Wednesday, June 17, 2015

SG Sonnenhof Grossaspach – DSC Arminia Bielefeld (23-05-2015)

I didn’t even know about the SG Sonnenhof Grossaspach until my brother suggested we would go and see them. Unfortunately, that trip fell through, but I found a way to work it into my May 2015 Groundhop (Long) Weekend. Grossaspach is so small that it is discussed as “the main village” in the “community” of Aspach, Baden-Württemberg, which in total has a mere 8,000 people. On top of that, it is completely in the middle of nowhere, half an hour north of Stuttgart, but 13 km from the closest motorway exit.

I arrive just in time for the fairly early kick-off of 13:30. To my dismay, this completely marginal football club from a tiny village has a brand-new stadium, horribly named Mechatronik Arena, which holds 10,000 people, almost 1,5 times as many as the total population of the Aspach community. Record attendance is just under 6,000 and most of its games in the 3. Liga (Third Division) draw far fewer.

I park close to stadium and walk up to the closest stand, which turns out to be the one for the away fans. I actually first thought that the home team played in blue-black-white, as there are so many away fans. As I have to leave early to make it to an early evening game in France, I decide to join them (only realizing later that this might make it harder to leave early).

I buy a ticket for the (standing only) away stand for €10. Here I find myself between thousands of hardcore Arminia Bielefeld fans, who have come to see their team becomes champions and get promoted to the 2. Bundesliga (Second Division). DSC Arminia Bielefeld has always been one of those teams that moves between the First and Second Division – I saw them in the First Division many years ago – so it must have been painful for their many fans to see them in the Third Division.

While there is an amazing atmosphere, this is because I am in the away stand. There are some 3,500 people in the stadium and at least half of them made the five hour drive south from Bielefeld. Sonnenhof has only 30-40 young fans that are singing.

The football is not that good. There is just one chance, for Bielefeld, in the first 15 minute. Sonnenhof is in the lower half of the table, but safe from relegation, while Bielefeld just needs not to loose to secure the championship. This does not create the best incentives for an attractive game.

In the 17th minute a Sonnenhof header hits the hand of a Bielefeld defender, but the referee does not give the foul and saves the guests from a penalty. Five minutes later a clear foul in the box is again not punished, as the referee says that the ball was played (it was not).

Like many Bielefeld fans I start to wander around, get a sausage, and look at the group of some fifteen away fans that sit outside of the stadium. Given that tickets were still available, I assume they have a stadium ban, but nevertheless traveled with the other fans to celebrate the championship. It is an odd sight, but it is good to see that the police are fairly relaxed about them and let them be.

I walk back into the stand and see that a half chance of Bielefeld goes far over and wide. Not much else happens in the next fifteen minutes. Half time score: 0-0.

During half time I get to talk to a couple of Bielefeld supporters, who are fascinated that I came to the game as a groundhopper and eve more fascinated that I will (try to) see a game in France later that day. The conversation is more interesting than the game, which is why I return to the stand five minutes after the second half has started.

As it is very difficult to leave the stadium from the away fans section, and the game is going slower and slower, I leave 30 minutes early (something I normally never do). On my way to the next game, almost 3 hours away, I hear on the radio that Bielefeld has won 0-1 and has became champions of the 3.Liga. I'm happy for the many Bielefeld fans who made the trip, with or without stadium ban.

Still, I wonder how the experience would have been if SG Sonnenhof Grossaspach had played a normal 3. Liga team, such as VFL Osnabrück or Borussia Dortmund II. I imagine it would have been quite depressing: 1,000 mostly silent people in a soulless stadium of 10,000.

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