Thursday, July 24, 2008

VfL Osnabrück – Lokomotiv Sofia (23-07-2008)

Growing up at the Dutch-German border, in the 1980s, VfL Osnabrück was a well-known team for people following German football. It was one of these teams, with Rot-Weiss Oberhausen, that I always thought I would see, whenever I didn’t want to travel too far, yet never did. But now it would finally happen; obviously in the usual company of JB. Unfortunately, it was not at the multi-use Osnatel-Arena, formerly known as Stadion an der Bremer Brücke, where the North Stand is being rebuilt, but in the Sportpark Illoshöhe, a communal sports park with a football pitch surrounded by an athletics track.

For some reason, the local hosts had decided to open only one gate, which created a Stau of almost 100 meter and a 20 minute delay. Consequently, we made it into the Sportpark only 10 minutes after kick-off, after getting a (nice) ticket for 8 euro. While that pissed off many people around us, the fact that there were no sausages for sale yet, because the bread had not been delivered and alternatives had to be de-frozen, created a near anarchy at the Wurst stand.

According to the official website, some 1.800 people had found their way to the Sportpark. Most were sitting at the one main stand, which can take 2.000 people, but some (like us) preferred to stand or sit around the pitch on this warm summer evening. At the program was a friendly between VfL Osnabrück, who only narrowly escaped relegation in the 2. Bundesliga last season, and Lokomotiv Sofia, third in the Bulgarian First Division and thereby qualified for the Uefa Cup.

While circling the ground, to find the best spot (in the sun but not too warm), we were mostly struck by the amazing amount of shouting that was going on at the pitch. We weren’t sure who was the main shouter, though we suspected the number 6 of the hosts, but almost everyone needed to comment every foul or move with a shout. To be fair, the game was pretty feisty from the beginning, particularly for a friendly.

The quality of the game was quite poor, as VfL Osnabrück lacked the quality, and Lokomotiv Sofia the motivation to play well. Despite the fact that the hosts had most of the ball, it was predictably the guests who scored first. In the 38th minute Ivan Ivanov took a loose ball on a volley: 0-1. Normally, that would have been the end of the home team, but in the 44th minute the visitors suffered a red card after a brutal foul and had to play the whole second half with one man down.

At half time kids flocked to a couple of VfL Osnabrück players, who stayed on a bench next to the pitch, while others used the athletics facilities to test their skills. All in the true spirit of a pre-season game. This is sharp contrast to the continued rough play on the pitch, where the red card hadn’t relaxed the tensions between the two games. With one man more, the guests were having even more of the game, creating half chances and giving almost nothing away against the uninterested Bulgarians.

Still, it took until the 68th minute for the hosts to score. After another player had shot a 100% chance at the post, another scored in the rebound: 1-1. VfL clearly wanted more, and also got it, just five minutes later., through a beautiful composed action of their new striker. After controlling the ball, he easily went around the first defender, than kept the ball to himself as the second defender slide beyond him, and coolly shot in the near low corner: 2-1!

This score satisfied both teams, so little else happened in the last 15 minutes of the game. VfL Osnabrück had their ‘big result’, while the Bulgarians undoubtedly had their ‘big paycheck’. All in all a nice summer evening game. And, given the pleasant atmosphere among the home fans, I will definitely come back to Osnabrück to see VfL in the Osnatel-Arena.

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