Tuesday, November 07, 2017

SSV Ulm 1846 – FSV Frankfurt (14-10-2017)

After an enjoyable game in a northern suburb of Paris, the evening before, my brother and I have made our way to Ulm in the south of Germany, for a game in the Regionalliga-Südwest (Fourth Division-Southwest). The SSV Ulm was founded in 1846 (!) as an athletic association (Turnerbund Ulm) and the football club became independent in 1926. SSV Ulm 1846 played one season in the top flight, the Bundesliga (1999-2000), before relegating twice in a row, facing bankruptcy, being set back to the fifth tier, getting back to the fourth tier, going bankrupt again in 2011, etc.

This is the first season back in the Regionalliga and the team is in the lower half of the table. They play FSV Frankfurt, which is near the bottom, so there must be hope. After meeting up with my friend MT, who lives a few hours away, we buy tickets for the non-covered, standing-only parts of the stadium (€9).

The Donaustadion was built in 1925 and has last been renovated in 1999. It is a classic German sports stadium, which an annoying athletics track around the pitch. It can hold 19,500, but I doubt there have been more than 10,000 at the same game in over a decade. Today the official attendance is 1,570 spectators, of which some one hundred have made the roughly 300 km (190 miles) trip from Frankfurt am Main.

Most of the home fans are (white) working class, various ages, predominantly male, but with quite a number of women. On the more expensive Main Stand there is a bit better mix of class and gender, though there the crown is still exclusively white and mostly older.

The first 20 minutes are pretty slow and create few if any real chances. The atmosphere in the stadium is good, however. Fans are singing and have brought various banners and flags. At the beginning of the game some of the home fans display two banners, which say: “We can also be different” and “But not today.” Not sure whether it is a protest or sarcasm.

The first half is not very exciting. In the 24th minute SSV Ulm gets a corner, but the header goes over the goal. And in the 44th minute the hosts shoot from 18 meters, but the shot goes just wide. 0-0 is the half time score.

The second half picks up where the first half left off and very little of note happens, except for a header by Ulm, which goes just wide, and a shot by Frankfurt, which also goes just wide. In the 73rd minute, somewhat against the game, the visitors score after a good attack and a header from just 2 meters: 0-1. Eight minutes later Ulm strikes back, after a long attack and a rebound gets deflected: 1-1.

Out of nowhere we have a game. In the 85th minute Ulm has a free header, but it goes over. Two minutes later, by surprise, a Frankfurt player gets the ball in the box, shoots hard and low from 14 meters, and the ball goes through all kind of people into the goal: 1-2. Almost the next minute Ulm gets a corner-kick, the weak header falls on the ground, and another player kicks it in from 2 meters: 2-2. The celebrating home fans gets a last shock in the last minute, when a free kick of the visitors ends in the side net, but the final score remains 2-2.

SSV Ulm 1846 is a club that has fallen on hard times, but it is grounded in this small town in the middle of nowhere, and while it lays in the fourth division of German football, it still has a better atmosphere and attendance than most clubs in the second division of other countries. Definitely worth a trip!

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