As any self-respecting reader of WIE knows, it is very much the fanzine’s wont to be slightly behind the curve on most footballing issues. And we aren’t going to change that now.
In celebration of the return of live football with the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 kicking off again last weekend in Germany, we bring you the following article from WIE 7 published in November 1993…
A Weekend in the Life of a Sad Footie Fan
It’s all a bit difficult to explain. I was supposed to be attending a wedding 40 miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne but, showing the accuracy of a Neil Clemmence pass, I found myself unexpectedly and unerringly in Munich. And, with the timing of a Nigel Ransom tackle, I discovered that I had missed the Munich Beer Festival by a day. Such is life.
I was the guest of a good friend of mine named Sarah who had foolishly sent me a letter including that immortal line, “You are welcome to visit me if you get time”, little realising that the Wings superb defeat at Enfield in the FA Cup was giving me a convenient series of football-free Saturdays. So, I took her up on her offer and found myself in deepest Bavaria much to my, and her surprise.
My timing turned out to be just a little worse than I had anticipated (we are talking, perhaps, Bryan Robson rather than Nigel Ransom here) in that poor Sarah had just found herself a new German boyfriend, and the last thing her fledgling relationship required was a crazy Englishman demanding food, beer and football (but not necessarily in that order). Apparently, Germans don’t tend to have platonic friends of the opposite sex (a sweeping generalisation if ever I heard one, but it’s apparently true), so my presence in Sarah’s flat for a week left her with a lot of explaining to do. Still, that wasn’t my problem so, happily ignoring the damage I was inflicting on her love-life, I settled down to the serious business of working out how and where I was spending my Saturday afternoon.
Before leaving England, I had checked the German footy results and discovered that Bayern had played at home the previous weekend. From my huge footy experience, I guessed that it was more likely that they would be away the following week, so the big question was “Is there another team in Munich?” Time to hit the reference books. And there it was. A quarter of a page of Simon Inglis’ “Football Grounds of Europe” alluded to the existence of TSU 1860 München, who used to be the big team in Munich before Bayern moved into the Olympic Stadium and started recruiting players such as Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier. Indeed 1860 had almost tasted European glory when they lost the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup final to West Ham United (so, they obviously couldn’t be any good). But now they had fallen on hard times and, according to Inglis, were stalking about in one of the ten regional third divisions having been relegated due to financial problems.
So, I was all set for a German 3rd division game. Hmm, what fun I thought. Gateshead in February has nothing on this. By a complete coincidence, and with astounding helpfulness, I was mooching around a record shop in Manchester on the day before I left for Munich and discovered a fanzine called “Elfmeter”, which described itself as “a British look at German football”. Fortunately, it was in English, and even more fortunately, it just happened to be the end of season round-up issue, including league tables and a review of the season. From this I discovered that the great 1860 had won their 3rd division championship – Obleriga – and thus had qualified for the end of season play-offs, which they had also won and had thus got themselves back in the big time as members of the Bundesliga division two. Things were looking up.
So, back in Germany, my mission (if I was prepared to accept it) was to find the ground, check to see if a game was on and, most importantly, discover the kick-off time. All this to be done whilst employing my particular fluent and excellent German. The extent of which was to be able to say, “Two beers, please”.
Due to the extreme haste with which my visit had been planned, Sarah had been unable to book any time off work, which left me free to wander about all day. Hence, I found myself outside 1860’s ground and discovered to my delight that they were indeed at home on the Saturday with a match against St. Pauli of Hamburg, and the kick-off time was a reassuring 3pm. After a quick wander around outside the ground, I found what I was looking for, namely an open gate and the opportunity to have a look around inside the ground. I was half expecting to find the traditional European ground, with the unnecessary and irritating athletics track lengthening the view and those mysterious adverts for “Arcelik”. I was also half expecting to be shouted at by an angry German groundsman. But I was pleased to discover that not only was there no groundsman, but that the ground could almost have been English, with terraces at both ends and stands running along each side and no track anywhere in sight. The capacity was about 30,000, which must have been painfully empty in their 3rd division days. I could quite happily watch football here, I thought.
Meanwhile there was still the problem of Sarah and her new boyfriend, Harry. They had reached the stage of almost not quite talking to each other, but not quite. It turned out that Harry was a big fan of 1860 and, indeed, was a bit of a football nut, possessing a season ticket and being a moody bastard on a Saturday night whenever 1860 lost. Sound familiar? We eventually met on the Thursday before the game and, after a certain degree of suspicion on Harry’s part and a few beers, the evening began to take off. Harry’s English was very good (of course), but even so I had taken the precaution of bringing with me the back page of the Birmingham Sports Argus with all the league tables, so that I could explain Welling’s relative position to the Arsenals and Manchester Uniteds of this world. He wasn’t impressed! Sarah just sat around and got bored before Harry became tired of speaking English after we had made some vague arrangements for the Saturday. I settled back to get quietly drunk on some excellent beer.
Matchday in Germany is pretty similar to that in England. I missed the German equivalent of Bob Wilson on Football Focus, because Sarah didn’t know it was on, but we got picked up by Harry at midday and deposited at his mate Mike’s house, bearing a healthy armful of beer. The plan was to drink lots of beer at Mike’s house and then go to the match. Well, I couldn’t see any flaw in that plan, so willingly joined in. Mike turned out to be a German Chelsea supporter, who had a total hatred for all things Tottenham Hotspur. I decided not to bother attempting to convince him of the error of his ways (I was a guest, after all), but instead became a willing pupil for the essential German football phrases. “Auf die Lowen”, was the toast for each new beer, which means “Up the Lions”, the nickname of 1860. I pondered briefly over whether 1860 should immediately twin themselves with Millwall (for they already have the necessary grudge against West Ham, as mentioned earlier), but my thoughts were more concerned with the fact that Lowenbrau translates as “lion beer”, which is obviously far too naff a name to ever consider buying the stuff again, no matter how nice it is.
So, to the match. Harry, Sarah and I had tickets for the terrace behind the goal, whereas the others at the impromptu pre-match party were in the main stand. Tickets were about £5 to stand, which is pretty good I reckon.
The first thing I noticed about the crowd was that the replica shirt has yet to reach Germany. I was wearing my Welling away top which was a good choice, as 1860 play in blue and white, whilst red is the colour of the hated Bayern. Fans tend to wear scarves, have their blue and white painted faces and the meaner looking members of the crowd have patches all over their denim jackets (a style which left England in the 1970s, I think, along with white butcher’s coats).
The attendance was about 25,000 with two or three thousand having travelled from Hamburg. The atmosphere was fairly muted though. Harry explained that this was because 1860 and St. Pauli were in fact twinned, a situation not found in England. Both clubs are regarded as being the smaller team in their respective city (1860 to Bayern and St. Pauli to Hamburg SV (of Kevin Keegan fame)), but their support tends to be more fervent and concentrated within the city itself, whereas Bayern supporters could come from all over Germany. A similar situation exists in Manchester where City are the Manchester club, whereas the disgusting United fans get bused in from the likes of Hampshire and Cumbria, having abandoned their own local sides. So, being twinned the clubs and fans actually quite like each other and a chant from the St. Pauli fans would be met by applause from the 1860 end, rather than that sustained continental whistling. Harry was telling me that during the previous year’s promotion play-offs, 1860 had to play in Hamburg and the St. Pauli fans had turned up in force to cheer them on. Weird, eh? Still, I was more than impressed when an announcement was broadcast over the tannoy saying that the 1860 fans were to meet their St. Pauli counterparts in a beer garden in the City Centre for a big piss up after the match and everyone was welcome.
The football itself? It seemed to be played at about half speed (the words “lawn chess” came to mind). All the players were comfortable controlling and passing the ball and, indeed, seemed to treat it as something to be treasured rather than something to be leathered, Les Berry-like up the pitch or out of the ground. Unfortunately, the referee wanted to be a bit of a star and was continually blowing up for mysterious technical offences that I never quite spotted. He in fact succeeded in ruining the game by sending off a St. Pauli player for no particular reason in the first half, and with 1860 holding a 1-0 lead they decide to sit on it rather than be adventurous and positive (much like us against Stafford and Altrincham this season).
The last ten minutes livened up with St. Pauli throwing a few men forward, and 1860 breaking away to hit the post, but the verdict over the post-match beers back in Mike’s flat (1860 won 1-0) was that it had been 1860’s worst performance of the season. Still, the two points kept them in second place behind Bochum, and well on course for a second successive promotion.
So, that was it. We stayed drinking for a couple more hours. Bayern had won, so the day hadn’t been perfect, and Sarah had lost her footballing virginity and even confessed to having enjoyed it, despite her earlier fears of being horribly beaten up by rampaging soccer hooligans. I chatted with a few more people, all of whom spoke ridiculously good English, and the result of one conversation with Uwe was that I am now the proud possessor of a German football encyclopaedia (which bizarrely includes an entry for Jim Leighton) and for which I cannot express enough thanks.
But I will express some thanks, mainly for Sarah, for allowing me to wreck her love-life. To Harry, Mike, Uwe, sundry girlfriends and British Airways for that particularly delightful breakfast on the flight home.