Wednesday, February 06, 2019

SV Lichtenberg 47 -- Victoria Seelow (3-6-2018)

To celebrate my birthday in Berlin, I go with JJ, a Dutch journalist-turned-consultant (and despite his support for the wrong Dutch team, a nice guy) to see a game in the lower divisions of German football. There is always a lot of choice in Berlin, which has a wealth of big and small teams. I had chosen SV Lichtenberg 47 in the former East of the city.

We take the metro (U5) to Magdalenenplatz from where it is a short walk to the stadium. As soon as you get out of the metro station, you are in a different city: no American tourists everywhere, no hipsters, just a sleepy residential area with typical communist low-rise flats. When we get closer to the stadium, we see groups of fans standing around, drinking, talking.

We enter the ground and buy a ticket at the one, dilapidated ticket office box -- I forgot how much we paid. Today is the last game of the season in the NOFV-Oberliga Nord (Fifth Division North) and SV Lichtenberg 47 is playing Victoria Seelow, from the town of Seelow, roughly 65 km (40 miles) East of Berlin.

We arrive about 45 minutes before kick-off and go into the canteen to get a drink. People mill around, talking to each other, eating and drinking, talking football. A true community club. I love the atmosphere (and the sausage).

There are some 100 people in the stadium, as far as I remember very few away fans. There is even a big banner among the home fans. Before the game the club says goodbye to a few players and then the game is on. The guests score first, in the 35th minute, and the hosts equalize the next minute. 1-1- is also the half time score. 

While Seelow was the better team in the first half, SV Lichtenberg 47 dominates the second half. The score the 2-1 in the 58th minute, 3-1 in the 60th minute, and the final 4-1 in the 73rd minute. Everyone is happy with the final game of the season and go back to the canteen to celebrate. JJ and I are also happy, as we return to the hipsters and American tourists downtown.

SV Lichtenberg 47 is a great groundhop. It takes you outside of the tourist Berlin bubble, away from the big and boring Hertha and the cozy but hyped Union, to a small, community club that represents a district within a massive city. Definitely worth a visit!

Friday, February 01, 2019

Wasquehal Football -- US Maubeuge (26-05-2018)

Groundhopping in Europe at the end of May is not easy. Not at all. Given that I had to give a lecture in the morning, I had only 4-5 hours to drive from the middle of the Netherlands. This is how I ended up in the Championnat National 3, technically the Fifth Division in France.

Wasquehal is a small town just across the Belgian border (close to Mouscroun). Technically, Wasquehal Football is a new club, founded in 2017, as a merger of two local teams, dating back to 1924! They play at the Complexe sportif Lucien Montagne, which looks relatively empty when I arrive.

At the complex is the Stade Léo Lagrange, with one stand, and a capacity of 500. However, today, they play on a pitch behind that "stadium." Given that it is the last game of the season, the game is free, which unfortunately also means that I don't get a ticket as a souvenir (although I doubt they have tickets during regular games).

There are between 50 and 100 supporters, all but a few from the home team. To be fair, Maubeuge is almost 100 km away. There are even a few fans with flags and there is a drum.

I don't remember much of the game, except that it ebbed and flowed pretty decently, but the quality of play was quite atrocious. The fans were calm and sometime involved on this very pleasant Summer evening.

As Championnat National 3 used to be called Championnat de France Amateur 2, it is not surprising that everything reminds me of my Dutch amateur team of my youth. People hanging over the advertisement boards, in small groups of friends, talking about the past week and sometimes shouting at the game.

I caught the goal of the home team, scored by penalty, which, I think, equalized the game.  Enthusiasm remains within borders. :-)

As I again still had some driving to do, and had been without any food or drink because there was no concession stand anywhere to be found, I left 20 minutes early at a 1-1 score.

Let's just say that Wasquehal Football does not need to be (high) on your groundhopping bucket list.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

FC Eintracht Rheine - FC Gütersloh (25-05-2018)

On my way from Berlin to the Netherlands, I make a detour to see one of the few games that are played that Saturday -- and by a team I haven't visited yet. FC Eintracht Rheine plays in the Oberliga Westfalen (Fifth Division) and today's game is against Gütersloh.*

FC Eintracht Rheine was only founded in 1994, as a merger of VfB Rheine and SG Eintracht Rheine, but actually has a staggering 18 (!) predecessors. I pay €6, get a generic ticket (but a ticket nevertheless), and enter the Auto-Senger Stadion. Its official capacity is 7,500, but I doubt they ever have more than 750. The stadium has just one stand -- the Dr. Bernd Windhoff Tribüne -- and is in dire condition (see below).

Clearly Fc Eintracht Rheine is not ready for the Champions League -- or to host FC Feyenoord -- as there were bricks and rocks all over the place. Fortunately, no one cared about them. 

As it is the last home game, they say goodbye to the players that are leaving at the end of the season before the game. The ca. 100 people applaud politely. The crowd is local and seems to be here more for the social contacts than the football.

I don't directly see any away fans -- Gütersloh is ca. 100 km away from Rheine -- but if there were any, these six guys will probably have been it..

The game is overall rather poor and slow but the weather is nice and there are some decent snacks, so I am having a good time. There isn't much atmosphere though. This changes a bit when they announce that there will be free beer after the game to celebrate the end of the season.

I have to admit that I left with still a quarter to go. At that time it was still 0-0, but it was getting cold, and I still had 4 hours to drive. In the end, FC Eintracht Rheine won 2-0. Not the most desirable groundhop destination, but not bad either.

* I wrote this report half a year later, so the details are a bit hazy.