Sunday, August 03, 2008

Deutscher Doppelhop (02-08-2008)

It had been already some time that JB and I made a double hop, but this Saturday we had several options. We chose an exclusively German double, as the combination was too sweet to let pass. Unfortunately, it did mean I had to wake up at 7.30, so that we could leave from our usual spot in Leuven at 9.30. First kick-off: 14.00!

Offenbacher Kickers 1901 – SV Wacker Burghausen

On the one of the busiest days of the summer JB and I set off for Offenbach, just under Frankfurt. Despite making sure that we had some extra time in case of roadworks etc., we arrived at the Biederer Berg late. The Biederer Berg is a classic German stadium, set in a somewhat green environment and full of atmosphere.

After buying standing tickets for 9 euro each, we made our way to the fan shop, which was closing, to buy a pennant. Unfortunately, they were out – but fortunately one of the smaller shops around the corner wasn’t. Although we were eager to get to the stands, as the game had already started some 5 minutes earlier and the atmosphere was clearly good, we did have to make a quick stop to watch this statue, to remember the fallen in the First and Second (!) World War.

Roughly ten minutes late, and one decent Thuringer sausage down, we took our place at the home stand behind the goal. As we later heard, 7.703 people had found their way to the Bieberer Berg for this first home game of Kickers Offenbach in the brand-new 3. Bundesliga (Third Division). They colored the whole stadium red and white, as at least 50% of the fans wore some kind of OFC t-shirt.

Only at the direct opposite stand were some black-white supporters; 75 brave ones had made the 432 km from Burghausen (Bavaria) to Offenbach am Main (Hesse). Respect!

Most of the away fans weren’t even in the stadium when the home team produced a good attack and finished with an easy header: 1-0. As the away fans tried to hang up a banner, which took a very long time, Wacker tried to get back into the game. However, a first good attack of them was directly followed by a Kickers counter-attack that was almost deadly. In the 21st minute, just as all the away fans had cuddle up together and stripped off their shirts, OFC had another good attack, this time finished with a decent volley: 2-0!

The strange thing was, while the Kickers had most of the game and chances, it had been Wacker that had produced the best football. They just couldn’t provide the finish. Still, both teams provided attractive football in the first half, but the score remained 2-0.

During half time we sampled the snacks – they were good! – and admired the fan project: a big wall with painted fans as well as a real tractor. As always in German stadiums, hordes of happy people enjoyed their beer and sausages during half time, all in good spirits. We joined them for the second half, which started promising.

The second half showed roughly the same picture as the first one. Kickers had most of the ball and chances, but Wacker provided some of the best football. Several players of both teams came face to face with their opponent’s goalie, and failed – some more miserable than others. Increasingly OFC kept more and more players behind the ball (6-8), which caused the game to become less attractive. When in the 86th minute a Wacker player got his second yellow card, it was clear the battle was over. Kickers Offenbach would win the game 2-0, to the great delight of their very grateful fans.

Happily we left the stadium and made our quick walk to the park and into our car. We had exactly an hour to get to the next game, which didn’t provide any problem, as it was only 45 km.

SV Wehen Wiesbaden – VFL Wolfsburg

Well in time we parked our car at less than 5 minute walk from the BRITA-Arena, the brand-new stadium of SV Wehen Wiesbaden. We bought tickets for 10 euro for the standing section and entered the futuristic stadium

The BRITA-Arena opened in October 2007 and has a capacity of 12,566. Before that, the club played at the Stadion am Halberg in Thaunusstein. In fact, the club was known as SV Wehen 1926 Thaunusstrein until last year; which might explain why I had never heard of SCV Wehen Wiesbaden until last season. ;-) Anyway, today SV Wehen Wiesbaden had its kiddie-day, and when we entered the stadium the majority of the people on our stand were under 18. Overall 2465 people attended this friendly between SV Wehen Wiesbaden from the 2. Bundesliga (Second Division) and VFL Wolfsburg from the 1. Bundesliga (First Division). Among them were some 65 from Wolfsburg, a good 377 km to the north!

It is actually quite amazing that a club like SV Wehen has been able to stay up in the German Second Division. While the new stadium is nice enough, it is still a rather small ground. Moreover, two weeks before the start of the new season they have sold only 3.000 season tickets! Clearly not a major player in German football. Also, the “loudest main stand in the league”, according to the stadium announcer, consists mainly of young teens.

This all nothwithstanding, the kids around us started the game with enthusiasm and optimism, singing local version of all the football classics. Almost similar to their team acting as if they were a real football team. But already in the 15th minute VFL Wolfsburg made clear this wasn’t really the case. After a fairly standard attack they easily scored the 0-1. They sat back a bit, let Wehen get a couple of half-chances in, before scoring the second from an easy counter-attack: 0-2.

Except for a 20 meter shot from Wehen just wide, the first half showed little more. 0-2 was the half time score and we circled the ground to keep busy at half time. I made the mistake of eating a Rindwurst (beef sausage), only to conclude that real sausages are made of pork! The disappointing sausage was more than compensated by another local specialty… the Polizei. ☺

The second half started with a surprise. After a header got stuck in the crowd of players someone was able to tip the ball behind the line: 2-1! Could Wehen come back into the game? Wolfsburg got sloppier and slower, but the difference remained simply too big. In the 53rd minute the visitors scored from a close header: 3-1.

Six minutes later a Wehen defender first saved with a great tackle, only to then screw up by touching the ball with his hand. Penalty! This was an easy task for the new striker, who had taken over from his colleague who had scored the two goals of the first half: 1-4.

After that the level of the game and the atmosphere on the stands dropped even further. It seemed everyone had slipped into sleepwalking mode. Wolfsburg became so lame that they had a throw-in at 5 meters of the Wehen goal, and played it back to their own goalie through two long kicks. It was time for the end, which also came exactly at 90 minutes.

Although SV Wehen Wiesbaden plays one division higher and has a more modern stadium than Offenbacher Kickers 1901, it was clear which of the two games JB and I had enjoyed most. Kickers Offenbach might be a name from the past, but they are worth a visit! In addition, the new 3. Bundesliga adds a third professional league to German football, a development that can only be applauded.

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