Sunday, June 05, 2016

Berliner Pokal Finale: Lichtenberg 47 – BFC Preussen (28-05-2016)

During the regular season amateur teams (i.e. teams below the three professional Bundesligas) play a cup tournament within their state that ends, after the regular season, with the state cup final. I am going to the Berliner Pokal Finale (Berlin Cup Final), which is played at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark, with a capacity of just under 20,000, the second-largest stadium in the city – after the Olympiastadion, home of Hertha BSC.

The stadium is situated in a larger sports park with various pitches on which a broad variety of football teams play games – men and women, boys and girls. It is easy to reach with the metro (U2). I buy a ticket for €15 – the guy asks me which team I support and when I say I’m neutral, he gives me a black ticket, which is for the BFC Preussen – red are for Lichtenberg 47.

I enter the stadium an hour early and there are already hundreds of fans. All fans around me wear black-and-white BFC Preussen outfits, including many football outfits, as there are at least 4-5 full youth teams in the stands. I stand out like a sore thumb with my red-white Portland Timbers shirt, but no one cares.

The Berlin Cup Final is played between Lichterberg 47, which plays in the Oberliga, and BFC Preussen, which plays one division lower in the Landesliga. Consequently, L47 is the big favorite and has also brought most of the fans. The official number, which seems quite realistic, is 3,874 people – an absolutely impressive number for an amateur game. I guestimate that 60-66% are L47 fans in red.

The fans are predominantly white and male, as well as fairly working class, but there is a serious minority of minorities, most notably of Turkish decent, not surprising in a city with such a huge population of Turkish immigrants and their offspring. Although Lichterberg 47 is from the former East and BFC Preussen from the former West, there are few notable differences between the fans.

The first ten minutes the underdog are a bit better, but L47 gets the best chance. In the 14th minute there is a tackle in the L47 penalty box, but no penalty (good decision). Five minutes later a corner is headed in hard and high by a BFC striker: 0-1. The fans around me go crazy, the other fans are in shock.

Surprisingly the game doesn’t change much. BFC remains a bit better and L47 doesn’t pressure too much. The fans are happily basking in the warm sun, although the conditions are perfect on the pitch, where it is not that warm. The pace is relatively slow while the passing is not too accurate. Much of the game is between the two penalty boxes as both teams have a hard time creating chances.

In the rest of the first half both teams create a couple of half-chances, including a semi-volley and a shot on the post by BFC and a ricochet L47 shot that is saved by the BFC goalie. Half time score: 0-1

The first good chance of the second half is again for BFC, but the header goes just wide. This not withstanding, L47 has much more possession, but little precision and urgency. This leads to an oddly calm and uneventful game for much of the second half.

In the last fifteen minutes most of the BFC players are exhausted and can barely stay on their feet. Finally L47 starts to pressure more, but the precession is still lacking. Still, with an exhausted BFC defense, and more and more high balls, it remains very tense until the end, five minutes into extra time.

Against all expectations the underdog from the Landesliga defeated the favorite from the Oberliga. The BFC Preussen fans and players were ecstatic, while the Lichtenberg 47 fans were stunned and the players exhausted. For the first time since 1981 The Prussians are the best amateur team in berlin again!

Overall this was an excellent experience, once again confirming that nothing beats football in Germany. Although this was a local amateur game, there were almost 4.000 really fanatic supporters in the stadium who made it feel like a Second Division professional game. And this all with very affordable prices for entrance and food and drink.

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