It doesn’t matter what the country is, the cup is full of stories of wonder, awe and inspiration. David beating Goliath, George slaying The Dragon and *that* goal by Ronnie Radford, Ricki Villa and Trevor Brooking. In France there was the story of Calais taking Nantes to extra time in the 2000 final, in England we of course had 4th tier Chesterfield coming within a poor David Ellerey decision of a Wembley date with Chelsea and of course in Spain back in 1980, Real Madrid beat their second team Castilla in the final.
This season in Germany the hopes of the nation on an upset laid at the opponents of the two sides from Munich. In the red corner, German superbeings Bayern München were due to take on Regensburg whilst the “people’s club” 1860 were drawn to play against FC Hannef 05. The tiny club from a few miles outside the former West German capital Bonn, the town that gave (and continues to give) us Haribo. Named after the founder HAns RIegel and the town BOnn, the gummy sweets are a worldwide sensation. Today they produce a mere 80 million sweets per day in their 13 worldwide factories, enough to keep my kids happy. That reason alone was sure to bring the visiting fans to town, let alone the fact that Gummy Bears can be used as currency n the shops here.
With hordes of Bavarians preparing to descend on Hannef, it was a wise decision to move the game to SC Bonners 10,000 capacity stadium. It was here back in May that Hannef won the Middle Rhine Cup and thus gained a pass into the DFB Pokal. This would be the biggest game in the club’s history.
1860’s history is a bit more glamorous. Winners of the Bundesliga in 1966, they have been out of the top division since 2004 and despite playing at the 69,000 Allianz Arena, times are not happy. they crave a move back to their former ground and to be gone with sharing with the red half of the city. They have won the cup before, the last time in 1964 when they then went on to reach the final of the European Cup Winners Cup (you’ll have to look at one up kids) where they lost to a team called West Ham United.
It was almost like groundhog day for us, as we started the morning, bleary eyed, starring at our Englischer breakfast with our salad. Another train took us to Köln, where we saw the most bizarre sights on a Sunday morning where the Gamesco conference was taking place and numerous travellers were alighting dressed as Elves, Sprites and various members of video games, although there was a distinct lack of Jet Set Willy’s (you’ll have to look that one up as well kids).
We arrived in Bonn just in time for opening hour. The city centre was sleepy to say the least, but the vicinity around the Sportpark were rocking. The mercury was due to hit 40 again today and we had all taken precautions against the effects of the sun. Yep, we had all remembered deodorant. After the customary security pat down by the young security girl, we walked into the huge bowl that is the Bonn Sportpark. Home to SC Bonner with a capacity of 10,164 it can be summed up in one word. German. Back in the 1970’s grounds like this were the common theme everywhere in the country. Some of the great old grounds were characterised by tower floodlights, athletic tracks with one covered main stand and huge banks of terracing. Gelsenkirchen had the ParkStadion before they built the Veltins Arena next door; Munich’s OlympicStadion had a fancy glass roof, but essentially was in the same design and redeveloped stadiums in Hamburg, Hannover and Cologne are all constructed on the foundations of the traditional design.
The most stunning aspect had to be the floodlights, that not only extended upwards by about 70 metres but also tilted at an angle of around 30 degrees into the stadium. Quite bizarre. So bizarre that a beer or two was needed to get over the shock. Fortunately the Kölsch van had arrived and we were soon two handed toasting, drinking to the good health of German Footballing Weekends.
We took our place on the terrace that was at the top of the covered main stand with the rest of the 1860 hardcore fans. This was a journey and a half from Bavaria but that hadn’t stopped the six hundred or so who were now belting out the songs. Everyone was welcome, as long as you had a beer in both hands. Old blokes with mullets and leather waistcoats (and nothing on underneath), men wearing badge-laden denim jackets, girls with their boobs pieced. Everyone.
Let me just rewind on the last point. Germany loves a piercing. I’ve never seen so many pierced people in my live as in the past few days. All the usual suspects were covered but one girl, who had stripped down to her bikini for the game had her boob piece…twice. We aren’t talking nipple-piercing here. We are talking about her actual boob. Twice. Thank heavens she didn’t appear to have implants otherwise they would be leaking all over the shop. In fact it seemed like a fashion parade for the girls to expose as much naked pierced flesh as possible. Not that I was complaining of course. In fact we raised a glass in honour of the latest fashion craze sweeping the nation.
FC Hannef 05 0 1860 Munich 6 – Am Sportpark Bonn – Sunday 20th August 2012
In the end it was literally a walk in the Sportpark for 1860. Just like Borussia yesterday, they were “professional” in their execution of a team playing 5 divisions below. The goals didn’t come until the 30th minute, by which time the home side should have taken the lead when they hit the bar when clean through. Two goals in as many minutes in the first half broke their dreams of a giant killings, whilst three more in a short period in the second half extinguished any hopes of a comeback.
The 1860 fans had prepared for the sunshine by all donning beanie hats and throwing around blue balloons to welcome the teams onto the pitch. From the moment the sides appeared the songs began. We stood up, sat down, jumped around, clapped, cheered and kept silent all because a man at the front told us to. It was bloody great. I’m no wall flower when it comes to football but even this was a step above from anything we ever see in England. The riot police stood in the sunshine, keeping an eye on events but the whole section was essentially self governed yet there was no hint of any trouble.
Half time saw the only real action when a water fight broke out on the concourse, started by a riot policeman, who then took a drenching in good spirit back. A few fans, including one who would have needed an E-cup bra if there was a market for them (we’re in Germany – of course there is a market for them!), simply sat drinking beer in the sunshine, ignoring the events on the pitch.
Full time, and a comfortable 6-0 win thanks to goals from Vallori, Lauth, Blanco, Bülow, Bierofka and Stoppelkamp. The home players milled around the main stand, talking to family and friends about the biggest game of their careers so far. I had “acquired” a press pass and so it would have been rude not to take the opportunity to venture onto the pitch and have our picture taken. Nobody gave us a second glance as we acted like kids on Christmas Day. I got some strange looks with my pass on, and it appeared that everyone else in my “company”was working hard taking away all of the TV equipment so we decided to head off.
At this point I had to leave the happy party. Monday would bring a long day of work back in London before some acclimatization training in the 45 plus degree heat of Marrakesh. We take our pre-season training very seriously here at TBIR so after the crowds of Centerparcs, the beer and sausages of Germany, it was now down to some African sunshine (and the outside possibility of a game). Danny, Kenny and Stoffers headed back to the European Command Centre to prepare for Mission: Rot-Weiss Essen, whilst I made my way to CGN as us airport code experts know it as. Danke Germany.