisions. All members have an equal say in what happens and if they don’t agree then they will display that first through debate and then through a ‘one member one vote’ system.
The decision to move the Rochdale game for television caused debate across the members’ base – many were in favour of the move while there were those who refused to attend due to the change from a 3pm kick-off on Saturday. For a club that sinks every spare penny they have into the development fund for their new stadium, the £67,500 TV money makes a significant contribution towards running costs after yearly losses. Make no mistake, FC United are far from flush with money, and still refuse to consider a shirt sponsor. Being without their own ground brings many problems, such as paying rent to Bury FC for the use of Gigg Lane and fixture clashes with their landlords resulting in home games already having to be moved to other dates. Agreeing to move a game so that it can be televised on a Friday night, 5 miles from where they usually play, is different to a forced change when the game is in London for example; something that fans of ‘big’ clubs have experienced on a regular basis in the past.
Where FCUM really lead the way in how football clubs conduct themselves is through their community schemes. The club is a co-operative and their groundbreaking initiative to raise funds for the stadium development at Ten Acres Lane, Newton Heath offers fans a chance to buy community shares and own a part of their community’s regeneration. As General Manager Andy Walsh stated, “This is a landmark opportunity to invest in a club bringing football back to the heart of its communities and leave a lasting legacy for future generations”. Newton Heath suffers from a number of problems, such as education, skills and employment issues, activity provision and crime. Football can play a role within communities as part of a broader regeneration strategy and FCUM have prioritised developing projects with socially excluded young people, providing positive and healthy activities and providing education and skills development. FC Community Coach Steve Bennett explains that “working within the community of Manchester is an integral part of the work that FC provides. We work in inner city schools with every age group and support multi-sports, nutrition and out of school activities. FC encourage parents to bring their children to the games and we often put transport on to get them to Bury, in the hope that when the move is made to Newton Heath there is a strong fan-base of young kids.”
FCUM were one of the first clubs in the country to offer a pay-what-you-can-afford season ticket, which raised more money than charging a set price the previous season, and as part of the TV agreement with Rochdale they managed to agree on a reduced ticket price for the match so that attendance was more affordable to both sets of fans.
The fans actively participate in anti-racism projects and are one of the few teams to be invited to play in the annual Antira football tournament, organised by the fans of the German club FC St Pauli, where anti-fascist and anti-racism ideas are discussed and networks and friendships forged with fans from teams such as Sampdoria, FC Winterthur and Fortuna Düsseldorf. To many FCUM fans the politics are of utmost importance, this being a club that for some time have actively encouraged gay and unwaged supporters to attend their matches.
Fans of FC United and St Pauli unite following a game at the Antira Tournament.
Under the direction of Robin Pye, FCUM have recently launched a 16 week apprentice scheme aimed at 16-19 year olds, of either gender, who are out of employment and not in further education. The focus is not on personal football ability but on developing skills that one can use on a personal level and within the community. There are a number of FCUM volunteers working on their coaching badges, which the apprentices will also work towards, and sessions are regularly arranged for kids across all areas of Manchester. Manager Karl Maginson, who sold asparagus as a fruit and veg man when he first became manager of FCUM, now spends his week travelling around Manchester with Roy Soule, another member of the FC management team, coaching in schools, youth offenders institutes and prisons as two of ten community coaches who also run FC’s Community Sports Leaders Award.
This volunteer sense strongly prevails at FCUM. Not only do members help out on match days but you’ll often find the office staffed by folk doing a few hours of work here and there. It was estimated that 200 volunteer hours managed to get FCUM Radio (http://www.fcumradio.co.uk/) on-air during October 2010 and along with live radio commentary of every match there is also streamed ‘television’ coverage available online.
The atmosphere so loved by the watching television audience for the Rochdale match wasn’t a show for the cameras. Karl Marginson once described FCUM as a 90/90 club, where “90% of the fans sing for 90 minutes”. I’ve been to the glamour grounds of Rochdale, FC St Pauli and Ramsbottom United and Margy is wrong: it’s more like 99% of the fans singing for over 90 minutes. Before the teams make their way out for kick-off there’s the chant of “bring on United” which reaches a crescendo just as the teams emerge from the tunnel. The noise then continues unabated for the rest of the match. The difference between attending a Premier League match and going to watch FCUM is simple: the atmosphere is vastly improved watching FC; whereas most Premier League grounds struggle to produce 6 different songs during a match, you are likely to witness over 15 at FC; and you get flags at FC. Lots of them. For those with any experience of German football, the fan culture is more aligned to our Teutonic cousins than to our fellow countrymen.
And what specifically of that Rochdale match? I joined the Stockport branch for the day, meeting up at a pub for a 5.30pm coach departure time. I arrived at 2pm expecting the pub to be quiet. Giddiness had gotten the better of some of the members (I mean when was the last time you were able to watch the team you co-own make their FA Cup First Round debut?) who were already flowing with beer. A packed pub then embarked on a slow coach journey, Manchester’s traffic allowing us to progress at a speed similar to that of the Cup winners on their open-top bus trip in May, before ditching us outside of Spotland and the Krypton Factor like challenge of getting served inside the Church Pub, just along from the Willbutts Lane stand which had been given over in it’s entirety to FC for the evening.
Standing just to the right of the ESPN commentary team, Jon Champion (who had made a special appearance on the live FCUM Radio commentary the week before against Ossett Town) and Craig Burley (who had been making a brew for the FCUM Radio team prior to kick-off), at the back of the stand I witnessed a tornado of red, black and white cascade down below me. The night was freezing and the steam rising from 3,200 voices singing in unison could have powered Stephenson’s Rocket to far flung destinations such as Vancouver and Sydney where official supporters’ clubs were watching live. Nicky Platt scored just before half-time and the guy in-front had me in a massive bear hug. Jake Cottrell scored a tremendous goal just after half-time, a goal that would be analysed over-and-over again if it were scored in the Premier League, and the noise volume of the crowd seemed to double. Whereas most fans would be subdued if their team were then pegged back to 2-2, the Punk Football that The Red Rebels sing about was displayed; defiance, a “you’ve equalised, so what?” attitude prevalent and the singing continued. And then there was Mike Norton bundling the ball from the ‘keeper to score with seconds left. Voices eventually started to crack; throats would be sore.
Joyous scenes greet the final whistle at Spotland.
FCUM will play Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup Second Round. Many FC fans immediately cast their mind back to the 1983 FA Cup Final. That year they supported the overwhelming favourites; this year they support the overwhelming underdogs. Steve Bennett, who is also the radio commentator for FC told me, “I fond memories of that game as it is my first FA Cup memory, but now we are FC United of Manchester. The spirit and camaraderie between the two groups of fans is already apparent as a number of Brighton fans have been up to FC. This is an opportunity to express ourselves and show that community, co-operative football is the way forward. We’re still on a high after beating Rochdale and the management of FC will be going into the game feeling they can win. From the fans perspective it’s all about the weekend, meeting new fans and flying the flag for co-operative football clubs. The more we can achieve the better it will be for the co-operative movement within football.”
The FA Cup party continues but the real one began over 5 years ago when these fans started something that every football fan wants: a club that appreciates their love.
You can follow Andy Hudson and FC United on Twitter.
To read more of Andy’s work, make a beeline for his splendid Gannin’ Away blog.
– Feel free to comment below –
Fußball Kommt Nach Hause*

Karlsruher SC 1-1 FC Erzebirge Aue (12:11:10)
FC Köln 0-4 Borussia Mönchengladbach (13:11:10)

by Garreth Cummins

In the latest instalment of ‘readers lives’, Garreth Cummins talks us through his European Football Weekend in Germany. Garreth – a Liverpool supporter – works for the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) as an International Officer:

Three travelling companions and I eschewed our usual weekend spot, which would have seen us on the away terrace of one of our least-favourite Premier League grounds this weekend past, to head to Germany. For us, the excuse of avoiding a disliked away trip coupled by paying a visit to our friend Al, who is spending the year working in Germany, and sampling some of their world-renowned fan-friendly experience was too good to turn down.

After landing in Munich we headed first west to Karlsruhe to watch the home team, currently languishing near the foot of Bundesliga 2, entertain high-flying Erzgebirge Aue on the Friday evening. For some of our band the highlight of the trip was to be the following day’s trip to Köln for the Rhein Derby against hated neighbours Borussia Mönchengladbach, but for my money (all €11 odd of it), the Karlsruhe game was the pick of the weekend’s action. Standing tickets? Beer in the ground? Walking to the stadium from the city centre? Some misguided sense of obscure, non-top flight cachet? Former Intertoto Cup Winners? It had it all.
Friday night at the Wildparkstadion. What’s not to like?
We positioned ourselves on the north terrace, just to the side of the main band of KSC ultras, the majority of whom had the protection of the roof that we sadly did not – still, it’s not proper standing on an open terrace unless you get a little bit wet, is it? They provided much of the entertainment in a very poor first half, aside from one of the more bizarre goals we’re likely to see all season – the visitors opened the scoring from the edge of the box early on, after a block tackle from the home centre half rebounded in off the advancing centre forward and flew past the keeper. Their fans reacted in the only way possible – hurling their plastic beer containers over the perimeter fence and onto the running track in disgust. No small act of defiance when it means you lose your €1 deposit.
Karlsruhe’s opponents Erzgebirge Aue [Urts-gi-burger Owa] surely ranks as the most German sounding team of all-time?
Karlsruhe’s equaliser, when it eventually came some time into the second half, was a 20-yarder of real class: the only recognisable name on the teamsheet (to us, anyway) Alexander Iashvili driving home a half volley from the edge of the box with the outside of his right foot. More beer cups rained down on the track – it appears that any extreme of emotion is enough to bring a Karlsruher to flagrant disregard for his or her deposit. Were it not for the referee bottling a late penalty decision, Karlsruhe would have taken their first win in 5 at home, and the stewards would’ve been even more handsomely rewarded for their night’s work stood out on the running track.
KSC Fan-tastic
Warmed by our new found love of KSC and their flag-waving fanatics (that, and the excellent Feuerwurst on offer at the Wildparkstadion), we absented ourselves to a downtown hostelry. In finding a table in the packed post-match throng, Al introduced us to a fellow Köln supporter, Marius, who had the misfortune to be missing the biggest game of the season the following day owing to a lack of funds. His friends had offered him a ticket, but just before payday he couldn’t afford both the ticket and to travel the few hundred kilometres north. A quick whip-round later, and Marius was frantically on the phone to his friend to ensure the offer of a ticket still stood. For a small price each we’d nabbed ourselves a personal guide to Köln, which we thought was excellent value, and a rather friendly gesture to boot.
Travelling at over 300 km/h with a hangover doesn’t sound like the best of experiences, but the excellent German ICE train sped the six of us to Köln early (too early for my liking) the following morning. Marius negotiated us through the city’s S-Bahn system, arriving at the ground a few hours ahead of kick-off to sample the atmosphere. Despite being early, the tram to the ground was packed, and rocking with a number of derby day songs as we made our way to the Rhein Energie Stadion. My personal favourite (and fast becoming my favourite football chant of any side anywhere) was the rather choice ‘Gladbach pigs, Gladbach pigs, Gladbach pigs; we’ll fuck you all up the arse, you wankers’.
It doesn’t rhyme in German, either, for the record, but it still gets the point across.
The welcoming committee at the Rhineland derby.
Our greeting at our matchday pub of choice, around 500 yards from the ground was not what we could call warm – the police were out in force, and pointed out to Marius that were he to cross the road as he was requesting, to get to another pub, that they would arrest him. That being the case, we decided where we were was probably alright for now. So we drank our Kölsch, and marvelled at the passing effigies of horses being hanged on mocked up 6 foot tall gallows that we were assured by our hosts were perfectly normal for derby day am Rhein.
Relax – it’s derby day. This is all perfectly normal, apparently.
Soon after, the presence of the police was both expanded, and explained. The first of 4 trams of visiting fans was being escorted up the main road, and past our drinking den, accompanied by at least 20 police vans. It was as they reached the pub that we heard the first firecrackers explode, and saw the first of the number of fans who’d gathered at the front of the pub returning towards us with their eyes streaming from the tear-gas. The Köln fans’ efforts were repeated a subsequent 3 times, and only some time after the final tram had passed (and not long before kick-off) we were allowed to make our way to the stadium.
Unfortunately our band of five were split into three separate areas of the ground, and although I drew the shorter straw of being on my own (my half-time conversation with my neighbour was interesting, albeit brief) that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the whole experience. If you think that You’ll Never Walk Alone is a great pre-match anthem, you want to try taking in the full 6 verses and choruses of De Höhner – the words are up on the big screens for tourists such as ourselves, even if they do make it slightly difficult by putting them up in the Kölsch dialect rather than in German (although I suppose if you don’t speak German the fact they are in a dialect rather than ‘normal’ German is probably lost on you anyway).
Flares are still trendy in Germany.
The impressive pre-match rendition, alongside the flares and smoke-bombs in the away end sadly gave way to something of a tepid first half, not helped by the deluge in the days preceding the game which led to players sliding all over, and the ball stopping mid-dribble and mid-pass in puddles on the pitch. The second half, however, was as surprising as the first had been uninspiring – Gladbach, much to Marius’ doubtless chagrin, and that of the majority of those in attendance, ended up worthy 4-0 winners, largely courtesy of Köln’s very accommodating (or abject) defence.
By the time we met up on the tram afterwards, we think Marius was silently cursing our generous act in getting him to the game. He probably wished he’d stayed at home, and when we saw our team’s performance that evening in a Köln bar we were glad we hadn’t.
You can follow both the Football Supporters’ Federation and European Football Weekends on Twitter.
The FSF is free to join. CLICK HERE to do just that. Well, what are you waiting for?

(*Football’s Coming Home)
– Feel free to comment below –

Space Invaders Against Sexism
First Vienna FC 1894 1 – 1 FC Lustenau 1907 (12:11:10)

Julian Harris of Gingers for Limpar becomes the latest big name to make his EFW debut:

When a local cab driver doesn’t know the way to the ground, one may be forgiven for wondering exactly what game of football one has signed up to. In search of some lower division fun during a short excursion through Austria’s capital, myself and three friends turned up our reverse-snobbish noses at the relative giants of Rapid and Austria Vienna, opting instead for the oldest club in the land – the boastfully-named First Vienna FC 1894. “The famous football team” as their equally-boastful fans sang throughout the game, along with a host of other songs – nearly all bellowed out in English.

“We are Vienna,
We are supporters,
We are mental
And we are mad…”

This was one of the more honest chants, the final line corroborated by other songs being sung to the tunes of Gary Glitter and the Addams Family (“…Vienna family, da-da-da-da, *STAMP* *STAMP*, da-da-da-da…”). It made for great amusement, also allowing four lagered-up English monoglots to join in the fun.

First Vienna’s fans have to make their own amusement, you see. Lumbering at the bottom of the second division, it was immediately obvious that their side are as clueless as the cab driver who’d deliver us, via SatNav, to the wrong side of the ground (the side from where you can look down on the floodlit green, but can’t actually get in).

Playing an extremely conventional and rigid 4-4-2, First Vienna were under the cosh from a more fluid, technically adept and organised Lustenau side straight from kick off. The home side defended with two banks of four, and regularly relied on the solid performance of their ‘keeper, Kuru Bartolomej (who should be good, given the amount of practice he inevitably gets).

Somehow, however, First Vienna held on and the sides went in 0-0 at half time. We filtered out with the locals to stock up on more beer and emit the several pints consumed before the game. In the (men’s) toilets there’s a strange gallery of polemical stickers. One sticker depicts, from behind, three skin-heads in bomber jackets and Doc Martens taking a piss in a urinal, with something below about “die soziale national partei”. I couldn’t quite figure out if this was pro-Nazi or a, ahem, piss-take.

Another sticker was for the “anarchosyndikalistische” lot, or “students” as we now call them in the UK. Another sticker boldly declared: “Space Invaders Against Sexism”. Too right.

In the second half Lustenau had the privilege of attacking the end nearest their 6 (six) travelling supporters. These half a dozen hardy lunatics spent the whole game isolated and drenched, standing and singing alone on the roofless stand opposite the home fans. I say “lunatics”, but they use a slightly different word as a self-description, standing as they were behind a large banner reading “Freaks on Tour”.

Just two minutes after the break the freaks were jumping for joy as their team sprung the offside trap, and the notably impressive winger Daniel Schopf made it 0-1. The home fans were briefly silenced, but hardly surprised, and before long were singing and stamping away as before.

One of First Vienna’s many problems on the pitch is that they apparently have two “luxury” players upfront, yet have no ideas beyond hoofing it up to them as if they have the height of Duncan Fergusson and the work-rate of Carlos Tevez. They have neither, of course, so First were reduced to switching to a 4-3-3 with three attacking substitutions.

It hardly brought the game to light, but it did get them a bit higher up the pitch, and their endeavour was rewarded with just a few minutes to go by a very generous-looking penalty decision. Up stepped one of their “luxury players”, centre forward Rade Djokic, to send the ‘keeper the wrong way and level the scores.

As we jumped and punched the air and shouted “Vienna” it was hard not to be charmed by this club. Nick Hornby famously wrote how he fell in love with the Arsenal after a terribly scrappy 90 minutes of kick-and-rush at Highbury. The rubbish football was irrelevant; he wasn’t after the faux-glamorous fare at Chelsea or Tottenham. He was after identity and belonging. You get both with First Vienna. All together now: “Yellow and blue are the colours, Football is the game…”

Pictures from the Official First Vienna FC 1894 website.
You can follow both Julian Harris and European Football Weekends on Twitter.
For more of Julian’s work, make a beeline for his Gingers for Limpar blog.
– Feel free to comment below –

FC Zimbru

I’m feelin’ glad Moldova
FC Zimbru Chişinău 3-1 Nistru Otaci
It’s my great pleasure to welcome Michael Hudson of the Accidental Groundhopper Blog to EFW for his debut article. Anyone who travels six hours across Moldova for a game of football is immediately inducted into the EFW Hall of Fame:
On a good day you can get from Odessa to Chişinău, the capital city of Moldova, in around four hours. On the day we chose to travel it took us over six. The road was rutted, pot-holed and covered with falling snow. ‘Quality and Comfort’ said a sticker on the side of the bus, but my seat was stuck in a permanent half-recline and the air was so cold that nobody took their hat or gloves off. The driver had a black leather cap pulled down low over his sunglasses, a cigarette in one hand and a mobile phone permanently wedged in the other. “When I was in India,” began a loud North American voice from the very back of the bus. At the border there was nothing except brown, ice-coated puddles, an emaciated dog and a concrete toilet block, where we paid the equivalent of 18p to urinate down a skittle-shaped hole in the ground. Four men in combat fatigues and fur hats watched over the queue from the inside of a jeep.
Welcome to Chişinău…

…..the largest transportation hub in Moldova.
Chişinău’s no Prague. The city was hit by an earthquake in 1940 and most of what was left standing was soon flattened by one or other of the German, Romanian or Soviet armies. We covered the sights in an afternoon: stone statues and glass casinos, rubble and squash courts where Moldova once held Scotland to a 1-1 draw, an Orthodox cathedral and a smallish arch built to celebrate a dead Tsar’s victory over the Turks. We ended up watching the Premier League on a big screen in the Carlsberg Pub on Bucuresti, which had a nylon England flag hanging from the ceiling and a Tranmere Rovers fan at a table upstairs. Several beers later we decided it would be a good idea to attempt the forty-five minute walk back to the hotel. We only made it as far as the Hotel National before getting stopped by the police. “Passports,” one said in Russian, sliding his leg out of the car door. As we handed them over disappointment slowly clouded his face. “Where are your girls?” he asked, changing tack. “What have you been drinking? Why aren’t you drunk?” He closed the passports and put them in his pocket. “How about we go for a drink?” We laughed, nervously. “But you’re driving, aren’t you?” “Not tomorrow we’re not,” pointing at his partner, who’d got out of the car and was standing with his arms folded across his chest. “We’re busy then.” “Doing what?” “Erm, we’re watching Zimbru against Otaci.” He stared at each of us in turn, exchanged a look with his partner, and handed back the passports with only half a smile.
It’s no surprise they didn’t fancy tagging along. You wouldn’t have called FC Zimbru Chişinău versus Nistru Otaci the match of the day in Moldova, let alone the rest of Europe. Zimbru won eight of the first nine Divizia Naţională titles after Moldovan independence, before Sheriff, the second largest company in the breakaway territory of Transnistria, started bankrolling FC Sheriff Tiraspol. Zimbru hadn’t managed as much as second place ever since and were way down in sixth before kick-off against Otaci, a small-town team from the far north of the country who were unsurprisingly bottom of the league. “You do know the game’s on at the small ground?” asked the elderly woman who sold us our 10 Lei (50p) tickets. There was snow all over the new national stadium, so the game had been moved to a training pitch around the back. With an hour to go until the game kicked off we retreated to a sports bar just across the road. When we left, everyone else stayed behind to watch Rubin Kazan play CSKA Moscow in the Russian Super Cup.
Snow joke. The Zimbru Stadium was covered in the stuff. (Nb snow not pictured).

Several hundred flats overlooking the ground. Tick.
There were only a few hundred people in the temporary stands and most of those who spoke English soon found their way towards our seats. “You will laugh when you hear how much these players earn,” said a man in a ski hat and football boots who’d just grabbed my shoulder and told me to call him Victor. “Can you imagine only $400 a month? No, you can’t! And do you see the man eight along on the bench? He was the top striker in 2008 but he likes women and casinos too much.” “Who’s the best player now?” we asked, and two people behind us laughed out loud in reply.
As Otaci had travelled without a goalkeeper, a reserve defender had been forced to play there instead. The top he’d been given was at least one size too big, his gloves were so small he took them off before half time and whenever he made a save the crowd burst out laughing while Zimbru’s players stomped on the ground in disgust. “He was playing in the first team before,” Victor told me, “but then they bought the two Africans. They’re here for three games. It’s a kind of corruption.” Neither of the foreigners was half as good as Zimbru’s number nine. “Who’s he?” I asked Victor. “Nobody.”
There wasn’t much of an atmosphere beyond a few dozen fans chanting ‘Zim-bru Ki-shi-nau, Zimbru Ki-shi-nau’ on the other side of the pitch. By half-time even they’d got bored and started throwing snowballs at each other instead. Deciding against Victor’s offer of lemon tea and half a slice of processed cheese, I spent the interval in the toilets attempting to ward off frostbite with the aid of a malfunctioning hand-dryer.
A lemon tea and half a slice of processed cheese please treacle.

Hats o’clock.
Two-one up at the break, Zimbru finally brought on their casino-loving striker midway through the second half. He jogged around for a few minutes, did nothing at all for the next twenty, and then scored with a tap-in right on full-time. Zimbru’s third goal had come five minutes earlier, by which time half the crowd, including Victor, had already left. “Moldovan football,” he laughed. “Once is enough.”
You can follow both European Football Weekends and Michael Hudson on Twitter.
For more of Michael’s work head over to the excellent Accidental Groundhopper Blog.
– Feel free to comment below –