Tuesday, November 07, 2017

SC Rheindorf Altach – Admira Wacker (14-10-2017)

After an enjoyable afternoon in Ulm, we drive roughly 145 km (90 miles) south to Altach in Austria, where there is an early evening game in the Österreichisch Fussball-Bundesliga (Austrian Football Bundesliga), the first division, which counts only 10 teams, which play a “double competition,” an illustration of the dire situation of Austrian professional football.


While it has become quite common for clubs to name their stadiums after major sponsors, in Austria the sponsor becomes part of the club name. So, technically, I was attending Cashpoint SC Rheindorf Altach against FC Flyeralarm Admira Wacker. Horrible! We arrived at the Stadion Schnabelholz (commercial name: Cashpoint Arena) some 15 minutes before kick-off, bought tickets for a very acceptable 15, grabbed some snacks, and took our stand behind the goal, just next to the home “ultras.”

The stadium was built in 1990 and holds just 8,500. However, that is more people than live in the town of Altach, which had a population 6,394 in 2011. SC Rheindorf Altach only made it into the top flight of Austrian football in 2014 and they played UEFA Europa League two years later. This season they are in the lower half of the table, just below Admira Wacker, a long-term minor player in the Austrian Bundesliga.

This pleasant Saturday evening there are (officially) 5,072 spectators, almost all local, very mixed, creating a small town atmosphere more associated with second division teams. Only some 10 away fans had made the 640 km (400 miles) trek from the outer eastern point (close to Slovakia) to the outer western point of the country (close to Switzerland).

The game is decent, but not too high pace, and mostly between the two boxes. In the 15th minute Admira gets a corner and the header is boxed over the goal. Some ten minutes later the visitors see another chance saved by the goalie. Three minutes before half-time Admira attacks again and the cross is headed cool into the goal: 0-1. This is also the half-time score.

Five minutes into the second half poor defending of Altach leads to an Admira through-header and a cool finish with the outside of the foot past the goalkeeper: 0-2. But three minutes later a wrong cross sails in and Altach is back into the game: 1-2.

In the 74th minute the hosts have a good dribble, is followed by a Schwalbe (dive), which is rewarded a penalty kick (wrong decision). The player who went down takes the penalty himself and, as the iron law of football goes, misses! Cosmic justice.

In the direct counter after the saved penalty kick, an Admira header leads to a great save. The following corner is finished with a hard shot at the goalkeeper. A few minutes later the visitors have another great attack, but the volley from up close goes just wide.

In the 82nd minute Altach counters, a long run, the player seems confused, then shoots from outside of the box, beautifully in the far corner: 2-2!  Both teams have one more good chance before the referee whistles for the last time. All in all, a highly enjoyable game on a very pleasant Fall evening.

Normally, a club like SC Rheindorf Altach plays in the second or third division, but in Austria, they play in the first division, among (fallen) famous teams like Austria and Rapid Wien. However, unlike those “big” teams, who often play in mostly empty modern stadiums, clubs like SC Rheindorf Altach play in cozy, small stadiums in front of most of the inhabitants of their town. That is what groundhopping is all about.

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