Wednesday, June 17, 2015

SC Austria Lustenau - FC St. Pölten (22-05-2015)

Lustenau is a very small Austrian town of just 20,000 people on the border with Switzerland. The local team, SC Austria Lustenau, plays in the Erste Liga (First League), which really is Austria’s second division.

Situated in the center of the small town, the Reichshofstadion is an old athletic stadium with randomly built extensions. It is set in a beautiful mountain scenery. On one side, on what used to be the track, there is almost a market of beer and snack tents behind the stand. They serve an amazing range of snacks and everyone is eating. 

I pay 14 euro for a ticket on the Haupttribune (main stand), which is covered and an all-seater. The stand is pretty full, a mix of the town’s population (including families), while the stand behind the goal is mostly younger ‘ultras’ (banners, drums and singing). 

Overall, the roughly 2,000 (guestimate) fans all sit or stand on those two stands. Along one long side is no stand, but some people simply stand there, while there is almost no one sitting on the uncovered bleachers behind the other goal. I see no away fans – then again, St. Pölten is almost 600 km (ca. 385 miles) away from Lustenau.

It is quite telling that you cannot even see the pitch from the VIP ‘stand’. Still, they can exclusively eat grilled chicken. They follow the game, if at all, on the tv screen inside.

The game is very poor: slow pace, poor passing and touch, and very few chances. After 20 min the visitors take me by surprise and score: 0-1. Ten minutes later there is a series of blocked Lustenau shots and a corner with a shot that goes just wide.

In the 39th minute a header of the visitors is saved on the goal line by the Lustenau goalkeeper. Half time score: 0-1. I’m off to sample the broad variety of snacks, from candied peanuts to Currywurst, from some kind of Spaetzle to schnitzel, and from candy to Pommes (fries). My tip: Zack Zack with onion sauce (spiced pork cutlet).

The second half is mostly defined by the red card for a Lustenau player in the 57th minute. One goal behind and one man down, the game is clearly over, particularly given that Lustenau was already the weaker team. I focus increasingly at the big screen, which is constantly showing commercials (something I have never seen before in a stadium).

In the 76th minute the game is finally decided when the visitors score their second goal of the night. This is also the final score of the game.

Even though they lost 0-2 the atmosphere is good, as another team also lost, which meant that Lustenau wouldn’t relegate. To celebrate there was thirty minutes of free beer for the fane (soda for the children).

Overall, Austria Lustenau was an truly joyful experience. Sure, the football was pretty terrible, but the atmosphere was so authentic and homey. Football for the community, not for big business.

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