Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Groundhopweekend October 2004

On a Friday afternoon my brother picked me up in Antwerp for another epic groundhopweekend. The first stage of our tour was going to be a game at 20.00 of the famous and faded (what is more beautiful) French club Stade de Reims. Unfortunately the traffic between Brussels and Charleroi was hellish and soon it became clear that we were not going to make Reims in time. Fortunately T.M. has a much better memory than me and remembered that there was also a game in Amiens that evening, so we changed our plans and route.

Amiens SCNiort (29-10-2004)

After a significant detour and search expedition we finally made it at 20.25 to the remarkable Stade de la Licorne. This remarkable stadium has been the home of the local Amiens SC since 1999 and can hold 11.900 spectators. On the program for tonight was a game in the French Ligue 2 (Second Division) between Amiens SC and Niort.

We bought a ticket for the stand behind the goal for 7 euro, and found out at arrival that the home team were already 1-0 up. Having seen that all was well, I headed downstairs and rushed on the Merguez sausages, a compulsory snack at any French stadium, although this time it would not sit well on my tormented stomach.

In the second half we and the circa 3.000 other spectators (minus the ca. 25 away supporters) were very well entertained. Amiens was by far the better team (they were also 4th) and passed the ball around well. Up front was a (French?) Yugoslav player who ran after truly every ball, what often led to throw-ins and corner kicks for Amiens. His work was also rewarded with one of the four goals Amiens would score that evening. Niort, which was also brought back to 10 men, saved their honor with a goal. They remained, however, last in the league.

Five goals for 7 euro, now that is good value for your money! Moreover, we saw an absolutely unique stadium too. Only the sausages were a disappointment. In short, also the French Ligue 2 is worth visiting!

FC Wohlen – FC Baulmes (30-10-2004)

After the pleasing French game we had to drive several hours to make sure that we would be back on schedule for our next game. Indeed, after only a couple of hours sleep we continued driving on Saturday morning to make sure we would make the ‘top match’ in the Swiss Challenge League (Second Division) between FC Wohlen and FC Baulmes.

Around 17.00, a half hour before kick-off, we parked in front of the brand-new Stadion Niedermatten, comparable to an (brand-new) accommodation of an average Third Division team in the Netherlands. We bought a ticket for CHF 7.50 (ca. 5 euro), which gave us access to the whole ground except of the one covered seating stand. According to the website that one stand can hold 624 spectators, and 10 journalists!, while the whole stadium takes up to 3.034 people. For this game, however, only some 550 diehard had made it to the Niedermatten.

Despite the amateurish setting, the biting wind, and the fact that it was a game between the numbers 12 and 15 in the Swiss Second Division, we were well amused by the game. The ball technique of most players – mainly French and Italian speaking Swiss – was very good and both teams liked to pass the ball around.

While there were not many clear-cut chances, both teams had chances to win the game. In the end, it would be the visitors who would take the three points home. Against the run of play FC Baulmes score the 0-1, which was also the final score.

1. FC Kaiserslautern – Arminia Bielefeld (31-10-2004)

After another late night, visiting a concert of football rock bands at the Swiss-Italian border, we were back in the car at 10.00 to take route to Kaiserslautern. Although I had visited die Rote Teufel (Red Devils) already years ago, I was happy to go back and help my brother to another groundhop-point. Moreover, Der Betze is a true football temple and I was curious to see how the renovations for the WC 2006 were coming along. (If you ask me, it hasn’t improved.)

Well in time we parked our car near the stadium and started the traditional climbing of the Betzenberg, the steep hill in the middle of town on which the stadium is built (and after which it is named, at least among football fans). Have reached the top, it was time to get us a ticket. As the game was on Sunday, and the opponent was Arminia Bielefeld, the stadium was far from sold out (in fact, only some 32.000 people would turn up). This notwithstanding, it cost me quite some time to get us tickets for the long side of the pitch – 29 euro for a seat pretty high up the stand. After having sampled the stadium snacks and bough a shawl for a friend (a Kaisi fan) we took our places and started to enjoy the fanatic fans at the Westribune.

Before the game the 1.FCK was at the bottom of the 1. Bundesliga (First Division), while Arminia Bielefeld was sixth and, together with Mainz 05 and VFL Wolfsburg, responsible for a very surprising start of the season. All in all there were few known players on the pitch, let alone many particularly talented ones. Not surprising then that the game was of a rather poor level, in particular from the home team’s side. What a staggering lack of talent! Die Arminen created various chances, but because the number 11 was adamant about not finishing them, it remained 0-0 for a long time. Only deep in the second half Bielefeld scored the deserved 0-1, to the great dissatisfaction of the people around us. Although none really believed in a home victory, they kept supporting their team with great energy. And not without result, as a minute later it was 1-1 and in the 90th minute 1. FCK even scored the 2-1: both goals by substitute Teber. And so everyone (except for a few hundred Arminen) went home happy, although they must have realized that the season was going to be long and hard with Kaiserslautern being a top candidate for relegation.

Again, I really regret the renovation of the Fritz Walter Stadion, as again one of the classic football temples in the world has disappeared. Still, the club needs money, etc. We can only hope that when the renovation is complete, and the Westtribune has also become an all-seater stand, the atmosphere will still be as good as in the past, and the Betzenberg will stay a football temple.

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