Bavariations on a theme

Hands up who could place Augsburg on a map of Europe?  Come on honestly…no cheating at the back looking on the T’internet….And why dear reader do you think I am writing about them?  Well there are three reasons for this Friday night post.

1. I am in Munich for the day on a business trip and have an overnight stop, and as good timing would have it (;-)), there is a Bundesliga 2 match on close by;

2. I am ticking off the biggest stadiums in Germany and this would represent the last but one in the 30,000+ group (leaving just 1899 Hoffenheim’s new Neckar Stadium);

3. FC Augsburg’s Roseneustadion was hosting its final few games before the club moved to a new stadium for the start of the 2009/10 season;

Augsburg is located around 30 miles to the west of Munich in the heart of Bavaria.  It is the third largest city in the state, behind Munich and Nuremburg.  It can trace its origins back to 15BC and became one of the main Roman Garrison towns in Northern Europe.  Today the city is home to nearly 270,000, growing by around 2% per annum as more and more companies set up in and around the city.  Famous sons of the city include Mozart (not Wolfgang but his father Leopold), Rudolf Diesel (creatoer unsurprisingly of the Diesel engine) and Bernhard Langer, one of the best golfers of the modern era.

I had nearly come to Augsburg once before.  In 2001 Mrs Doubtfire was turning 30 and wanted one last big boys trip before he was shackled to domestic bliss so he suggested the Oktoberfest in Munich, the world’s biggest beer festival.  We booked our trip for the 18th September 2001 and as anyone who has tried to book travel to this event will know trying to get accomodation for 2 is bad enough, but for 16 of us it was a real problem.  Despite going in midweek we could not find any hotels in the city who didn’t want to charge us £250 per night each so we looked further afield and found accomodation in Augsburg.  It would mean an hour trip each way but at least we had a bed for the night.

A week before we were due to travel events unfolded in New York and Washington that a few words here would not do justice, but the knock on effect is that hotel bookings in Munich were cancelled en-mass by our American cousins meaning that we were able to pick up a 4 star hotel within stumbling distance from the fairground for £50 per night.

So after a day of lecturing my German colleagues on the importance of Customer Experience in Munich I was off to the Roseneustadion for the Friday night game between FC Augsburg and VfL Osnabruck – a real end of season mid table clash in the Bundesliga 2.  The home team have been getting used to playing at this level for a couple of season after spending most of their history in the lower tiers of German regional football.  They have never played in the top division, coming very close in 1974 when they missed out on promotion on the last day of the season by 1 point.

At the turn of the century the club’s major backer pulled out and the DFB revoked their professional licence, sending them down to the Oberliga.  They have worked their way back up the league structure, gaining promotion again in 2007 to the Bundesliga 2, but almost going straight back down again, staying up on goal average at the end of the season.  So this season’s mid-table finish is seen as progress for a team that still gets nearly 20,000 on a regular basis.  More importantly at the end of May the club will wave goodbye to their current stadium, to move into a “mini-Allianz Arena”, already named the Impuls Arena (still trying to work out if this is the same Impulse as the female body spray – if so it is a very strange choice) and located ajacent to the A17 in the south of the city.

The Roseneustadion is a classic European ground.  Built for neither comfort or joy, it is very similar in style to the Olympic Stadium in Munich with high banks of terracing opposite one covered stand, and an athletics track seperating the fans from the action.  The Stadium was built after World War 2 using rubble from damaged buildings and it opened in 1951.  The record attendance at the stadium was in 1952 when over 64,000 squeezed in to watch Germany play Switzerland.  With new stadiums popping up all over the place in Germany the club realised the only way forward was for the construction of a new stadium and work started in January 2006.

The visitors on this Friday night were VfL Osnabruck from the Lower Saxony region in north Germany.  Their history is almost identical to Augsburg, floating around the lower leagues before a few brief flirtations with the Bundesliga 2.  They were promoted in 2007 and last season finished in 14th place, very similar to the position they find themselves in this season.  Apart from their unique purple and white kit there is very little else that distinguishes the club and on paper this game had bore draw written all over it.

Whilst Augsburg were relatively safe at this late stage in the season their form had been woeful since Christmas as they had gained just five points from a possible return of thirty. If it wasn’t for a run of five consecutive wins prior to Christmas they would be right in the sauerkraut. The visitors predicament was even worse though as they sat just one point above the relegation zone coming into this game, with both Hansa Rostock and FC Ingolstadt 04 on their shoulders. 

So after a hard days slog in our luxurious Munich office I headed to Augbsurg, just forty minutes away by train from Munich. I am still puzzled by these 6pm Friday night games – surely people have jobs to do? Even if it is for a TV audience who is home from work in time to watch the games? However, every game I have been to at this time has been well supported, and this one was no exception. I still had little idea where the stadium was in relation to the main station so on exiting the train I simply followed the crowds of scarf wearing fans onto a bus and less than ten minutes later I was outside the stadium with my ticket in hand. You can see why the team are planning on moving to a new stadium. The Rosenau is built in a natural bowl and as I entered the ground I was at the back of the open air bank of terracing, which was full in places. The main “bank” curved up steeply and had a section of seating sandwiched between terraces. The seats were hardly luxurious – simple bucket seats bolted onto the terrace steps, but the views were good simply because the terrace was so steep. After a customary beer (or three) and sausage (or four)I took my seat on the terrace just in time for the start of the game.

FC Augsburg 3 VfL Osnabruck 0 – The Roseneustadion – Friday 17th April 2009 – 6pm

An old fashioned ground
An old fashioned ground

Osnabruck were sporting a fetching shade of brown and whilst their fifty or so fans tried to rouse the team, the colour of the shirts matched the brightness of their play. For the first fifteen minutes neither side grabbed hold of the game although it was clear that the Osnabruck goalkeeper Tino Berbig looked unsure of himself every time he came for the ball. However, in their first real attack on goal, the away team nearly took advantage of a three on two attack but the final ball was intercepted and less than ten seconds later the ball was in the back of their net as Augsburg finally beat the offside trap and the unselfish Andrew Sinkala squared the ball to Michael Thurk when he could have so easily scored himself to make it 1-0.

As the sky darkened with heavy looking clouds, fans started to migrate to the back of the stand for refreshments and a bit of cover from the impeding rain. With a few minutes left in the half the home team doubled the lead when the dangerous Werner dispossessed the Osnabruck defender on the touchline and crossed the ball through the goalkeeper’s dive in vain and it appeared to be turned into the net by a Osnabruck defender, although Thurk claimed the goal as his own. So 2-0 to Augsburg at half time was a fair reflection, and the prospects for Osnabruck looked at bleak as my chances of staying dry in the next fifteen minutes.

With the rain pouring down at half time I was amazed to see so many fans going home, and with the gates left wide open their places were being taken by groups of youngsters. However, the efficient stewards obviously knew of this ruse and whilst they got into the stadium, without a ticket they could not get onto the terraces.

The second half started with the home team going for a third from the referees whistle. Whilst the away team made tactical changes that gave them more penetration going forward you had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be their day. On one of their foray’s into the Augsburg penalty area, the away team were convinced they should have had a penalty but the referee waved play on, Augsburg broke and when a hopeful ball was played through Osnabruck goalkeeper Berbig again misread the situation and in one of those “end of season comedy DVD moments” the ball bounced over his head as he rushed out to head it away, leaving him stranded and Michael Thurk the simple job of walking the ball into the empty net and thus securing his hatrick, three points and almost safety for the home team.

So I was off again at the final whistle, back to my Munich hotel room. As I walked back to my hotel near the station I passed “SexyLand” – home of the “NonStop Video Caberet – closed 1am to 10am” and memories of my first ever trip to this wonderful city in 2001 came flooding back. On that occasion I was here to watch Bayern Munich play Real Madrid in the Champions League in a game that was Lother Matthaus’s last game for Bayern with Pete Gray and SexyLand seemed to crop up in a number of scrapes we got into during our 24 hours in the city – but that story is for another day. For now it was sleep before my onward journey to South West London for the most anticipated game of TW12’s season.

About the Roseneustadion
The stadium was built from 1949, using debris from the aerial bombings of the Second World War. The original plans for the stadium however go back to 1926.The Rosenaustadion was opened on 16 September 1951 with a Germany versus Austria football match, a B-international, drawing a crowd of 51,000.

The record attendance of FC Augsburg dates from 1973 with the game against the 1. FC Nuernberg with 42,000 spectators. The highest attendance at a football game was nearly 65,000 spectators on 9 November 1952 with the international match Germany – Switzerland although the actual record for an event was in 1958 when 85.000 came to see the athletics team of Germany defeating the Russian team. The record crowd for the home side FC Augsburg is 45,000, which attended the game in the Regionalliga Süd versus 1. FC Nuremberg on 3 August 1974.

The stadium is showing its age today. Three open air stands with seating set back from the pitch due to the athletics track means most of the crowd are exposed to the elements, which can be harsh in the winter time.

How to get to the Roseneustadion
The stadium is walkable from the main station although Streetbus (Strassenbahn) number 1 runs to Polizeprasidum close to the stadium.  If you chose to walk then turn right out of the station and walk down to Konigsplatz.  Turn right here into Hermanstrasse and follow this as it becomes Gogginerstrasse.  Take the fifth right into Ulrich-Hofmaier Strasse and the ground is at the end of this road.

If you are driving you will likely approach from the Autobahn A8 (Munich-Stuttgart), so take the “Augsburg-West exit. This puts you on the B17 highway, and take the “Stadion exit”.  Parking is signposted from here.

How to get a ticket for the Roseneustadion
With only a few games left at the old stadium expect tickets to be in short demand.  They can be booked in advance via the club’s website but will need to be collected on the day of the game from the ticket office at the stadium.  Ticket prices range in price from €9.90 for a standing place behind the goal to €30.80 in the covered Tribune.  The SouthWall, the large uncovered bank of seating offers excellent views of the action and costs €15.40.  On a matchday tickets can be purchased from the ticket booths at the east and west sides of the stadium.  Ticket prices for the Impuls Arena have not yet been announced.

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