On the fourth day of TBIR Christmas – The Best football tat

Football clubs are the best in the world at taking any item, sticking a badge on it and selling it at a premium, because they know that like lemmings jumping over a cliff, fans will buy anything.  Back in the day some of the big clubs dipped a toe into true commercialisation by producing curtains, wallpaper and duvet covers.  I even had a West Ham throw on my bed that potentially stopped some “action” when a young girl managed to be persuaded upstairs whilst my parents were at work one summer holiday and as a Spurs fan she said “for God yes; for my country, yes; for my Queen, yes but not bloody likely for Billy Bonds”.

So in the past year we have had our feelers out for this new category of award.  We have seen some belters that didn’t make the final cut.  The rule here was then we had to see the items for ourselves.  So without further ado I give you the top three items of football tat in 2012:-

3rd best football tat – VfL Bochum net curtains
8116079356_ff77f7319a_bImagine the scene.  You are in a bar close to your favourite team’s ground. but you cannot look out of the window because you will not be seen as a fanatical follower of your team.  So what do you do?  What about buying some small net curtains emblazoned with your club badge that both protects your privacy and shows your allegiance.  Well look no further than these beauties being modelled by none other than Kenny “Adventures in Tinpot” Legg on our recent beano to the Ruhr Valley.  Available in home “white” or away “whitish”.

2nd best football tat – The Sullivan and Gold bobbleheads
SugoWe all know that David Sullivan and David Gold have a “bit of an ego” but even by their standards the appearance of these beauties in the West Ham United Christmas catalogue takes some beating.  Why would anyone, outside of the SuGo families want these monstrosities on their desk?  What value do they add to anyone’s life?  Unless you want to take a sledgehammer to them, of course.  And the real impressive part, they cost a “mere” £12.99.

Best football tat 2012 – The Lille signing toaster
8248897452_7e445e92f7_bThe club toaster has been around for a few years now for those fans who cannot live without their cooked bread emblazoned with your club badge on.  These are really old hat but imagine my surprise when browsing the Megastore in Lille when I came across this beauty.  Not only a toaster that burns Lille LOSC on your breakfast but plays a little ditty when it’s ready..”Allez, Allez Lille OSC” goes the toaster until you flick the switch or smashed to smithereens by your partner.

In praise of Nena and her big balloons

“Ninety nine decisions treat, Ninety nine ministers meet
To worry, worry, super scurry, Call the troops out in a hurry
This is what we’ve been waiting for…This is it boys, this is war….”

If there has ever been a finer verse of German music written then I’m a Dutchman. Nena’s seminal 99 Red Balloons was a lesson in life, love, war and peace. When you’re 14 any older woman wearing a short leather dress, knee-high boots and fishnet tights on Top of the Pops looks good, even is she is singing a load of tosh and sounds like a strangled cat. Even my Dad remarked upon it back in the summer of 1984. “Remarkable set of lungs on her, young Stuart”…”She’s German, Dad”….”Really? I met a German Girl once. I was in Düsseldorf back in 1952. Hair everywhere. Piece of advice for you son. When you start courting, make sure the girl knows how to use a razor. And with that my Dad sent me out into the big bad world.

Fast forward near thirty years and I was back in Dussers, and Mr Last is fond of calling it. This is fast turning into our new European HQ for Continental operations. From here German footballing missions can be marshalled, with the borders of Holland and Belgium within striking distance if we ever get bored with German football (i.e never). We also had (mid)Field Commander Legg on patrols in the area at the behest of her Majesty (not in a bad way I should add just in case Mrs Legg is reading) and it was at his request that we dropped tools and headed to the land of Beat Uhre and leather trousers.  After August’s visit (see here, here and here), poor Kenny had run out of PG Tips, Marmite and Immac (obviously his Dad gave him similar advice to mine about German girls) so he sent out a distress call.

“Chaps…low on essentials. Please arrange air drop. P.S got tickets for Fortuna Düsseldorf v Bayern München and Paderborn v St Pauli if you fancy hanging around for a day or two.”

How could we resist?

Gatwick may have gone through a multi-million face lift but at 5am it is a soulless depressing place. The thought of people queueing to get a beer at Weatherspoons so early in the morning turns my stomach. But we were on holiday, albeit for 72 hours and so make mine a pint of JW Lees Chocoholic please. Big Deaksy (He’d been able to keep his “Big” title for this trip as even bigger Stephen Deacon wasn’t present) had joined Danny and I for the very short hop over the Channel, down the A1 and then throwing a right over Strasbourg to land at the heart of NordRhein Westfalen before most people back in Blighty had turned off their alarm clock.

It would be tempting to have simply parked our bums in the nearest Brauhaus, sinking litres of Alt beer whilst waiting for Kenny to finish work. Unfortunately, the work of the British Government isn’t a 9 to 5pm role here in Germany. Oh, no on a Friday they finish at 4pm. So we didn’t want to be gibbering wrecks by the time he changed out of his Derndl (well, no more than normal). Therefore a plan emerged thanks to the combined brains of Fuller and Last.

“What about a tour around Borussia Dortmund’s ground? Biggest stand in Europe, most passionate fans, best football tack in Europe?” Said Danny.

“What about a tour around the DAB brewery? 30 minutes of chat followed by two free litres of Dortmund’s Awesome Beer?” I retorted.

“Can we do both?” Of course we could. Add in an evening visit to Bochum versus Hertha Berlin and you have one of the best days ever – well since as a 15-year-old I found a copy of Mayfair featuring Grange Hill’s Claire Scott in the buff on a bus home from Gravesend (the magazine was on the bus, not Paula Ann Bland unfortunately).  God knows what StuPot must have felt when he saw a copy back in the day! Continue reading

The 2008 The Ball is Round Awards

With over 50 games under my belt in 2008, added to 33 new stadiums and over 60 flights to get there I thought I would reserve a chapter at the end of the year for the first ever The Ball Is Round Awards.  For a more musical view of the nominations and winners click on the relevant videos below.

Best new stadium visited in 2008
3rd Place – The Dinamo Stadium, Minsk. Not a real classic but a typical Soviet stadium with some huge floodlights and the away fans situated along the side of the pitch.

2nd Place – The Dripping Pan, Lewes> Yes it is really basic but it is certainly unique and one of the most picturesque. And it has the best name.

The Bochum massive

The Bochum massive

The Winner – The Rewirpower Stadion – VfL Bochum.
It had to be a German winner and what better stadium than Bochum’s Rewirpower/Ruhr Stadion. A classic ground with four connected single tier stands almost touching the pitch and a passionate crowd to match.


Worst new stadium visited in 2008
3rd Place – Trellesborgs. OK, it was a dark, damp night but I could not find anything appealling about this little town on the southern tip of Sweden. Not even the football lightened up the evening.

2nd Place – Salisbury City. I appreciate that it is a Blue Square ground but it really is in the middle of nowhere and had very little soul let alone atmosphere.

The winner - MTK Stadion

The winner - MTK Stadion

The Winner – MTK Stadion. The current Hungarian champions have invested absolutely nothing in their stadium and run away with this year’s award. A special mention must go to the ticket office workers who lock themselves in the womens toilet for their duty – sheer class.

Best Atmosphere at a game in 2008
3rd Place – Sweden v Greece – Euro2008 in Salzburg, June 2008. The Swedes came to town and took over Salzburg, turning everything yellow and blue. They filled the stadium and did not stopping getting behind their team in a dull game.

2nd Place – Orgryte 1 Jonkoping 0 – July 2008. A strange choice many would believe but this Swedish second division game played at the tiny Valhalla stadium in Goteborg was the homecoming of local hero Marcus Allback and so the ground was full to busting and the atmosphere superb. So good in fact that littlest Fuller fell asleep 5 minutes in for the whole game!

The Brondby fans celebrate an early goal

The Brondby fans celebrate an early goal

The Winner – IF Brondby 2 FC Midtylland 1 – March 2008 in Copenhagen. With the snow falling and the beer flowing the whole Faxe tribune literally bounced as the fans turned the heat up on a cold night. The game was the turning point in Brondby’s season and who can ever forget the impressive rendition of Elvis’s “Falling in love with you” by over 15,000 fans as the teams re-emerged for the second half.

 Worst Atmosphere at a game in 2008
3rd Place – Any game at Upton Park in 2007/08. Yes, you have read that right. Under clueless Curbishley, West Ham played some of the dullest football ever seen at Upton Park, and this lethargy seeped into the crowd. Take your pick from a number of games but undoubtably the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea was the low point, with most of the crowd gone before the hour mark.

2nd Place – Grays Athletic v FC Totton – November 2008. No doubts about this one as “Our Barry’s” fan club provide the only atmosphere or noise at the FA Cup game versus Totton.

The Winner - The Olympic Stadium

The Winner - The Olympic Stadium

The Winner – Istanbul BBS v Rizaspor – February 2008 in The Olympic Stadium, Istanbul. A soulless venue in more ways than one that is so far from civilisation that NASA could recreate the moonlandings here. No public transport, no facilities and no crowds. Shall I go on? Even the riot police started arguing with themselves as there was so little to do.

 Best game seen in 2008
3rd Place – West Ham Utd 4 Blackburn 1 – August 2008. Unbelievably still under Curblishley (although this was to be his last game in charge) and with Paul Ince back at Upton Park for the first time as a manager, West Ham tore Blackburn apart. Oh how we dreamed of a top 6 spot at this point.

2nd Place – Italy 1 Romania 1 – Euro2008 Zurich – June 2008.
Euro2008 was a tournament that on most part did not disappoint in terms of the quality of action. This appeared to be a real mismatch on paper but the Romanians came within a Buffon penalty save of putting Italy out in a full house in Zurich.

France pound the Dutch goal in Berne

France pound the Dutch goal in Berne

The Winner – Netherlands 4 France 1- Euro2008 in Berne, June 2008. Actually played on the same day as the Italy game above, this was the game of the tournament as Van Basten’s team swept aside a French team containing such world class talent as Anelka, Henry and Malouda. The Dutch seemed invincible at this stage. Cracking atmosphere to boot.


Worst game seen in 2008
3rd Place – Sweden 2 Greece 0 – Euro2008 in Salzburg June 2008. Who could ever forget the negative Greek tactics that included a spell of 47 consecutive passes where they played the ball across the back four trying to eat up time at 0-0.

2nd Place – FC Nordjaelland 1 Velje 2 – Supaliga in Farum, Denmark September 2008. Two teams with very little idea where the goal was who attempted to out do each other in hoofing the ball out of the ground. So bad I left after 50 minutes despite not having paid to get in.

Histon v York City

Histon v York City

The Winner – Histon 1 York City 1 – Blue Square Premier – December 2008. A game on the coldest night of the year was not appealling to start but add in a pitch in awful condition and a team who simply hoof the ball into the corners at every opportunity was as appealling as watching Rusty Lee audition for a job in the Playboy Mansion.

A note here that the game between South Africa and Australia played at Loftus Road in September 2008 could well have won this catagory but it was so mind numbingly boring that Jonnie and I spent most of the game drinking in the bar and thus saw very little of the 2-2 draw.

The Best Fans in 2008
3rd Place – FC Karlsruher fans at home to Werder Bremen – December 2008. In a stadium that is hardly condusive to building an atmosphere, bottom placed Karlsruher’s fans gave it their all in an impressive display that undoubtably helped their team to a 1-0 win versus Bremen and lift them out of the bottom 3.

2nd Place – England fans in Berlin – November 2008. We came, we saw and we conquered our old enemies in Berlin in November 2008. Despite England fielding almost a B team the fans, fuelled on by a day consuming sausages and stiens of beer out sung their German rivals in a full house at the Olympic Stadion.

A birds eye view of the Swedes

A birds eye view of the Swedes

The Winner – Swedish Fans in Salzburg – June 2008. There could only be one winner as the Swedes took over the town. The sight of 10,000 fans in their yellow shirts dancing and singing to Abba-esque in the fan zone was a sight to treasure, especially the cute blonde ones in their full football kits!


 The Worst Fans in 2008
3rd Place – MTK Budapest Fans. The Hungarian champions were flying top of the league when I visited their crumbling wreck of a stadium in March 2008. A crowd of no more than 500 turned up to welcome me. I’d hate to be there when they aren’t successful!

2nd Place – Istanbul BBS Fans. Enough said already about this white elephant of a stadium that is almost in a different country from Turkey let alone in the same city as the other teams from Istanbul. I counted 34 fans who did not sport away colours during the first half – in a 80,000 capacity stadium.

The hardcore fans congregate behind the goal at Levski Sofia

The hardcore fans congregate behind the goal at Levski Sofia

The Winner – Levski Sofia Fans. The so called biggest team in Bulgarian football and one who had regularly played European football including the Champions League group stages versus the likes of Chelsea in 2007. Yet they had less than a 1,000 fans for a game on a Saturday evening in October.

Note – I would add here that the most disappointing were the Galatasaray fans who have been so hyped up in the past. Welcome to Hell – more like Welcome to Highbury…sshhhh.

My Three Favourite Grounds of All Time
3rd Place – Wembley Stadium – London.  The old Wembley had a reputation as a world class venue but in reality it was a toilet.  It was an awful stadium to watch a game in but the new incarnation, the 90,000 new Wembley is one of the finest stadiums in the world.  Huge steep stands and every seat facing the centre circle means nobody is far from the action.  The accoustics are very impressive as well.  Just a shame that the FA sold its soul to the corporate dollar meaning that for virtually every game some of the seats lay empty.

2nd Place – Upton Park – London.  It had to be in here.  One of the few grounds that have improved since modernisation and it is a white hot atmosphere under the lights when the big teams come calling.  Manchester United would testify how hard it is to get something here as they have lost for the past two seasons.  It is just a shame the football on offer as been so poor over the past few years.

liechtensteinThe Winner – RheinPark – Vaduz Liechenstein.  I know many people will be amazed that my favourite stadium is a small 8,000 capacity one in a country that is smaller than Croydon but trust me there are few more picturesque stadiums than the home of FC Vaduz and the Liechtenstein national team.  Sandwiched in the Rhine valley with the Alps on either side you can hear the polite cheers from the stadium from high up in the mountains.  If you want to watch a game in a postcard perfect setting then come hear, grab a beer and a sausage and watch a game – Vaduz are currently in the top league in Switzerland so games are a plenty. 

My Three Worst Grounds of All Time
3rd Place – Olympic Stadium – Barcelona. I hate Barcelona at the best of times but having been forced to come here to watch England play Andorra in two consecutive years is punishment enough for any fan. It is a nice stadium from the outside but is completely soulless inside with a running track and all bar one stand uncovered. Fine for the normal sunny climate here but not good for the torrential rain and near zero temperatures whenever we play here…oh and I hate Barcelona!

2nd Place – Renzo Baraba – Palermo.  Before West Ham were drawn to play here in the UEFA Cup in 2006 you could only go on its reputation as a poor venue for fans especially for the away fans who are “caged” in a corner of the stadium along way from the action.  Add to this the appalling conditions the fans have to go through to get into the stadium (walking through a unlit dark and damp cage where the home fans can throw down missles from above), the hostile policing and finally the fervant home fans and you get the picture this is not a venue for the feint heart.

heysel2The Winner – Heysel Stadium – Brussels.  Most people will remember the stadium from the awful events of May 1985 when Liverpool met Juventus in the European Cup Final and the subsequent crowd violence left over 50 Italians dead.  But this game should never had been played at this crumbling wreck of a stadium.  The whole ground was demolished and rebuilt and renamed as the King Baudoin Stadium.  However, the sight lines are appalling, entry and access still problematic and when the sun sets most of the stadium cannot see anything.  It is hardly surprising that no major club games have been played at the stadium since 1985.

Welcome to Europe’s home of Pig Iron

The German region of Nord Rhine Westphalia may not be known to many people outside of the country, but it is one of the most important in the whole of Europe for a number of reasons. It was famous during the Second World War as the most important industrial conurbation in Germany, and was consequently heavily targeted by Allied bombers. The reason for this was the presence of coal, and thus steel foundries in the area on the Ruhr river. Towns in this area basically merge into one for around 40 miles, following the course of the river westwards until it meets the Rhine near Dusseldorf. Whilst the towns of Gelsenkirchen, Bochum, Essen and Duisburg hardly roll off the tongue of those into culture, talk to any football fan who knows his salt about German football and they will wax lyrical about the history of the beautiful game in this region.

In the relatively short distance from Cologne to Dortmund you will pass through the homes to five current Bundesliga 1 clubs as well as a host of lower division teams. This almost guarantees that on a typical matchday you will have three or four clubs at home and a great opportunity to see a couple of games. There are few areas in Europe that can boast the attendance levels of Borussia Dortmund (average 74,800), Schalke 04, (61,350) and FC Koln (50,000), and add into the mix the more intimate Bayer Arena where every home game for over 5 years has sold out and you can start building the picture that the region is football mad.

Two of the smaller top clubs are VfL Bochum and MSV Duisburg. Separated by a 25 minute train ride, the recent fortunes of the clubs has been very similar. Both have been seen as yoyo clubs, spending between them nine years in the second division – in fact in the past ten years they have only been in the same division on three occasions. MSV Duisburg have been relegated on each of their three last seasons in the top league so fans have got used to season after season of “boom and bust”. Bochum on the other hand have managed to stabilise their position and last season’s 12th place finish was seen as quite a good result for the club.

I love German football. West Ham apart, I would happily spent most of my weekends watching games over there. It is well organised (TV revenues are important, but do not dictate the fixtures), very well supported with an average attendance of over 33,000 (vying in top position with the English Premier League) and more importantly with a stadium utilisation rate of close to 85% (i.e 85% of all seats in the Bundesliga are filled each week), cheap to watch (a ticket for Werder Bremen can cost as little as €10), and passionately followed. Every season I will come over for a day or so to take in a game. Thanks to a scheduling of a mid week set of fixtures, and West Ham due to lose heavily away to Manchester United, I took advantage of a €20 tax included flight with Ryanair to Dusseldorf Weeze to take in a couple of games.

Dusseldorf Weeze. Now there is an interesting place. Originally a RAF base known as Laarbruch, it is actually closer to Nijmegen in the Netherlands than it is to Dusseldorf. Yet Ryanair still get away with calling it after the major German city, despite the fact that three other airports (including Cologne-Bonn) are actually nearer to Dusseldorf than Weeze is! My plan was after landing here on my 40 minute flight from Stansted (Weeze is actually nearer to Stansted than Torquay is) to head to Duisburg and then onto Bochum. Things looked like they would go wrong when the night before I travelled, blizzard-like conditions took a grip on parts of the home counties. Football League games at Northampton, Wycombe and Luton were either postponed or abandoned yet in our pocket of tropical sunshine in SE9 we stayed clear. At 4am when I left for Stansted the temperature was hovering just above freezing. After all what do you expect from the weather in October?

The short flight was a bit hairy to say the least. As we were only at cuising altitude for no more than 10 minutes the ride was bumpy all the way, especially when we descended through the clouds to suddenly hit the tarmac of the runway – it was impossible to see the ground out of the window, let alone anything else, the fog was so bad.

After waiting over an hour for my bus I was told, on approaching the information desk inside the airport that they had had to close the runway and so they had cancelled the buses as “there would be no passengers arriving”. Great idea – but what about the dozen or so who had already arrived and wanted to be transfered out of the back of beyond! Finally a small mini-bus was summoned from the stores and the driver rattled down the autobahn to the home of pig-iron.

I had been to Duisburg once before, on a short overnight stop during the World Cup in 2006. It had the feeling of Woolwich – a long high street populated by pound (sorry, Euro) shops, fast food joints and lots of common people. But it had been given a make over that Kerry Katona would have been proud of. Two huge shopping centres had been built, full of bars and restaurants and this had attracted the beautiful people out of their hiding places. I enjoyed a good hearty meat-filled German lunch before heading back to the hotel for a short afternoon siesta.

For some reason, the Bundesliga 2 games were due to kick off at 5.30pm which made it perfect for catching a second game at 8pm and on this particular Wednesday Bochum were also at home, to surprise Bundesliga leaders 1899 Hoffenheim. MSV Duisburg were actually one of the sixteen original clubs that were invited to play in the first professional Bundesliga in 1964. That first season was actually the club’s high point as they finished runners up to FC Koln. Since then they have reached the German Cup final three times, losing on each occasion. Their finest moments in Europe came in a run to the UEFA Cup semi-final in 1979 where they lost to local rivals Borussia Monchengladbach. The “zebras” as they are known were back in the 2nd level of German football after finishing in 18th place last season. The MSV Stadion was opened in 2004 after the old stadium the Wedaustadion was demolished.

A short train ride away from Duisburg is the industrial city of Bochum. This is really in the heart of industrial Germany and you can hardly see where Bochum ends and Gelsenkirchen and Essen start. The club have fought their way up the hard way. They are still awaiting their first Bundesliga title, or German Cup but at least seem to have stablised a position in the top flight.

So it was going to be an interesting double bill of football, made all the more pleasurable by the fact I could escape the hiding that the Hammers were due to receive at Old Trafford.

I can never get my head around the supporters matchday rituals in Germany. Whilst us English like a beer, the Germans go at it hammer and tongue from as soon as the bars open. As the first game of the day was due to kick off at 5.30pm this meant 10am was when I first saw some of the fans drinking in the centre of Duisburg. All dressed in their denim jackets with hundreds of patches on like some reject from a Monsters of Rock festival, and sporting not only the requisite mullet but also a fair few scarves tied around the wrist. They also all drink strong half litre lager from the bottle, and are very careful about recycling it when they have finished.

Of course if you drink this much all day, the need to urinate becomes a necessity. So it is not unusual to see lines of men on the side of the road having a quick “slash”, irrespective of the traffic passing by, or the housewife whose roses they are watering. And of course as soon as they reach the stadium entrance they have to get rid of any undrunk beer, so that they can pass through the turnstiles and go to the bar inside!

The stadium in Duisburg is certainly fit for top level football. In fact I have to say that the “public” areas were some of the smartest I have seen anywhere. I visited the stadium in the summer of 2006 when Italy used the facilities for their training ground, and if you are to believe the staff at the MSV Arena, it was the help they received that powered them to the World Cup, and not the dubious last minute penalty they got versus Australia, or Zidane’s attack on Matterazzi.

The stadium is two tiers, very similar in design to the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg, or a modern up to date Loftus Road for those not so continental. In the north stand lower tier (The Nord Tribune to those fluent in Deutsch), is the home end, with the fans packed on the only terraced area of the ground (that is apart from the away fans in the south east corner). Views from all seats are excellent, and it does take some getting used to to see drinking and smoking still allowed in the stadium.

After my five minute walk from the rude sounding Schlenk station, I was in the ground, and enjoying some of the media facilities. The game promised to be an interesting one. Duisburg hadn’t set the league alight yet, but with fifteen points from nine games they were within spitting distance of the top. St Pauli were only a few positions below the home side, enjoying life again in the second tier after a spell in the regional leagues. Despite the three hour journey from Hamburg, and the early kick off, they completely filled their allocation in the corner of the stadium and didn’t let up in their vocal support of the team.

MSV Duisburg v FC St. Pauli – MSV Arena – Wednesday 29th October 2008 5.30pm



The first game of the day threw up two of the more unusual kits in German football. St Pauli must lay claim to be the biggest named club in Europe who play in an all brown kit, whilst from the front Duisburg’s blue and white hoops look like Reading or QPR, but when they turn around the kit is all white, meaning confusion when you look up and see three different kits on the pitch.

The upper tiers of the stadium were sparsely filled, but your eyes kept being drawn to the huge video screens that hung down from the roof at either end. Every time there was a corner a klaxon would sound and the number of corners would be displayed, ditto cautions, meaning someone entering the arena late, and forgetting how to read German may need to rub their eyes that after 17 minutes Duibsurg did indeed lead St Pauli 5-4.

The first half was pretty poor considering the scoring records of both teams. MSV Duisburg used the flanks well and tried a few shots from distance, but apart from an early slip, Mathias Hain in the St Pauli goal was hardly troubled. Duisburg could also boast the man with the worst hair in the league – and coming from a country that still reveres David Hasselhoff for his locks that is saying something. Step forward full back Serge Branco who had a blonde mohican – perfect on his african skin colouring. They could also boast a real Messiah in midfield with Gregory Christ no less. The son of God could do nothing though to enliven the first half which ended goal less in sub zero temperatures.

Fortunately the second half lived up to the billing. Duisburg took the lead in the 55th minute when a defensive mistake allowed Kouemeha to open the scoring. Instead of kicking on and trying to build their lead, Duisburg sat back and invited the visitors to attack, and they were soon level when Bruns scored for St Pauli. Seconds after the restart our friend Branco got his second yellow for crimes against hair fashion and the game was all but over for Duisburg. Hennings scored a deserved winner with fifteen minutes left on the clock and it was in the end a deserved 3 points from the brown shirted team from the capital of German sin.

VfL Bochum v 1899 Hoffenheim – Rewirpower Stadion – Wednesday 29th October 2008 8pm

Welcome to the pleasuredome

Welcome to the pleasuredome

So after a swift change from S-Bahn to U-Bahn at Bochum Hauptbahnhof I was back in the press tribune in time for the emergence of the teams at the strange sounding Rewirpower (apparently it has nothing to do with dodgy electricians). This game promised to be a completely different affair, as the relatively unknown visitors (well at least from outside Germany) 1899 Hoffenheim arrived top of the Bundesliga.

Whilst you would think that many neutrals would support the plucky little team who were obviously punching above their weight, such as Hull City in the Premier League, not so here in Germany. 1899 Hoffenheim were becoming as hated as Bayern Munich in some quarters, simply because of the vast amounts of money that had been poured into the club by their owner, and former player, Dietmar Hopp

Hopp had overseen a lightening charge up the table, with hardly a season passing without another title captured until they won the Bundesliga 2 last season and took their place in the top flight. Not bad considering they hail from the village of Hoffenheim which is between Mannheim and Stuttgart in south west Germany, and only has a population of 3,000 people.

The quality of the football from the first minute was so different here and it is obvious why the Zebras of Duisburg have struggled in the top league in the past. The noise was also turned up a notch as the Bochum fans in the East stand whistled, drummed, boo’d, cheered and sang their way through 90 minutes of action.

Bochum certainly started as if they were top of the Bundesliga and after going close in the opening 45 seconds, took the lead on two minutes when midfielder Dennis Grote fired home from just inside the penalty area. The home fans thought they had a penalty on thirteen minutes when centre forward Kaloglu went down in the area, but he was judged by the referee to have dived and was booked for his sins. Worse should have befallen Hoffenheim’s Carlos Eduardo who aimed a headbutt at a Bochum player after he had gone in with his foot high on a defender. To make matters worse, from the resulting throw in (after Bochum had put the ball out to get their player treated) Hoffenheim carried on going forward and had a shot on goal.

Chances went begging at either end in the first half as the game was played out with a certain level of animosity between the teams, yet this was their first meeting ever. A touch of envy creeping in from Bochum maybe? It was with some surprise that the score remained one-nil at the break.

With the temperature falling at the interval what better way to heat things up with some AC/DC and dancing girls. As the chimes from Hells Bells rang out in the stadium, past my shoulder ran twenty four (In the words of the famous Falklands War correspondent Brian Hanrahan “I counted them all out and I counted them all back”) dancing girls, all dressed completely inappropriately for a very cold October night. They gyrated their way through the classic song, cheering everyone up in the stadium. If only CMF was here – she would have loved it as she is a big AC/DC fan as she will tell you to her hearts content (and she is not exactly impartial to a dancing girl or two either!

So the second half had a lot to live up to in terms of action. Bochum started off where they left off by clattering into any Hoffenheim player they could catch, and the referee continued to take little action to protect them. But everything changed on the hour mark as Hoffenheim showed the reason why they are top of the pile. First centre forward Demba Ba turned in a low cross from a free kick after they had a great shout for a penalty turned down. Four minutes later they got their spot kick as Obasi out paced the defence and was sent sprawling and the kick was duly converted. And to rub salt into the wounds a third was scored on seventy minutes by Salihovic as he raced onto a great through ball.

Bochum immediately went on the offensive but their cause was hardly helped by Christoph Dabrowski getting two yellow cards in the space of as many minutes reducing the home team down to ten men and basically killed the game as neither team was interested in going forward, and they all seemed to just want to be back inside in the warm – a fact not lost on me as the finall whistle blew.

About the Rewirpower Stadium
The previously named Ruhr Stadium was originally opened 1919, although the current ground was redeveloped in 1979 with a capacity of over 50,000. Through the years this has been reduced due to changes to seating has seen this number reduce over the years. This season the capacity has been set at just over 32,600 by the local authorities. The stadium is very British in design with four stands close to the pitch and excellent views from all areas. The atmosphere on a match day is excellent – especially if the visitors are local.

How to get to the Rewirpower Stadium
The Rewirpower stadium is located on the eastside of the town centre. Opposite the stadium is the S-Bahn stop of Ruhrstadion which is just 4 minutes journey time from the Hauptbahnhof on line 308 or 318. Alternatively you can walk from the town centre – simply following the signs towards the Planetarium and then carrying on for around 150 yards.

How to get a ticket for the Rewirpower Stadium
The club have a loyal following of around 20,000 fans which means that most games are not sold out at the stadium. The exception to this are the games versus Dortmund, Schalke and Bayern Munich. Tickets can be bought from the online shop around 10 days before a game. The cheapest tickets are for the standing sections behind the goal which are €10, whilst €30 will get you a decent seat in the main stand. You can also ring in advance to secure a ticket on +49 18 05 95 18 48.

About The MSV Arena
The original Wedau stadium was built for the 1922 German Athletics championships, and at the time was the second largest stadium in Germany. However, facilities were very basic for spectators, with very little cover and bench like seating. In fact it wasn’t until the start of the 1960’s that any serious investment was made available for the stadium.

The finance allowed the club to build a new main stand and a new roof was constructed to cover all of the stands. A few more changes were made to the stadium during the next two decades, but the promise of a new stadium from the regional government never materialised.

At last in November 2002 the club gained the commitment from the North Rhine Westphalia government of the required funding, and building redevelopment began after the end of the 2002/03 season. The team continued to play in the stadium as it was rebuilt, stand by stand.

How to get a ticket for the MSV Arena
The club sells tickets online, at the ground or over the telephone. Tickets are available for most matches, although games against teams from the surrounding areas such as Bayer Leverkusen, Köln, Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 will sell out in advance. Ticket prices range from €8 in the North and South terracing areas, to €33 for the most expensive seats in the East and West upper tiers. You can purchase tickets from the Zebra club shops in Margaretenstrasse 5 or Wesender Strasse 36 close to the stadium, by telephone on +49 1805 678007 or via the internet at http://www.sportfivetixx.com.

How to get to the MSV Arena
The stadium is located between the A59 and A3 Autobahn’s, just to the south of the town centre. he easiest way to reach the stadium from the town centre is to catch either Bus number 934 from the Hauptbahnhof to Stadion Wacholdestrasse or Bus 923 from the Hauptbahnhof to Stadion Kruppstrasse. The nearest S-Bahn station is at Schlenk which is a 10 minute walk away.