Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Latest Reports:
SV Lichterberg 47 - Victoria Seelow (03-06-2018) 
Wasquehal Football - US Maubeuge (26-05-2018) 
FC Eintracht Rheine - FCGütersloh (25-05-2018)
Next Games:
Greenville Triumph SC - Chattanooga Red Wolves (13-04-2019) 
Fulham FC - Newcastle United FC (12-05-2019)
Auxerre FC - Valenciennes (17-05-2019)
Lyon OU - Stade Rochelais (18-05-2019)
AS Saint-Étienne - OGC Nice (18-05-2019)
Progrès Niederkorn - US Rumelange (19-05-2019)
SK Vorwärts Steyr - FC Blau-Weiß Linz (24-05-2019)
FC ŠTK 1914 Šamorín - FK Pohronie (25-05-2019)

 


INTRODUCTION

The terms "groundhopping" and "groundhopper" can not (yet) be found in any dictionary, yet there are hundreds of groundhoppers around the world, most notably in Germany. The word combines the terms "ground" and "hopping" and refers to the visiting of different sports grounds -- usually, though not exclusively, football grounds (for a German description, see Wikipedia).

Whereas normal football fans tend to visit only home games of their favorite team, particularly when they live closeby, and more fanatical fans also attend the away games of their team, the groundhopper aims to visit as many different grounds and teams as possible. Moreover, unlike the normal fan, who generally prefers to visit the big teams in football (e.g. Bayern München, Manchester United, Real Madrid), the groundhopper goes for the exotic (e.g. Avenir Beggen, Ozeta Dukla Trencin, Selangor PKNS) and the tiny, such as the third team of a city (e.g. Partick Thistle, Royale Union Sint-Gilloise, Spvgg Unterhaching).

While groundhopping is largely a non-organized activity, by individuals and small groups, there exist a few organizations of groundhoppers. The most famous is the German Vereinigung der Groundhopper Deutschlands (V.d.G.D.): it's website is one of the major sources of information on clubs, leagues, and stadiums in the world. For other groundhopper websites, see the links on the right.


This website provides an overview of the various groundhops of me, Grondhopper. I'm a Dutch academic and football fan, supporting PSV in the Netherlands, Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany, and the Portland Timbers in the USA. I regularly travel abroad for both work and pleasure, and try to combine these trips with groundhops. In addition, I make several special groundhops every year alone or with one or more of my friends, some of which are active groundhoppers themselves. I have currently visited 431 clubs in 44 countries on 6 continents.

Comments are always highly appreciated. You can post them either here on the site or you can email me at grondhopper[at]hotmail.com.

SV Lichtenberg 47 -- Victoria Seelow (3-6-2018)

To celebrate my birthday in Berlin, I go with JJ, a Dutch journalist-turned-consultant (and despite his support for the wrong Dutch team, a nice guy) to see a game in the lower divisions of German football. There is always a lot of choice in Berlin, which has a wealth of big and small teams. I had chosen SV Lichtenberg 47 in the former East of the city.


We take the metro (U5) to Magdalenenplatz from where it is a short walk to the stadium. As soon as you get out of the metro station, you are in a different city: no American tourists everywhere, no hipsters, just a sleepy residential area with typical communist low-rise flats. When we get closer to the stadium, we see groups of fans standing around, drinking, talking.


We enter the ground and buy a ticket at the one, dilapidated ticket office box -- I forgot how much we paid. Today is the last game of the season in the NOFV-Oberliga Nord (Fifth Division North) and SV Lichtenberg 47 is playing Victoria Seelow, from the town of Seelow, roughly 65 km (40 miles) East of Berlin.


We arrive about 45 minutes before kick-off and go into the canteen to get a drink. People mill around, talking to each other, eating and drinking, talking football. A true community club. I love the atmosphere (and the sausage).


There are some 100 people in the stadium, as far as I remember very few away fans. There is even a big banner among the home fans. Before the game the club says goodbye to a few players and then the game is on. The guests score first, in the 35th minute, and the hosts equalize the next minute. 1-1- is also the half time score. 


While Seelow was the better team in the first half, SV Lichtenberg 47 dominates the second half. The score the 2-1 in the 58th minute, 3-1 in the 60th minute, and the final 4-1 in the 73rd minute. Everyone is happy with the final game of the season and go back to the canteen to celebrate. JJ and I are also happy, as we return to the hipsters and American tourists downtown.


SV Lichtenberg 47 is a great groundhop. It takes you outside of the tourist Berlin bubble, away from the big and boring Hertha and the cozy but hyped Union, to a small, community club that represents a district within a massive city. Definitely worth a visit!

Friday, February 01, 2019

Wasquehal Football -- US Maubeuge (26-05-2018)


Groundhopping in Europe at the end of May is not easy. Not at all. Given that I had to give a lecture in the morning, I had only 4-5 hours to drive from the middle of the Netherlands. This is how I ended up in the Championnat National 3, technically the Fifth Division in France.


Wasquehal is a small town just across the Belgian border (close to Mouscroun). Technically, Wasquehal Football is a new club, founded in 2017, as a merger of two local teams, dating back to 1924! They play at the Complexe sportif Lucien Montagne, which looks relatively empty when I arrive.




At the complex is the Stade Léo Lagrange, with one stand, and a capacity of 500. However, today, they play on a pitch behind that "stadium." Given that it is the last game of the season, the game is free, which unfortunately also means that I don't get a ticket as a souvenir (although I doubt they have tickets during regular games).



There are between 50 and 100 supporters, all but a few from the home team. To be fair, Maubeuge is almost 100 km away. There are even a few fans with flags and there is a drum.


I don't remember much of the game, except that it ebbed and flowed pretty decently, but the quality of play was quite atrocious. The fans were calm and sometime involved on this very pleasant Summer evening.


As Championnat National 3 used to be called Championnat de France Amateur 2, it is not surprising that everything reminds me of my Dutch amateur team of my youth. People hanging over the advertisement boards, in small groups of friends, talking about the past week and sometimes shouting at the game.


I caught the goal of the home team, scored by penalty, which, I think, equalized the game.  Enthusiasm remains within borders. :-)


As I again still had some driving to do, and had been without any food or drink because there was no concession stand anywhere to be found, I left 20 minutes early at a 1-1 score.


Let's just say that Wasquehal Football does not need to be (high) on your groundhopping bucket list.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

FC Eintracht Rheine - FC Gütersloh (25-05-2018)


On my way from Berlin to the Netherlands, I make a detour to see one of the few games that are played that Saturday -- and by a team I haven't visited yet. FC Eintracht Rheine plays in the Oberliga Westfalen (Fifth Division) and today's game is against Gütersloh.*


FC Eintracht Rheine was only founded in 1994, as a merger of VfB Rheine and SG Eintracht Rheine, but actually has a staggering 18 (!) predecessors. I pay €6, get a generic ticket (but a ticket nevertheless), and enter the Auto-Senger Stadion. Its official capacity is 7,500, but I doubt they ever have more than 750. The stadium has just one stand -- the Dr. Bernd Windhoff Tribüne -- and is in dire condition (see below).


Clearly Fc Eintracht Rheine is not ready for the Champions League -- or to host FC Feyenoord -- as there were bricks and rocks all over the place. Fortunately, no one cared about them. 

 
As it is the last home game, they say goodbye to the players that are leaving at the end of the season before the game. The ca. 100 people applaud politely. The crowd is local and seems to be here more for the social contacts than the football.


I don't directly see any away fans -- Gütersloh is ca. 100 km away from Rheine -- but if there were any, these six guys will probably have been it..


The game is overall rather poor and slow but the weather is nice and there are some decent snacks, so I am having a good time. There isn't much atmosphere though. This changes a bit when they announce that there will be free beer after the game to celebrate the end of the season.


I have to admit that I left with still a quarter to go. At that time it was still 0-0, but it was getting cold, and I still had 4 hours to drive. In the end, FC Eintracht Rheine won 2-0. Not the most desirable groundhop destination, but not bad either.

* I wrote this report half a year later, so the details are a bit hazy.



Monday, April 16, 2018

RM Hamm Benfica – US Mondorf-les-Bains (11-03-2018)

 
The last game of the weekend is in Luxembourg, a standard location for our brotherly groundhops. This time we go to RC Hamm Benfica, one of a few team in the country named after a famous Portuguese club, a consequence of the enormous Portuguese community in Luxembourg (16 percent of the population!).


 
The “stadium” is just outside of the city center of Luxembourg, tucked away on a hill. Rapid Mansfeldia Hamm Benfica was founded in 2004 as a fusion of two small clubs, which initially played in the second division. In 2007 they got promoted to the National Division (First Division) and they have been in the top flight of Luxembourg football ever since.


 
We pay €10 for a General Admission ticket. The ticket itself is generic and dates to the 2015/16 season. That gives you an indication of the level of professionalism. RC Hamm Benfica plays at a ground, simply named Luxembourg-Cents, after the district, which allegedly can hold 2,800 people. It is the smallest ground in this league I have ever visited. It has one stand, which has only 3 rows.


 
There are roughly 120 people, mostly men, and some 30-50 are Portuguese speakers. One small group of 10 younger men have a banner and sing during the game. There are also some 25 away supporters, who only had to travel 30 km. They also sing and even have a drum.


 
Benfica has the first decent chance, in the fifth minute. In the next fifteen they have the best of the game, but create few chances. The play is roughly as bad as the pitch: really bad!


 
In the 38th minute the hosts have another chance, but the rebound from 16 meters goes 5 meters over the goal. While the game goes back and forth, the control and passing is bad, and the ball rarely gets into the box.


 
In the 41st minute the visitors finally have a good attack, with a deep cross, but the header is too late. The inevitable half-time score is 0-0.


 
In the 49th minute Benfica has a good attack: a hard shot leads to a good safe by the goalie. Three minutes later the hosts have another attack, which is stopped by a foul, and leads to a counter by the visitors, which ends with a hard shot over the goal. A bit later Monsdorf has another set of chances, mostly because the goalie screws up, and the defense is terrible.


 
The play is getting really bad. Both teams only master 2-3 passes before the lose the ball. Consequently, the only notable occasions are free kicks, which occur regularly. In the 79th minute a free kick is put into the box and headed in goal: 1-0. Nope, the player had pushed, so the goal is disallowed.




In the last ten minutes both teams still squander a half-chance, but in the end, the inevitable happens: 0-0. Both teams could have played for 90 minutes more and still wouldn’t have scored! According to my brother, this was the first time in over two decades that we saw a goalless draw together. In the end, RM Hamm Benfica has the atmosphere of a third or even fourth division team in Austria or Belgium. Even by Luxembourgish standards it is really small. The main attraction is the exotic name.

KFC Dessel Sport – ASV Geel (10-03-2018)

 
In the end we didn’t have to leave Sportfreunde Lotte – SC Fortuna Köln early, as we make the roughly 275 km southwest easily, arriving in Dessel early, giving us time to eat at the excellent Frituur Den Brink and still arrive several minutes before kick-off.


 
The Armand Melis Stadium is relatively new, built in 2009, and can hold 4,284 people. I doubt there were ever more than 1,500 there though. It is home to the KFC Dessel Sport, founded in 1926, and a mainstay in the lower divisions of Belgian football. Today they play in the Tweede Klasse Amateurs (literally “Second Division Amateurs”), which, after the latest reform in Belgian football, is really the fourth division.


 
We buy a ticket for the smaller long stand for €15, which is not cheap for the fourth division in Belgium. There are some 600 people, including ca. 60 people from Geel, which is 15 km away. The fan are local and older; the whitest audience ever. Only some 15 kids are singing.

  
The game starts slow and uneventful. In the 14th minute Dessel has its first good attack, but the striker can’t connect to the hard cross. Two minutes later Geel has an amazing volley from 30 meters, which goes just wide. Overall the play goes back and forth, but the passing is pretty poor.



 
In the 26th minute the hosts have a good attack, but the shot goes wide. Four minutes later the visitors force the goalie to a good safe before a deflected ball is headed off the goal line. Dessel Sport has most of the game and several good attacks. And then, two minutes before the break, Dessel has a good fast attack, pass in the box, which is finished cool: 1-0. Half-time.

 
The second half starts explosive. A Dessel player goes away from the goal, but is fouled in the box: penalty. It is shot hard in the center, but goes is: 2-0.


 
In the 52nd minute the hosts have a surprise shot from 25 meters that goes just over. Seven minutes later the visitors have a huge chance, but he passes to no one, rather than shoots at goal. In the 62nd minute Dessel has a good attack, plays a double pass, gets into the box, passes the ball out, and from the edge of the box a shot is deflected and goes in: 3-0.


 
Just minutes later Geel attacks, plays the ball into the box, behind everyone, and someone slides it into the goal: 3-1. It’s going fast now. Both teams have a few chances, but 3-1 will be the final score.




Dessel Sport is a classic lower level Belgian football experience. Small venue, small crowd, mostly local and friendly.

Sportfreunde Lotte – SC Fortuna Köln (10-03-2018)

 
After the FC Emmen game on Friday night, we only have a one-hour drive to our first Saturday game in Lotte, Germany. The local club, Sportfreunde Lotte, is one of a few teams class “Sports Friends” – we earlier visited Sportfreunde Siegen – which you cannot pass on. We arrived at the stadium early, which meant that we were still well in time after having been sent back because I had candy with me.


 
Unfortunately, they no longer use the beautiful, original name, Sportpark am Lotter Kreuz, but instead have named it after a sponsor: Frimo Stadion. Whatever the name, it is a makeshift stadium, with four different size stands, all looking pretty basic. It can hold 10,059, which seems a bit much, and this afternoon there were officially 1.819.


 
We bought a ticket (20) for the (seated) stand behind the goal (Westtribune), again just next to the “hardcore” home fans. There were also some 100 away supporters, having made the modest 200 km trek north from Cologne, who celebrated the 70th birthday of their club SC Fortuna Köln.


 
Germany’s 3. Liga (Third Division) is comparable to the second division in most smaller countries in terms of quality of play, while the atmosphere is often (much) better. Before the game they play the club anthem of SC Fortuna Köln without home fans whistling.


 
The game is between the fourth from bottom (Lotte) against the fourth on top (Köln). The crowd is clearly local, all ages, and quite a lot of family with kids. The game starts well for the hosts, who have a few a few decent shots in the first twenty minutes.


 
After some 30 minutes the visitors have their first moment, you can barely call it a chance, but the rebound goes well over. Eight minutes later a long pass ends up in the box, is controlled well, and tipped into the goal from 3 meters: 0-1 for Fortuna! The home fans seem resigned. Lotte has two more chances, but half time score remains 1-0.


 
The second half starts explosive. Lotte has an attack and the striker gets a slight touch in the box. He wants a penalty, but doesn’t get it. In the 52nd minute Fortuna has a good chance, but the goalie saves. That same minute the hosts kill themselves, as a player gets a (deserved) red-yellow card. Oddly enough, the next chance is for Lotte, which have a long attack, which ends with a great shot from 16 meters, which goes just wide of the crossbar.


 
In the 60th minute Fortuna has a free kick, which is a long ball into the box, where it hits a knee, but is saved by defender just before the goal line. The corner leads to a good chance but the striker hits it too softly. In a direct counter Lotte almost scores, but the goalie saves.


 
Fortuna sits further and further back. At one time, Lotte has a corner kick and the furthest Fortuna player is 20 meters from his own goal. Consequently, Lotte dominates much of the game, despite being with only 10 men. Still, in the 74th minute the visitors have a counter, go into the box, slips a bit, pulls back, and puts it cool in the far corner: 0-2. Game over.




We leave soon after, to make sure we make the next game in Belgium, but later see that the final score didn’t change. Overall a quite enjoyable afternoon, but Sportfreunde Lotte is definitely among the less exciting hops in the 3. Liga.