Tuesday, August 09, 2022

 

Latest Reports:
Birmingham Legion - Loudon United FC (27-07-2022)
 FC Arminia 03 Ludwigshafen - SV Waldhof Mannheim (02-07-2022) 
 Yverdon Sport - Grasshopper Club Zürich (01-07-2022)
 FK Lausanne Sport - Dynamo Kyiv FC (29-06-2022)
 TSV Schwaben Augsburg - FC Augsburg (27-06-2022) 
 SV Tasmania Berlin - SV Babelsberg 03 (26-06-2022)
 BSG Wismut Gera - FSV Zwickau (25-06-2022)
FK Banik Most-Souš - FKSlany (18-06-2022)
 
Next Games:
Santiago Wanderers - CD Cobreloa (08-10-2022)
Colo Colo - Curicó Unido (09-10-2022) 
Audax Italiano - Universidad La Calera (10-10-2022)
 


INTRODUCTION

The terms "groundhopping" and "groundhopper" can not (yet) be found in any dictionary, yet there are hundreds of groundhoppers around the world, most notably in Germany. The word combines the terms "ground" and "hopping" and refers to the visiting of different sports grounds -- usually, though not exclusively, football grounds (for a German description, see Wikipedia).

Whereas normal football fans tend to visit only home games of their favorite team, particularly when they live closeby, and more fanatical fans also attend the away games of their team, the groundhopper aims to visit as many different grounds and teams as possible. Moreover, unlike the normal fan, who generally prefers to visit the big teams in football (e.g. Bayern München, Manchester United, Real Madrid), the groundhopper goes for the exotic (e.g. Avenir Beggen, Ozeta Dukla Trencin, Selangor PKNS) and the tiny, such as the third team of a city (e.g. Partick Thistle, Royale Union Sint-Gilloise, Spvgg Unterhaching).

While groundhopping is largely a non-organized activity, by individuals and small groups, there exist a few organizations of groundhoppers. The most famous is the German Vereinigung der Groundhopper Deutschlands (V.d.G.D.): it's website is one of the major sources of information on clubs, leagues, and stadiums in the world. For other groundhopper websites, see the links on the right.


This website provides an overview of the various groundhops of me, Grondhopper. I'm a Dutch academic and football fan, supporting PSV in the Netherlands, Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany, and the Portland Timbers in the USA. I regularly travel abroad for both work and pleasure, and try to combine these trips with groundhops. In addition, I make several special groundhops every year alone or with one or more of my friends, some of which are active groundhoppers themselves. I have currently visited 468 clubs in 45 countries on 6 continents.

If you like the reports, become a follower of this blog. Comments are also always highly appreciated. You can post them either here on the site or you can email me at grondhopper[at]gmail.com.

Birmingham Legion FC — Loudon United FC (27-07-2022)



It is a Wednesday in July and I drive roughly three hours to Birmingham, the capital of Alabama, to see a midweek game in the USL Championship, the second tier of professional soccer in the US, which is, however, miles away from Major League Soccer. The local team is Birmingham Legion FC, founded in 2017, which plays in the Protective Stadium, the brand new stadium of the football team of the University of Alabama Birmingham (AUB) — note, this is not thé University of Alabama team, which has won more national championships than any other school in the past decade, but technically only the third college football team in the state (after “Bama” and Auburn).

 


I arrive early, at least that is what I think, but when I get to the ticket office, I see on a small screen in the office that they started at 19.05, rather than 20.00 (as I had seen online). As I pay $25 for a ticket, Birmingham Legion FC scores a goal: 1-0.

 


The Protective Stadium opened last year and has a capacity of 47,100! It is too big for the Legion though. Even though there are long banners covering parts of the stands, the stadium looks empty with the roughly 1,500 people inside. A small group of about 50-100 home fans are behind one of the goals and drum and sing for much of the game.

 



There are lot of (young) women and quite a lot of non-whites (although, given demographics of Birmingham, whites are still heavily overrepresented). Moreover, when I walk to the other side, i.e. the expensive section, it is all white. Here, also, few people watch the game. They talk.

 


Ten minutes later, as I finally sit down with a cool bottle of water — it is hot, although with a pleasant breeze — Birmingham Legion gets a penalty after a clumsy challenge. The player scores comfortably and it’s 2-0.

 


In the 42nd minute, the hosts have an enormous chance, after a good attack, but the striker shoots from 7 meter straight at the goalkeeper. Two minutes later, after a long attack, they score easy when a player is totally free at 10 meter and can pick a corner: 3-0. This is also the half-time score.

 


Just two minutes into the second half a Legion striker runs at the goal and a defender gives him a very obvious and dumb push from behind: yet another penalty and a red card. The player scores and it is 4-0, game completely over.

 


Oddly enough, the next goal comes from the Canadian guests, after a sparse attack, scoring easily: 4-1. In fact, Loudon is now better, despite playing with 10 men, mainly because Birmingham can no longer be bothered. The fans are also even quieter now. Fair enough though, as the game is over, despite the guests getting better into the game.

 


A few minutes before the end of regular rime, A Legion player has a great dribble and is tripped in the box. The third penalty of the night, all clear and deserved, and it is 5-1. In the second minute of overtime, 5 hosts attack against 4 visitors, the player picks a corner, and it is 6-1. This is also the final score.

 


With such a high score and such great weather, this was obviously a nice evening. Moreover, while this is not a soccer-specific stadium, it could be a great ground for a (popular) MLS team one day. Now, it looks a bit sad, even though the small group of drummers and singers as well as the stadium’s great acoustics saves it a bit (if you close your eyes).

 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

FC Arminia 03 Ludwigshafen – SV Waldhof Mannheim o7 (02-07-2022)

 


The last Saturday I am joined by my friend MT for my last groundhop of this busy European summer trip. We are going to see a friendly between Oberliga Rheinland-Pfalz/Saar (fifth tier) FC Arminia 03 Ludwigshafen and its big neighbor from the 3. Liga (third tier) SV Waldhof Mannheim. It is a gorgeous afternoon, sunny but not too hot, perfect for a friendly derby.

 



The game is played in the Südweststadion, which the home ground of FSV Oggersheim (or FSV 1913 Ludwigshafen-Oggersheim), not FC Arminia 03 Ludwigshafen, although it used to play there and still occassionamlly uses the ground. It has an interesting history, as it was built on the site of the original Adolf Hitler Stadion, built in 1937 and destroyed by allied bombers during the war. In 1950 the new Südweststadion was inaugurated, with a capacity of 41,383 people (and a record attendance of 82,000!).

 



In the 1980s SV Waldhof Mannheim played its Bundesliga games here but then the stadium fell into disrepair. In 2007 it was renovated and limited to a capacity of 6,100. Today, only one main stand is open, which is very busy, and the vast majority are Waldhof Mannheim supporters. The official tally was an impressive 1,128 people, undoubtedly helped by the weather and low ticket price (€10).

 


We cannot really make out who is who, and for a while we think the better team is Arminia. We are wrong, it’s Waldhof, which in the 10th minute has a beautiful counter but eye in eye with the goalkeeper the striker shoots just wide. Five minutes later, another Waldhof striker goes alone at the goalie, who saves, but in the rebound another player is fouled. The penalty is calmly scored: 1-0.

 


A good fifteen minutes later, after a pinball moment, a Waldhof striker goes alone at the goalie and finishes in the far corner: 0-2. This is also the half-time score. For all the enthusiasm before the game, the fans are a bit dull. There is no real singing and the goals are barely celebrated. People mainly talk and drink beer.

 


In the second half Waldhof remains superior and in the 49th minute a cross is poorly defended, falls in front of a player, who easily scores from 7 meters: 0-3. Roughly 5 minutes later a visitor finishes cool and easy, tipping the ball over the poor goalkeeper: 0-4

 


In the 72nd minute, out of nowhere, Arminia has a counter that is finished beautifully in the far corner: 1-4. After that, the play is disrupted by the many player exchanges. Two minutes before the end, Waldhof counters, the goalie commits too late, and the striker scores from 30 meter into the empty goal: 1-5. That is also the final score.

 


Overall, a very entertaining game in a nice stadium — if you enjoy past glory like me — but much of the atmosphere was made by the away supporters. Hence, do go see Arminia Ludwigshafen but don’t forget SV Waldhof Mannheim either. They are high on my list for the future!

Yverdon Sport FC - Grasshopper Club Zürich (01-07-2022)

 


After a day in Lausanne, I drive up to Yverdon-les-Bains, a small touristic town at the big Lac du Neuchatel. The local team, Yverdon Sport FC, is playing a midday friendly against Grasshopper Club Zürich, once the biggest club in Switzerland, which has recently come back from hard times.

 


Yverdon Sport is a modest team that usually plays in the third or second tier of Swiss professional football. Currently they play in the Swiss Challenger League, the second tier. This preseason friendly is played on a mild Friday afternoon at 3 PM.

 


Although the generic entrance costs a mere CHF 5 ($5), there are only some 150 people — some 50 come in during the game. They are mostly men, and there is some ethnic diversity.

 


The Stade Municipal is in the center of Yverdon-les-Bains, just behind the railway station. It is a cute, small, old ground with two small, relatively new stands on both long sides. The total capacity is 6,600 of which 1,000 are seats. It also has a restaurant with terrace that provides free WIFI! It is the perfect weather for a friendly: sunny with light breeze (20C).

 


The pitch looks great, and is real grass, while both teams play well but create few chances. The first real shot at goal is after almost half an hour, when a Grasshopper attacker is fouled just outside of the box and the free kick is shot low and not too hard at goal; an easy pick up for the goalie.

 


Unsurprisingly, given the lack of chances, it is 0-0 at half time. Still, the first half was actually quite entertaining, although the perfect weather and the excellent free WIFI definitely helped too.

 


The second half starts even more pedestrian and the many player changes don’t help either. There is barely any shot, let alone on goal. In the 67th minute, out of nowhere, a through ball gets behind the Grasshopper defense and a striker puts his toe to it and extends it into the far corner: 1-0.

 

 

In the 85the minute, after terrible defending, Grasshopper loses the ball at 30 meters from their goal and with three passes a striker goes at the goal and finishes hard and high: 2-0. After that Yverdon has one good counter and corner but the score remains 2-0.

 


Undoubtedly, my experience was influenced by the gorgeous weather, but I really enjoyed Yverdon Sport. A small but authentic ground with a bit of luxury (restaurant and WiFi) in the city. Better than all these fancy arenas in the periphery.

 

FC Lausanne-Sport – Dynamo Kyiv (29-06-2022)

 


Dynamo Kyiv is touring Europe to play “matches for peace” and raise awareness and money for the suffering of the Ukrainian people as a consequence of the Russian invasion – just like the Ukrainian national (youth) team has done too. Several of the games are in Switzerland and I pick the one in Lausanne, which fits my schedule the best.

 


This game has been schedule only two weeks in advance, in the early stages of Lausanne’s pre-season schedule. It is one of the few friendlies to be played in the quite new Stade La Tuliere, built in 2017, which is all-seater and covered but quite small (12,544 people). I park at the parking lot next to the stadium and walk over to the ticket office.

 


You get to choose what you pay (CHF 10, 20, 50, 100) and then they assign you a seat. I pay CHF 20 (or $20.50) and join the 4,050 others (official number), at least half Ukrainians, many of them children. Outside is a small Ukrainian stand, where you can get info on the war as well as Ukrainian flags and face paint.

 


FC Lausanne-Sport is a club that hovers between the two top tiers of Swiss professional football. Last season it relegated from the Swiss Super League (first tier), so next season it will play in the Swiss Challenger League (second tier). Although its stadium is very new, and very similar to the many other smaller arenas built in the last decades, it is not too sterile and you sit close to the (artificial) pitch. I can imagine the place to be quite decent when it is close to full.

 


It seems that Dynamo starts with its youth team. It is not very good. In the 5th minute, a Lausanne midfielder shoots from the top of the box and it flies beautifully in the top corner: 1-0. Some ten minutes later Dynamo has its first attack, over left, but the shot goes across the goal and just wide. Five minutes later a Dynamo free kick is deflected but well saved by the Lausanne goalie.

 


The game moves back and forth well, at times at high pace, but there are few chances. It is quite physical, however, particularly for a friendly. In the 38th minute, mistakes in the Lausanne defense lead to a Dynamo free kick at the top of the box. It goes low past the wall but is saved by the goalie. In the 44th minute, a bit out of nowhere, the hosts have a break and the same player shoots effortlessly from 10 meter high in the goal: 2-0. That is also the half time score.

 


In the first ten minutes of the second half the visitors get various half chances but they miss a good final pass. Then Dynamo exchanges almost all players and the first team comes on. Within minutes, they have a great shot from just outside of the box but it is met with an equally great safe.

 


The game has now gotten pretty bad and there are too many fouls. Roughly halfway the second half Lausanne also makes many changes and the rhythm is broken on both sides. Finals score is 2-0.

 


Obviously, this was a unique game, where at least half of the audience was supporting the away team, but was not really too concerned with football. That said, although the Stade La Tuliere is a fairly standard modern stadium, it does not lack for atmosphere, assuming it is fairly busy with enthusiastic supporters.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

TSV Schwaben Augsburg -- FC Augsburg (28-06-2022)


As part of my COVID-19 self-isolation I drive from Berlin to Augsburg, in the Southwest of Bavaria, to see the friendly “derby” in that city between Bayernliga Süd (sixth tier) club TSV Schwaben Augsburg and Bundesliga (first tier) FC Augsburg. On the way I hear that my new COVID-19 test is negative, so I no longer have to worry about infecting people.

 


As I drive up about 30 minutes before kick-off (at 19.00), I’m shocked by the number of people who are walking towards the stadium. All have tickets and I don’t see open tickets offices. I start to panic slightly. The game is played in the Rosenaustadion, which used to be the home of FC Augsburg, before they moved to the Augsburg Arena in 2009. Currently the women’s and the men’s second team of FC Augsburg play their home games in this fairly old stadium, which has one main stand with 5,900 covered seats.

 


After having found a rare free parking spot, I walk to the stadium and find that they do still sell tickets (€10), but then I have to join a line of easily 400 people that is not moving — they only have one entrance open.

 


The people in the line are not happy and neither am I. Still, I’m relieved it wasn’t sold out and I didn’t drive 600 km to Augsburg for nothing. And there should be a good atmosphere. Still, I do learn that Germans are not very good at queuing.

 


Although most people waited a long time to get in, and then again to get food and drinks from the one concession stand that is open, they are very quiet in the stand. Even close chances get few cheers. Meanwhile, you hear people everywhere talking to each other. As far as I could see, both teams had a few half chances in between the 20th and 30th minute — I missed the first 20. It’s still 0-0.

 


In the 35th minute I see the first real chance; a cross from the left and an FC Augsburg player is totally free at 5 meters from the goal and tips the ball in. I cannot believe it isn’t offside: 0-1.

 



A few minutes later FC Augsburg has another big chance, with an easy attack over right, but this time the goalie saves the shot from close range. Five minutes later an almost identical attack ,but this time the goalie is already in front of the striker as he tries to tip the cross in. 

 


Just before half-time FC Augsburg hits the crossbar from a free kick just outside of the box. Although Schwaben have had several counters in the first half, the final pass is lacking. Half time score 0-1.

 


In the second half FC Augsburg starts with a whole new team, while Schwaben does not. After seven minutes a rebound to a corner is saved by the Schwaben goalie, but falls for an Augsburg striker, who stands 2 meters from the goal line but also 2 meters next to the goal, and he shoots it across the goal.

 


Given the massive difference in divisions, the difference in quality is not clear enough. Not only does Schwaben get some counters, FC Augsburg is not very impressive in terms of first contact, positioning, or passing. To be fair, the Schwaben goalie also makes some saves. In the 63rd minute, however, he has no chance when a good corner kick is headed in from 10 meters: 0-2.

 


Less than ten minutes later FC Augsburg scores the 0-3. Eventually, it will end in 0-5, as the Bayerligist totally falls apart. Still, although this was just the first friendly of FC Augsburg, and the result was nice, a lot needs to be done before this team is ready for the new Bundesliga season.

 


It is difficult to read too much into this game with regard to TSV Schwaben Augsburg, which usually doesn’t play in this stadium. Moreover, the vast majority (90%?) of the circa 4,000 people that were in the stadium this evening were FC Augsburg fans. This notwithstanding, it was a nice experience.