With only two months to go before England’s fate would be decided by the super powers of Russia and Croatia I was still on course to complete my research for Euro2008 and hopefully the trip to Salzburg would not be the last time I would be seeing the city for football purposes.
Now this was one trip that I was looking forward to. Salzburg is one of the most historic cities in Europe. Home to Mozart and the Sound of Music, as well as one of the most depressing stories of corporate greed in football today.
The trip had been planned to take in a regular Austrian Bundesliga game versus Austria Karnten – who themselves can claim no history themselves (for more details see the section on Klagenfurt). Red Bull had won the 2006/07 season at a canter, mainly due to the fact they had more money than sense, and a management team of the Italian Trapattoni and the German Matthaus not only dominated the league but also monopolised the media. This season looked like going the same way, although Matthaus had got bored of playing 2nd fiddle and had departed some months before.
Many people may remember Salzburg in their run to the UEFA Cup final a few years ago. At the time they were known as Casino Salzburg – primarily because the Casino is located across the road from the ground. A couple of years ago the club were floundering in the Austrian league, and with Euro2008 just having been awarded to Switzerland, the club were desperate to attract some investment both into the club but also the bland stadium.
In stepped Red Bull and the meglomaniacal ideas of its owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who had recently formed the Red Bull racing team out of a hangar at Salzburg Airport. Red Bull took over the club, lock, stock, barrel, history and club culture. They started as they meant to go on announcing to the fans “This is a new club with no history”, changed the club colours to Red and White and of course dropped the name Casino in favour of Red Bull. Quite a way to endear yourself to the fans in the first week!
More of the football later. Obviously being in one of Europe’s most visited tourist destinations I did not expect a quiet few days in the city, and with the dull drizzle taking hold as soon as the plane had landed my original idea of finding a nice pavement cafe for a few Steigl’s was ruled out early doors. The whole city is very compact, with the airport being no more than 3 miles from the centre (and almost ajoined to the football stadium to the north). A short bus ride dropped me right outside the gates of one of the most famous houses in Austria – the MIrabell Palace. After fighting my way through the Japanese tourists, all armed with cameras and umbrellas – a deadly combination in anyone’s book, I got a glimpse of the famous steps, where Julie Andrews did her “Do Rey Me” stuff in the Sound of Music. The view from here through the gardens and up to the Hohensalzburg which dominates the city is impressive to say the least on a cloudy day, let alone on a summer’s day, although I do not think you would get close due to the tourist crowds.
I spent the rest of the day doing the tourist things. A couple of (surprisingly interesting) hours wandering around the Salzburg museum, which obviously does not have any rights to Mozart and so omitted him from the city’s famous people section, up by funicular to the Hohensalzburg, down again through the historic Getreidegasse and of course no visit to Salzburg would be complete without a visit to the birthplace of Mozart. And a few words at this point on Wolfgang Amadeus. You cannot miss his bust anywhere in town. Sweets, coffees, beers, aprons, dogs – you name it and its branded…And people buy this shit by the bucket loads. The biggest seller are called Mozart Balls – salty dark chocolate with a marzipan filling – yum yum!
I had the foresight to grab a hotel room just a couple of doors down from Mozart’s house in Getreidegasse. With an early flight I thought it would be useful to get a few hours sleep before the football, and escape from the hordes pounding past my hotel window. I woke up starving, and with 90 minutes to kick off I thought I should go and eat first. However, during my hour power nap the city appeared to have gone through some kind of time shift as darkness had fallen and all of the tourists had been removed by their alien spacecraft, to be replaced by stylish locals enjoying getting their city back. The other unfortunate side of such cities as Salzburg is that almost all of the restaurants were Mozart themed. Mozart Soup was (apparently) is favourite – a meat broth with dumplings. Mozart Schnizel was cooked (apparently) by his mother and was a normal schnitzel cooked in sauce, and of course Mozart Ice Cream was (apparently) his favourite..It appeared to me as Vanilla with a strange sauce that looked and had the texture of tar…I gave that one a miss and had a much duller (but more delicious) Strudle.
I had eventually managed to secure a media ticket for this game after emailing the club on over a dozen occasions. It is often hard to explain to foreign clubs exactly what I do and why I need a media ticket. Some clubs (and even national associations) simply give me a pass, and access to almost everywhere. Sometimes they make me jump through hoops, but eventually give me my own backstage pass. And finally, there are those organisations that unless you own a national newspaper, or have played 100 times for your country will not even return an email. What makes it hard to fathom is that UEFA and FIFA some of the most beauocratic organisations in the world sit in the first category, yet clubs like Bury, Rochdale and Wrexham are most definitely in the latter category. Salzburg sort of sat in the middle. It was a bit of a disappointment not to get a proper pass that I could put round my neck, but I did get free entry and as many Mozart balls as I could eat.
My seat was next to the dug out, three rows from the front. I headed down to my seat early to soak up the atmosphere. There was certainly quite a party in town, with pumping Euphoric-breakdown type music and disco lights blazing down from the roof but someone had forgotten to invite the guests. With 15 minutes until kick off there was no more than 3,000 crammed in at one end of the stadium. I was joined by a couple of local celebrities, based on the number of people who kept coming up and asking for autographs. They tried to engage me, using the only common language we know – football. They laughed when I said I was a West Ham fan, but with my beloved Hammers playing Plymouth Argyle in the Carling Cup back home they could understand my anguish as I kept an eye on the phoen awaiting the avalanche of goals.
The game was sterile to say the least. It was if a large corporate had come along and taken the soul out of the club and replaced it with tins of energy drinks. What was funny was that for a team sponsored by Red Bull, the team were very lethargic and it took a stroke of fortune in the first half for the team not to go in a goal behind.
What did become obvious in the 2nd half was that the sparten crowd a) did not like Trapattoni and especially his negative tactics, and b) most of the team. The abuse that started raining down on the play maker (and ex-Crystal Palace midfielder ) Sasa Ilic was a case in point. However, the club had the last laugh eventually as three goals by Red Bull in the final 5 minutes gave them an undeserved win, and returned them to the top of the table.
After the game, with everyone making their way out of the stadium, all of the media guests (and that was me!) got a Red Bull goodie bag, including a postcard of a Red Bull plane, a Red Bull girls (ok – skinny fit) T-Shirt and of course a can of Red Bull – just what I wanted after being up since 5am that morning! The good thing was that most people had parked in the shopping centre opposite and so the bus back to town was almost empty. With the drizzle again falling in the old cobbled streets of the city centre, you could not think that you had somehow been transformed into Victorian London, with dark lurking shadows in the narrow alleys in the city centre. And could I find a bar open at 11pm – not a chance!
About The EM Stadion
The EM Stadion is completely unrecognisable from just 18 months ago when it was known as the Wals-Siezenheim and home to SV Austria Salzburg. However, with the investment both from the local government and from Red Bull, the stadium is now a much expanded 30,000 seater arena and home to the new Red Bull Salzburg club. In fact it is hard to escape from the Red Bull theme on visiting the stadium for a domestic match, with Red Bull branded everything – including the name which will revert back to the Bullen Arena after the 2008 tournament.
The new look stadium was completed during the summer of 2007 as one of the venues for Euro 2008 and was officially opened with a friendly versus Arsenal in July 2007. The stadium is one of a select few that is using the FIFA-approved artificial Ligaturf. The previous 18,200 seater stadium has had an additional tier added to bring it up to the 30,000 requirements as a tournament host. This was achieved by raising the 1,900-tonne roof by 10metres and slotting in the extra tier.
Views are excellent from any part of the stadium. Whilst the Arena doesn’t have the scenic surroundings of the Tivoli stadium in Innsbruck, it is much more pleasant that some of the stadiums we have in this country. The stadium has some really unique features such as concession stands that serve fans both inside and outside the stadium from the same points, two huge screens and one of the loudest sound systems in Austria. It also has a lighting system that wouldn’t look out of place at a disco. Inside the stadium the concourses are wide and spacious, allowing fans a view of the action whilst they queue. Access to the upper tiers of the stadium is via the staffolding towers dotted around the stadium. Like the stadium in Klagenfurt, only three sides have two tiers, with the main West Stand having a row of Executive seating instead Come June 2008 the whole area will have been completely transformed into a true football festival.
Who plays there?
Up until the end of March 2005 the Wals-Siezenheim stadium was home to SV Casino Salzburg, the three times champions of the Austrian Bundesliga. However, in the sweep of a pen on a contract, over seventy years worth of history were erased when Red Bull bought the club on the 6th April 2005. Along with the name change, the club were “forced” to adopt a new strip and a new management team. The sale of the soul of the club was too much for many of the fans who formed their own club, buying back the original name SV Austria Salzburg and joining the regional leagues of the Salzburg region. In their first season playing in the traditional violet and white strip of the former club they finished top of the league and thus started their long climb back up to the top in a similar fashion to AFC Wimbledon.
SV Casino Salzburg were originally formed under the name Austria Salzburg in September 1933, although they had a pretty undistinguished history until they changed their name to Casino in 1978. Under the new name the team won the Bundesliga in 1994, 1995 and 1997. In 1994 the club also reached the UEFA Cup final, losing 2-0 to Inter Milan on aggregate. In 1994/95 they reached the group stages of the Champions League, finishing third in a group containing Ajax, AC Milan and AEK Athens. They almost appeared in the group stages again in 1997 when they lost to Sparta Prague in the final qualifying rounds. The takeover certainly alienated most of the fan base as Red Bull published the slogan “Salzburg – the club with no history”. They appointed Giovanni Trapattoni and Lothar Matthaus as the management team in May 2006 and in their first season the team won the league with 5 games to spare. With funds available to invest in the team few would bet against them retaining this title in 2007/08.
How to get there
The stadium is located almost at the end of the runway of the airport, and is less than a kilometre from the terminal building alongside the A1 West Autobahn and opposite the Casino. It is around 3km from the city centre. Bus lines 1, 10 and 18 run from the central bus and railway station to the stadium stop in Stadionstrasse on the east side of the ground. Journey time is less than 25 minutes. Close to the stadium is the Europark commercial centre, which includes an Ikea and a massive shopping centre.
For more details of the surrounding area go to Footiemap.com to view their Austrian map.
Getting a ticket
Tickets can be purchased from the Bulls shop at the stadium from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday or until 2pm on a non-match day Saturday. You can also call +43 662 43 33 32 and arrange to collect and pay for your tickets on a match day. The website http://www.redbulls.com has an online ticketing function which you need to register for to use. The stadium before redevelopment was almost full on most occasions, although the new stands mean that tickets should be available for most games. Ticket prices range from €11 in the terraced area behind the goal to €22 in the East or West stand. All seats offer excellent views of the action on the pitch.
The best way to get around Salzburg is by foot. There is a network of buses which run to most places outside the city centre, ticket prices are €4.20 for a day pass. Buses radiate out from the bus station on Südtirolerplatz. The city also has a small S-Bahn network that runs to the outskirts. You can purchase the Salzburg Card for €21 which covers all public transport and access to the main tourist sights and museums in the city. This can be purchased from the Tourist office in Auerspergstrasse 6 (Tel: +43 662 889 870).
Nearest Airport – Salzburg Mozart Airport (SZG)
Telephone: +43 662 8580 7911
Salzburg’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart airport is the second largest in Austria. As more and more airlines wise up to this fantastic weekend destination, passengers are sure to grow considerably over the next few years. The airport is located just over a mile from the German border, and 2 miles from the city centre. To reach the city catch the number 2 bus that runs every 10 minutes from outside Arrivals and takes 15 minutes and costs €1.80.
Currently the following airlines serve Salzburg on a daily basis from the UK. British Airways from London Gatwick, Flybe from Exeter and Southampton, Ryanair from Liverpool, London Stansted and Nottingham East Midlands, and ThomsonFly from London Gatwick, Bournemouth, Coventry and Doncaster Robin Hood airport.