Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Karlsruher SC - VFL Osnabrück (01-04-2011)

After a couple of days of work in Brussels, I take the high speed train to Cologne, where I am picked up by my brother and his friend S. for a little groundhop weekend. Our first game is in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg. While driving through town, we see droves of people walking to the Wildparkstadion. We buy tickets for €11 per person and joined the “echte Fans” (real fans), according to the girl at the ticket counter.

The KSC, as Karlsruher SC is known throughout Germany, is a well-established team in German professional soccer. While the club has played mostly in the 2. Bundesliga (Second Division) in recent decades, the KSC was in the 1. Bundesliga (First Division) between 1987 and 1998, even making it to the semi finals of the UEFA Cup in 1993-4. Both Ollie Kahn and Mehmet Scholl were bought away by Bayern München one year.

Although KSC has seen better days, it still has a loyal following. This evening almost 17.000 people make it to this Kellerduel between two teams fighting relegation in the 2. Bundesliga. Among them, at least 500 made the 460 km (285 miles) trip from Osnabrück.

Before the game starts, however, we stock up on food and drink, always perfect in German football stadiums. I find this monster piece of Leberkäse (a kind of grilled meat), way too big for the little sandwich, which costs me only €3 and lasts me the whole evening.

Before kick-off the crowd sings the official club song, something I always appreciate, and the hardcore doesn’t stop singing after that. They have enough reason to sing, as KSC already scores 1-0 after 5 minutes: good pass from the right is finished from 5 meter. A couple minutes later the home goalie makes three mistakes within 5 seconds, but isn’t punished… the fans now know it’s going to be a good day.

While the hosts generate a couple of chances, the guests are still in the game, creating their own chances and, in the 31st minute, scoring a rebound with the head (although it looked like hand): 1-1. Osnabrück is able to take this score into the half-time, to the chagrin of the home fans.


In the second half the level of plays drops further and it looks increasingly like “pinball football’. In the 68th minutes the guests have a good attack, but a bad finish. Almost five minutes later the KSC striker goes alone at the goal, but the ball is saved from the goal line by a defender. Despite the poor play, both teams generate some chances and, more importantly, the fans keep singing and are full of emotion.

In the 85th minute the guests have a counter-attack, running the ball for almost 25 meters before kicking it under the goalie: 1-2, a shell shock for the home fans. Only two minutes later they regain hope, as the VFL goalie dives under the ball, but the KSC striker kicks over the ball. Again two minutes later the game seems to be decided, as a VFL player goes alone at the KSC goalie, but his lob is too low and meters wide. Extra time, and KSC keeps pressuring. In the 93rd minute the VFL goalie misses the ball, but it is saved on the goal line by a defender. But then, in the 94th minute, as a consequence of the last free kick, KSC scores the rebound and secures a draw: 2-2.

Everyone around us goes crazy, as if KSC has just secured promotion into the 1. Bundesliga. All the frustration with the poor play has been forgotten, as fans hug, scream sing, and fireworks go off. A couple second later the referee blows the final whistle.

A game at the KSC is as close to football in the 1970s as you will get these days. An old stadium (unfortunately with athletics track around the pitch), thousands of genuine fans with flags, jerseys, and songs, and great and cheap stadium food. The football might not be at the highest level, your experience will be!

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