It had been in the books for months, and the planning had taken a lot of time, but last Friday it was finally time. At 13.00 I met with my brother and fellow-groundhopper T.M. at Schiphol airport from which we made our way to
At 20.50 we entered the ultramodern Volkswagen Arena, home of VFL Wolfsburg, still shocked by the inefficient way the bus drives people from the parking lot to the stadium. The Volkswagen Arena is a brand new multifunctional stadium, opened in December 2002, with a capacity of 30.000 people for football games. We had bought fairly expensive tickets for 37 euro a piece at Block 19, where we had a great view and were very close to the pitch. However, I didn’t take up my seat before getting a big German sausage, the main German stadium snack.
The game of the night was against Hannover 96, the other major team in the state. 26.479 people had come to see the Niedersachsen Derby, at least 3.000 from Hannover (despite the traffic jam). Both teams had a disappointing start to the season and were in the second half of the table, with
Against the general expectation, it was
The second half started ferociously. In the 51st minute, out of nowhere, Brdaric (former German international) got the ball just outside of the penalty box to put it beautifully in the net with a volley: 0-1. Just one minute later, Krzynowek equalized with a similar beautiful shot: 1-1. Several minutes later Diego “Klimo” Klimowicz had to leave the pitch injured, which was pretty much the end of the
Although he Volkswagen Arena comes as close to perfection in terms of architecture and comfort as possible, T.M. and I agreed that this was not the ultimate setting for the groundhopper. Fortunately, this would be more than compensated the next morning… but not before we had driven another 400 km to
At 8.30 we were back in our car, heading for the small town of
GKS Rega-Merida Trzebiatów – Kotwica Kołobrzeg (
At about 10.15 we drove into the town of
We sat at one of the few benches on the long side of the pitch, having an instant breakfast, when the bus with away supporters arrived. Approximately 50 Kotwica had made the 30 km trip from the harbor town of
The real hooliganism would take place on the pitch, however. From the beginning the number 10 of Trzebiatów, also the captain, got into a kick and punch struggle with the number 20 of Kołobrzeg. While the football wasn’t particularly good, the game was a true spectacle with many goals but even more serious fouls. After 23 minutes the away team got a soft penalty, and the number 10 a yellow card for complaining. They scored the 0-1, but 10 minutes later the home team equalized: 1-1. Not long after that, and at least 4-5 kicks and punches from each side, the number 10 got his red card, and a little later the away team scored again: 1-2 and half time.
The second half picked up where the first half had left off. In the 51st minute Rega-Merida equalized again, 2-2. After that we saw various chances, tackles, elbows, and fights, culminating into a fight and two red cards, evenly spread over the two teams. With 9 against 10 the home team managed to get ahead, 3-2, with only 10 minutes to go. Heroic defending notwithstanding, Kotwica managed to score the 3-3 in the last minute. How about that for a Saturday morning game?! Polish third division: a must for every groundhopper! (at least group 2 ;-).
Happily we jumped into our car to drive the same 112 km back to
We parked our car just next to the hill which houses the Stadion Florian Kryger and bought a ticket for 30 Złotych (ca. 7.50 euro) for Sector 6 on the long side of the pitch. We were quite early, the game started at 18.00, so we circled the stadium in search for a fan shop – but to no avail. The Stadion Florian Kryger is an old communist-style colossus that houses (only) 17.783; partly because the area behind one of the goals doesn’t have a stand. Despite the northern Polish weather hardly any part of the pitch has a roof.
We were extremely lucky as this was one of the nicest September evenings
The second half was not much better. Despite the continuing support of the home fans Pogoń played dismally and never looked close to the equalizer. In the 51st minute
Sure, the football was fairly poor – and one really wonders why a team like Pogoń Szczecin buys some 12 Brazilians who with one or two exceptions seemed poorer than the average Polish player – but Poland is one of he few East European countries where football still draws fairly large and enthusiastic crowds. In addition, the games are cheap and the tickets (at least in
Somewhat shivering, as the warm summery weather has been replaced by a chilly autumn evening during the game, we returned to our car to head back to
After a quick breakfast at a tank station we drove the 276 km to the mining town of
FC Erzgebirge Aue – SpVgg Greuther Fürth (
Around 13.00 we started to see a growing stream of Aue supporters in their purple outfits walking to the stadium. A few miles later we passed the stadium and entered the town of
As the game was about to start, we didn’t have time to sample some of the local delicacies (such as spirali with sausage). We took our place at the stand, admiring the various purple shirts of the fans. The stadium is truly unique, both in shape and in location. There is no doubt that for most people in Aue the local football team is their key entertainment. As is so often the cased with these teams of working class supporters, their fans are loyal and expect only one thing: hard and honest work!
Few teams will have changed their names as much as Erzgebirge Aue. They were founded in 1945 as SG Aue, changed it to BSG Pneumatik Aue the next year, to Zentra Wismut Aue in 1950, and to BSG Wismut Aue again the next year. However, in 1954 it not only changed its name, but also its location, becoming the SC Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt. In 1963 the club left
While Erzgebire Aue had a mediocre start to the season, the expectations were high before the game as opponent Greuther Fürth was positioned even worse (12 and 16 in the 2. Bundesliga, respectively). The Erzgebirgsstadion holds a good 16.000 people and for this game some 11.000 fans had turned up, among them a couple hundred from Fürth. As had happened in the last game, the away team scored already in the 6th minute after very poor defending from Aue: 0-1. After that Aue looked extremely clumsy, while Fürth showed some decent counter football. Not surprisingly then, that the away team scored another in the 32nd minute: 0-2. This led to much whistling and booing from the home crowd, who were fearing a second defeat in a row.
After half time the game didn’t change much. Aue played dramatic at times and the fans became increasingly angry and cynical. The main call was “Wir wollen euch kämpfen sehen” (we want to see you fight), which had little effect on the pitch however. In the 63rd minute Fürth scored its third, which was deserved, and people around us got ballistic. After this not much changed, except that every mistake of an Aue player was greeted with cheers and applause by the incensed home crowd. It remained 0-3, the third home defeat in the four games we had seen (are we bad omen?), and we joined the stream of angry and disappointed supporters heading out of the stadium before the final whistle. This notwithstanding, Erzgebirge Aue and the Erzgebigsstadion are truly cult and should be on the wish list of every groundhopper.
At 16.00 we entered the car for the last time, but unfortunately also for the longest drive (720 km to