The rain in Mainz falls mainly on me


Every year in early December I head off to Germany to catch a match in some proper winter weather, visit a Christmas Market and generally enjoy the opportunity to drink some decent beer, eat some decent sausage and pay a visit to my friend Beate. In the past I have taken in Hamburg, Stuttgart and last year Bremen. As I was rapidly running out of grounds to visit in the top flight of German football I cast my net to some of the more “obscure” destinations, and as luck would have it I saw the chance for a 2 day 2 game trip, taking in a Friday night match in Mainz, south east of Frankfurt and on the Saturday head down south for Karlsruher against my favourites Werder Bremen. Ryanair provided the cheap flights to Frankfurt Hahn, and after a snowy landing in Germany/France/Luxembourg I boarded the coach for the transfer to Frankfurt itself. The initial flight took 57minutes from north of London, yet this airport is a 100 minute journey from the city it takes its name from. How Ryanair can still call it Frankfurt is a mystery to everyone. If crab sticks cant be called crab sticks anymore then someone should petition for the renaming of this airport to one of the closest major towns – Worms!

I spent the rest of the day having a look at some of the other stadiums in the area. First a visit to the home of FSV Frankfurt who are currently in the Bundesliga 2 for the first time in their history. They are currently rebuilding their old stadium into a very smart looking 12,000 arena and so are currently filling less than a 10th of the Commerzbank Arena every other week. Next up was a visit to the very old-English style stadium in Offenbach, home of the Offenbach Kickers who are also in the 2nd division before finally heading west to Wiesbaden for a sneak at the Brita Arena, one of the newest stadiums in the 2nd tier.

It is amazing how tiring it is walking around all day but there was no time to rest as I had a packed evening, starting with a trip to see FSV Mainz. It wasnt all work work work though as I did find time for a very pleasant lunch in Frankfurt in one of my old haunts in Romer. You see dear reader you may not know that I used to spend a day a week in Frankfurt for work purposes. Well, ok a bit of an exageration – it wasn’t quite Frankfurt itself, more like a small suburb called Morfelden which is know for its huge US Air Force base but I was here nearly every Monday for a year and spending so long in one place means you get to know the places where the locals eat and drink. My pepper steak was washed down by a few glasses of Frankfurt’s famous Afpleweiss – similar to cider but much more potent. After lunch it was time to put the walking shoes back on and burn some calories.

The city centre is impressive though. It is not called Mainhatten for nothing as the huge towers of Commerzbank and the Messeturn combine to give most American cities a run for their money in terms of sky scrapers. It is also home to more sex shops that I have ever seen. All around the central station you can find a shop to cater for all tastes, including Football Jo’s. There are shops with “cruising lounges”, “relax bars”, “non stop video cabins”, “Erotik experience rooms” and my favourite (in terms of name I hasten to add for CMF’s purposes!) “titty wank parlour” – I am sure they apply the Ronsil marketing principle here.

So after a quitck trip to the hotel I was off again in the pouring rain up the steep hill overlooking the town to the Bruchweg Stadion. This game was only going to be a warm up for the feature event later in the evening as the surprise leaders (still) of the Bundesliga, 1899 Hoffenheim, were travelling to Munich to take on a resurgent Bayern who had all of a sudden leapfrogged Leverkusen and Hertha to sit in second place.

FSV Mainz 05 0 SpVgg Greuther Furth 1 – The Bruchweg Stadion – Friday 5th December 2008

After the party in Mainz

After the party in Mainz

FSV Mainz came into this match riding high on top of the Bundesligsa 2nd division, after some excellent showings at the Bruchweg so far in 2008. It had in fact only been a short time ago that not only were enjoying local derbies against Eintract Frankfurt, instead of FSV Frasnkfurt in the Bundesliga but also had a UEFA Cup run.

The stadium bounced with noise from thirty minutes before kick off. An early evening start on a Friday night was an excellent way to start the weekend for the home fans and then had again turned out in force on a wet night. With this being the final game before Christmas the fans had got into the festive mood by wearing twinkling red Mainz hats which gave the impression of thousands of little devils winking at you.

The stadium has the feeling of being built by an over enthusiastic child from his mechano set at Christmas. Four covered stands have been pieced rather than built, and two corners temporary structures had added to the capacity. However, for what it lacked in aesthetic appeal it was compensated for by the sheer noise and passion of the home fans.

They nearly had something to cheer about early into the game as midfielder Srdjan Baljak appeared to have beaten the flat Fuerth back line but his smart volleyed finish was in vein as a very late flag ruled the 5th minute strike out, Ten minutes later and Aristide Bance the strange haired centre forward side footed wide after another incise break by Baljak down the left. Why do black footballers think it is trendy to dye their hair, like Bance, blonde? In a word they look stupid. Personally I think the reason Roy Keane walked out on Sunderland was that he could not cope with seeing Cisse’s ridiculous hair on a daily basis. These players would not last 5 minutes in park football, let alone someone such as that idiot who plays up front for Arsenal, Bendtnor with his pink books. When I eventually reach the top of the tree in the Football Association then I will outlaw three things from the game immediately. Firstly, out would go the ability for a defender to blatantly obstruct a forward chasing the ball into touch. Secondly, variable kick off times – stick to the model used in Germany and Italy – set times for games each weekend and no variation. Finally, coloured boots. I wouldn’t ban them totally, but you could only wear them if you get a certain amount of international caps, and then on a sliding scale – perhaps Red if you played 10 times, Blue for 20 etc.

Mainz did not make it easy for themselves in the first half. They frequently lost possession in the final third, although the three bookings for Fuerth in the first twenty minutes does also explain away some of their tactics for a game which was important to them to push up towards the play off spot. Chances came and went but it was to no avail in the first half as they wasted them without actually calling the goalkeeper into action.

Apologies for the sidetrack here but what is it with Germany and V’s? Why eliminate this vital letter from the alphabet? Did they never see the 1980’s alien thriller or was it called something different here? How can they respectably advertise “Wodka” in their stadiums? Come on guys, adopt the V, it will make life so much easier for you in the long run.
As the half wound down I engaged in some conversation with my neighbour who it appeared was a bit of a local celebrity. Apparently Mr Siegfried Melzig was quite big in the 1970’s and 1980’s, learning his trade in East Germany before going on to manage the likes of Kaiserslautern and the great Lokomotiv Leipzig side. He was very engaging with his stories and was as pleased as punch when he realised that I knew a little bit about the game, as well as that I had once visited Hastings, where his wife served a rich man (it later transpired he meant she was an Au Pair and not a Concubine, although I am sure most men who have the idea of employing an Au Pair would secretly rather they also provided a few value add’s).

Obviously the team had quite rocket at half time as the first thing they did was shoot from kick off. It amazes me that in training modern players can do such amazing things as hit the bar on purpose from a corner four times in a row, yet in a match situation it all goes to pieces. Whilst this effort was on target it was hit as a lob and so the keeper had enough time to go and get a hot dog before comfortably catching the ball. Neither team could get into a rythem after the break though and the first twenty minutes were littered with wasted passes and needless fouls as both teams traded yellow cards.

What struck me was despite the pace of the game, neither side had a player who could put their foot on the ball, slow down the play and bring others in. For want of a better player, the game lacked a Michael Carrick or a Scottie Parker. Both defences moved the ball quickly, and the wide midfielders were energetic but there was no cutting edge. The Mainz midfielder Karhan did get the fans on their feet with a lovely curling shot that bounced off the top of the bar on the hour mark but I think it was more luck than judgement. Bance went even closer with his headed effort in the 70th minute but again the bar stopped him putting the home team into the lead.

This was going to be one of those typical West Ham performances from Mainz. No lack of heart or energy but no real quality where they needed it, What made it so amazing as the game edged towards a nil nil draw was that both of these teams were the joint leading scorers in the league, averaging over two goals a game, so we were due goals…….and finally we got one. With the 4th official putting up his board to signify the start of injury time, Fuerth exploited a gap down the right hand side, a low cross beat the defenders and there was a Fuerth player unmarked to drill the ball home. At last Mainz were stirred into life and immediately they stepped up a gear – too little too late though, and although they did have the ball in the net from a corner, Bance had impeded the keeper and it was ruled out to the howls of derision from the home fans, which soon turned into whistles aimed at the offiicals as the referee brought the game to an end.

At least Mainz would stay top irrespective of other results, but with a tricky tie away at Oberhausen to close the first half of the season with, it was Fuerth who went home with their tails up, knowing that they were once again back in the play off hunt. I stayed for a quick coffee to warm my fingers before heading off back down the hill. When I eventually left the stadium about 40 minutes after the end of the game it was amazing to still see thousands of home fans outside, drinking and eating from the refreshment stands. There seemed to be no rush in going home, again something very alien to us in England.

After a brief check in with CMF and the Little Fullers I found a very hospitable hostelry and settled back for “Super Friday” on the TV which of course failed to live up to the hype, as they always do with Bayern winning thanks to some generous refereeing again. Still it was a pleasant evening. Mainz is an attractive little town, with lots of old buildings and secret alleyways, lined with shops and restaurants. They had tastefully decorated the old town for Christmas and it certainly was an appealling place to spend an hour or two before I returned to my room.

I managed a decent nine hours sleep and immediately grabbed my Ipod that had been charging overnight. Fatal mistake number two (number one had been assuming that my coat pocket was waterproof and leaving my passport in there in the heavy rain the day before) as it appeared that my laptop had somehow managed to convert all of my audio and video files to an unreadable format. So I could see that they were on the Ipod but couldnt listen or watch them – fatal. When I am away my Ipod is my life support system and carries me through moments of boredom, of which there are plenty. It is also essential for blocking out the bollocks that you are often forced to lisetn to as a train, bus or airline traveller from other passengers. I frantically searched the internet for an answer, but only managed to salvage the contacts file – what consolation that would be to view on my long trip back to the airport in the middle of nowhere later.

So I headed off into the old town again, wandering around the small Christmas market and having a cup of Gluewine for breakfast – perfectly nutritionally balanced I am sure, before heading on my first train of the day to Mannheim, temporary home to the phenomeon that is 1899 Hoffenheim. Whilst they are building their new stadum in the village of Hoffenheim some ten miles to the south, the team have been playing at the Carl Benz Stadion, home of Mannheim 07 from the newly created Bundesliga 3. The stadium is easily reached from the city centre by tram, unless of course you do what I did and get on a Saturday special that ran to the industrial estate. Eventually I realised and called up my trusty Google Maps for some directions. I could go the indirect way, back the way I came but what the hell – cross country, traversing what looked like a big car park. Sometimes it pays to pan out a little bit more because that car park turned out to be Mannheim Airport. So back I went again and chose the less dangerous route across a motorway and the railway line.

As unluck would have it Mannheim were actually playing at 2pm versus Ulm, which meant that there was no way I could sneak into the stadium, but instead had to buy a ticket for the game, irrespective of the fact that I would be long gone by the time it kicked off. Still it did give me the option to have a chat with a few of the Mannheim ultras who were setting up their flags and banners on the Subtribune. They did try and convince me the atmosphere here would be better than at Karlsruhe but when he revealed the average gate was less than a third of the stadium capacity I declined. The stadium itself is similar in a way to Hillsborough with three equally tall covered stands that rise up sharply from the pitch, and one single stand on its own at the far end. I could imagine that on its day it is a very atmospheric stadium. If all is on plan with their new stadium, Hoffenheim will play their last game here in February 2009.

I had a train to catch so I was off back to the station, and having given over another 20 Euros for my lightening quick train I was off again, to the seat of the German Federal appeal court, Karlsruher about 50 miles, yet only 23 minutes to the south of Mannheim.

Karlsruhe is a strange place. There seems to be a major lack of public transport for such a big place. The station is quite a way out of town with a single S-Bahn line running up to the old town, but nothing remotely close to the stadium. The centre point of the town is the huge Schloss, or Palace for those who do not understand German (me!). From this central point the roads fan out, southwards into the modern town and in every other direction into the woods. Conveniently, the Wildpark stadium is not to the south where all of the bars, restaurants and pubic transport are. No, it is located on the north east curve of the outer ring road, which means you either have to hike through some pretty trecherous woodland to get to the ground or take a taxi, which on a day when the Christmas markets were in full swing meant a 20 minute 20 Euro trip.

The stadium is a real odd affair. Once upon a time it had an athletics track, but this has now been partly replaced by the building of a huge main stand. The three other “sides” of the track still remain, meaning the fans in the uncovered curves behind the goal would not only get cold and wet for this one, but also had appalling views – especially those in the front row where a high fence also added to the view. The older of the two side stands was where the bulk of the Karlsruher fans congregated. This stand looked like a remnant of Landsdowne Road with a lower tier split into two , with standing room at the front in a paddock, then a small upper tier covering the upper part of the lower tier. Bremen had almost filled their corner of the stadium,and it was noticeable before the game how much of a friendly banter there was between the two sets of fans.

My seat was at the top of the main stand which was not only a climb in itself but had the narrowest of rows, which make passing along the line almost impossible, especially with those not so slim German journalists. Obviously built for functionality and not comfort!

Karlsruher SC 1 Werder Bremen 0 – Wildpark Stadion – Saturday 6th December 2008

Its a bit open on the away terrace

Its a bit open on the away terrace

Werder Bremen have been my favourite German team for quite a while. Its a combination of the great coloured kits, including my all time favourite chocolate and lime green, or their attacking style. They have been perennial top scorers in the league, often conceding as many as they score, and year after year they seem unable to keep hold of their best players yet still they are there or there abouts under the attack-mad coach Thomas Schaaf.

Today was no exeption and after a rousing reception for both teams Werder almost caught Karlsruher on the hop when ex-Chelsea flop Claudio Pizarro lobbed the ball over the keeper and onto the post before the twenty second mark had passed. Ten minutes later it was the turn of Karlsruher to come close as Sebastain Freis firstly lobbed over when clean throughand then seconds later decided to dive instead of staying on his feet when he only had the keeper to beat.

Sorry – just a thought here. Why is vodka, wodka when Volkswagon is Volkswagon and Volksbank is Volksbank? What is wrong with those “v”‘s? No sense whatsoever. Sorry to interrupt the flow at this point but it had been bugging me since yesterday.

Both teams continued to create chances. First the Brazilian midfielder Diego volleyed wide for Bremen after an excellent Frings cross and then Karlsruher’s own South American Antonio da Silva curled a shot inches wide. Surely we couldnt be in for another game like last nights?

Werder’s attacking style was always going to give Karlsruher a chance on the counter attack but they simply could not get the final ball right, time after time seeing crosses overhit or through balls not played hard enough. Whilst the game could never be described as physical in the first half, referee Winkmann took every opportunity to spoil play with his very strict interpretation of anything deemed to be a shoulder charge or a slight push meaning the score as level at half time.

Karlsruher had the first chance in the second half to take the lead as Edmond Kapllani was able to rise unchallenged on the edge of the six yard box from a free kick but his header rolled wide of the post. Two minutes later Freis diverted a shot narrowly over the bar as the home team looked to grab the advantage from a Bremen team which had lost the will to fight.

Yet still the game remained goal less. The referee further endeared himself to the home fans by brandishing a couple of yellow cards for challenges that could have quite easily gone the other way. And there was me thinking that such a display is reserved for the visit of Bayern Munich. Still at least Kapllani can be thankful for the linesman after he was flagged offside before he tapped wide from 3 yards on the seventy minute mark, although he was unaware of the flag at the time.

Both teams continued to create chances in an entertaining second half but neither had a player who had remembered their shooting boots. In an almost repeat of the game last night the deadlock was broken on 85 minutes when a drilled shot across the goal struck Stefan Buck and the ball spun over the line via the keepers hand to give Karlsruher the lead.Bremen threw everything at Karlsruher, knowing that they could ill afford to lose the game. Pizarro decided it would be an apt time to lose his head and struck out at the Karlsruher goalkeeper as they tussled for a ball on the goal line. With their main striking option Almeida already in the changing room due to injury, the Peruvian (or is it Peruwian?) joined him and Werder were down to ten men. Karlsuher hang on and the noise at the final whistle was certainly more than a sense of relief rather as results elsewhere lifted Karlsruher from bottom to 4th from bottom, leapfrogging Energie Cottbus, Bochum and Borussia Monchengladbach in the process and end their nine game winless run.

So that was it for me. I decided to walk back to the station, following the crowds around the Schloss gardens and into Marktplatz where the Christmas festivities were in full flow. I still had a seven hour journey ahead before I was back in my comfy bed, and with no Ipod it was sure to be a long and tiring trip. Still I can’t complain. I’d had a beer or two, a couple of sausages and some football and avoided the perils of Beate so I was happy. Planning for Christmas 2009 starts tomorrow!

About the Stadion am Bruchweg
One of the major factors that have resulted in success for the club has been the intimidating atmosphere the fans generate at the compact Bruchweg stadium. It is the smallest stadium in the top division, but like Leverkusen and their small and compact BayArena, tickets are like gold dust and the match day atmosphere is very noisy. In fact the club have recognised that the fans are the team’s 12th man. The ground is made up of four separate stands, all single tiers and very close to the action. It has the feel of some of the smaller English grounds such as Northampton Town’s Sixfields.

The Bruchweg has been home to the club since 1950, and stayed the same for over 50 years until the clubs ambitions were set above the Bundesliga 2nd division. A programme of redevelopment started in early 2003 which saw all of the stands increased in size, plus new roofing sections for two of the stands. A history of the ground can be found in German on the club’s website http://www.mainz05.de.

How to get a ticket for the Stadium Am Bruchweg
In their last Bundesliga season every single match was a complete sell out at the small Stadion am Bruchweg. Only Bayern Leverkusen can match this achievement in the Bundesliga. However, you may be able to secure a ticket in advance from the ticket office in Dr Martin Luther King Weg (+49 6131 905190 or by clicking on https://www.mainz05.de/ticketsmitglieder. Tickets range from €18 to €33 if you are lucky enough to be offered a ticket.

How to get to the Stadion am Bruchweg
The stadium can be reached by bus from the town centre on lines 6, 54, 55, 56, 57 and 58 on matchdays. Travel is free for match ticket holders. Close to the ground there are a number of car parks including the University of Mainz, close to the A60 Autobahn and the multi storey car park on Albert Schweitzer Strasse on the K3 road from the town centre.

About the Wildparkstadion
The Wildparkstadion is a classic “old school” football stadium, very much in the mould of the old Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, or the Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen. It retains many of its original features today such as the running track, banked seats behind the goal and the huge floodlights.

The stadium has been home to the club since March 1922 when a merger between two local clubs (FC Phoenix and VfB Muehlburg) necessitated a bigger arena. In the mid 1950’s the stadium was expanded to hold over 50,000 fans. A further redevelopment in 1978 saw the Gegentribune increased in size to 17,000 places, and the overall capacity to 60,000. The passion of the local fans saw the national team play games here on occasions, and still they have remained unbeaten on eleven occasions since their first game here in the 1950’s.

The main grandstand was redeveloped in the early 1990’s, and a move to all seater reduced the capacity to its current level. There have been plans drawn up for a significant redevelop again, with the end curves being brought closer to the action, and roofed although at this stage there are no concrete plans.

How to get to the Wildpark Stadion
The stadium is located north of the main city centre on the other side of the beautiful Schlossgarten. The most direct way to reach the stadium is to walk through the park, around the right hand side of the lake and the ground will be in view. There are no real public transport options close by, although taxi’s do wait on the edge of the ring road after the match.

Getting a ticket for the Wildpark stadion
With the club back in the Bundesliga again, tickets are very rare indeed for most games and you should try and obtain your ticket before you travel. For the bigger games against the likes of Bayern Munich, Stuttgart, Schalke and Leverkusen expect tickets to be sold out long in advance. For the lower profile games, tickets in the Kurve start from €15. If you are lucky enough to be offered a ticket in the main Haupttribune then you will pay €40. A standing place on the Genegtribune is €12. Tickets, if available, can be purchased from http://www.ksc.de or from the stadium itself.

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A trip down the Rhine in Music and Pictures


The rain in Mainz

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Deutschland, Deutschland wo für heraus Deutschland


 

Germany 1 England 2 – The Olympiastadion Berlin – Wednesday 19th November 2008

Time for the anthems

Time for the anthems

The major surprise in the team was the inclusion of Agbonlahor up front and in the early exchanges it was England who played the ball around with confidence.  Whilst Germany made some interesting selections, including Rene Adler in goal for just the 2nd occasion and Hoffenheim full back Compper making his debut.  However, they started with Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez up front who had scored fifty goals at this level between them. 

The first chance fell to Defoe in the second minute when he blasted wide, setting the tone for the half as England expolited the wide pitch.  The opening goal came after twenty four minutes when Adler dropped a corner and Upson prodded the ball home for his first International goal.  Everything seemed to be going England’s way as Carrick and Barry stopped any threat from the young German team, although it is impossible to know what would happen if Michael Ballack was in the middle of the park.

Towards the end of the first half there was a flair up in the German flags section closest to the England fans where it appeared a group of away fans had bought tickets on the black market, and the locals objected to them joining in with the theme to the Dambusters.  A stand off occured for a few minutes before some beer was thrown and all hell broke lose for twenty seconds before the English bid a hasty retreat into the amrs of the German riot police and a nice banning order.

Capello brought on Scott Carson at half time, his first cap since his disasterous appearance at Wembley in the win or bust game versus Croatia almost a year to the day.  He had little to do until the sixty third minute when a huge punt upfield by the substitute German keeper Wiese cleared Upson and John Terry appeared to have the ball under control and awaited Carson’s advance to collect.  Both of them took their eye of the ball in all senses and allowed Helmes to nip in and push the ball past the goalkeeper and giving the Germans an undeserved equaliser.  In the past the England fans would have reacted by booing Carson, but this is not Wembley with its plastic fans.  Sure there was some ironic cheers the next time he handled the ball, but that was it.  Terry must also take some of the blame as he had taken his eye off the German player but he responded with the type of performance a captain should put in, and with just seven minutes left he rose to head in a Downing free kick to win the game for the English.

So full marks again to Capello who had won the tactical battle against Low, and was earning more respect by the day for his team selection and tactics.  We headed off out of the stadium towards the station and were impressed by the way the Germans had segregated the fans, pushing the Germans to the far end of the station platforms and boarding them alternatively, so that there was no trains full of mixed fans.  Good idea in theory but in practice it failed.  The stream of trains soon slowed to a trickle and we were sent from platform to platform and no one seemed aware what was going on.  A train had been sitting on the platform for ten minutes when all of a sudden the doors on one carriage were pushed open and a fight broke out on the platform.  Riot police arrived within seconds although they were took slow to work out who were the perpertraitors as they merged back into the crowd, setting all of us on edge as they could come and simply take us as token arrests.

Eventually we got back into the city centre and headed to the boys hotel for a couple of beers.  I was screwed either way as I had to be up at 4am for my flight back, so 3 hours sleep is just as good as 2 so why not enjoy a drink. 

So wind forward five hours and I am sitting in the departure lounge of Tegel airport.  To my left is Alan Smith, the ex Arsenal and now well known TV pundit, and to my right is Teddy Sheringham with his latest companion.  And straight ahead sat the wettest, whingiest pathetic England fan I had ever seen.  He had decided not to go to the game after seeing a fight in a bar in the city centre, and watched it in his hotel room.  He tried to argue his case as to why his moisturiser should not be confiscated because “it was expensive” and “it was unfair on him”.  People like that make me so mad, so what odds that on a plane seating 150 guess who I am sat next to???  Fortunately God shined his light on me as he was actually due to sit in 18B and not 14F as he was next to me. 

So a crazy 24 hours in Berlin was just what the doctor ordered as a break from work.  We had certainly seen the best of Germany, and some of the worst although the fans were notably absent from most of the bars after the game – “Germans, Germans where for out thou’ Germans”

The Stadium – Olympiastadion (Olympischer Platz 3, Berlin 14053) – 74,550 All Seater
The stadium itself appears almost monumental from the outside – a perfect elliptical structure of finest German limestone. In fact some of the original inspiration of the design was taken from Rome’s Coliseum. The original architect, Werner March designed the stadium, with clear input from both Adolf Hitler, and his chief architect Albert Speer. It was meant to be a showpiece arena, where Hitler could show the world the power of the German state, both in terms of athletics and in edifices during the 1936 games.

After the Berlin wall fell in 1989, and unification gathered pace, the stadium was granted funds to begin to update its facilities. The host club, Hertha Berlin, were invited to join the inaugural German Bundesliga, and redevelopment was necessary to bring the standard of the ground up to those in the west. However, funds were not available to add probably the most important thing for a spectator – a roof. Berlin is not known for its warm barmy winter’s evenings, and so their loyal fans had to endure the elements whilst watching their team. In 1998 a decision was taken to begin the complete modernisation of the stadium by the local state government. The work, which took over four years to complete, saw the whole of the inside of the stadium demolished and replaced, piece by piece as well as the much needed roof being added. All of this construction took place with events continuing to take place in the stadium, albeit with a reduced capacity. The redevelopment work included the removal of every limestone block to be cleaned, and then replaced – a job akin to completing a huge jigsaw puzzle.

The reconstructed stadium was finally finished in time for Hertha’s first game of the 2004/05 season with VfL Bochum and underlined the venue as one of the most modern stadiums in the world, and a venue fit for the World Cup Final in 2006. The stadium also hosted matches five other matches, including the quarter final penalties victory for Germany over Argentina

How to get a ticket for the Olympiastadion
Tickets for any event that is being played at the stadium can be booked in advanced via the website http://www.olympiastadion-berlin.de. This includes concerts, American Football as well as Hertha matches. Hertha also have their own ticket website at http://www.hertha.de. Last season the average attendance at the stadium was only 47,000, meaning that for the majority of matches tickets were available on the day of the game. Tickets range in price from €13 Euros behind the goal to €45 for one of the best seats in the house in the Sud Tribune. The hardcore Hertha fans are found in the East Curve.

How to get to the Olympiastadion
The easiest way to reach the stadium is by either U-Bahn on line U2, or by S-Bahn on lines S5/S75. Both of these stations are called Olympiastadion, although they are geographically separate. The U-Bahn station is located to the east of the stadium on Rominter Allee – which will bring fans out onto the huge Olympischer Platz and the view of the famous Olympic towers. A journey from Zoo Station in the west of Berlin is 8 stops and will take around 15 minutes. From the east of the city, you can jump on the U-Bahn line at either Alexanderplatz or Potsdamer Platz – allow 35 from the former and 25 from the latter.

The S-Bahn station is located to the south of the stadium, and is around 200 yards from the Sudtor entrance. Trains run from Zoo Station, Alexanderplatz and the newly constructed Hauptbahnhof. The journey time from Zoo should be around 10 minutes.

Finally, you can get a taxi to the stadium. Normally they will drop you off at the end of the Olympischer Platz close to the Osttor. A journey from Potsdamer Platz will take around 20 minutes and cost €20, from Zoo around 15 minutes and €17. Taxi’s can be hailed in the street, found around most big hotels or by ringing   0800 2222255  .

There’s only one Becks and it’s certainly a bit posh


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Opportunities for cheeky day trips are few and far between these days. With CMF(tm) planning a day of Christmas shopping at Lakeside I thought I would consult the European crystal ball to see where I could go that was not already on the Fuller map. Now I have said before about my love for German football. Beer, passionate fans, cheap tickets and normally some decent football all add up to a great match day over there and so I scanned the list for something new…..Amazingly, Bremen popped up – a city and a stadium I had been tardy in not visiting before. A tasty little game with Bayer Leverkusen beckoned – 2nd versus 3rd in the last game before the Christmas break.

Ryanair for once not only had 1p flights available (really £19.41 all in but hey it doesn’t have the same marketing message), but had flights out and back in the same day – very unusual for them. So off I went, armed just with the latest Simon Kernick book on a flight full of middle-aged women with issues – a little tip here for those ladies who feel they have to project their voice….If you do want to tell your friend that up until the age of 9 you used to wet yourself every time your Mum’s friend Wendy looked at you then perhaps try lowering your voice – it was hardly surprising that no one wanted to sit next to her on the short 1 hour flight.

Bremen is under rated as a city….It seemed that at every corner when I had just thought – “Perhaps they have a Kardstadt Sports shop (the best sports shops on the planet for buying football stuff)” there would be one….I tried this all morning and was delighted with the results….The Christmas markets were in town and so food and drink was in abundance, as too were the crowds. But what was impressive was so many locals bedecked in their orange, green and white – not 3 colours you would readily chose for your front room but everyone seemed to be proud of their football club. Interestingly not many fans had chosen to adopt the away colours of chocolate brown and lime green – I cannot think why, but you can never accuse the club of being shy and retiring.

So, on a bitterly cold December day when the UK headed to the cathedrals of Bluewater, Lakeside and the Metro Centre, I headed off for some Gluwine and Brautwurst in one of the best preserved city centres in Europe. The problem with German Christmas markets is that they are all the same – if you have been to one in one city, expect exactly the same elsewhere. And likewise, there only seems to be a dozen or so different stalls – so once you have seen the cute wooden decorations once or the sweet stalls that sell all fo those treats that were banned in the UK along time ago (chocolate coated banana anyone?), you will see then twenty more times.

Bremen is a small yet prosperous city. The main industries today are technology and beer. And is there a more famous German brand than Becks – stronger than BMW, more effective than SAP and liked my more men than a Porsche. Bremen has proudly shown their name across the world on the Becks bottle. As a connoisseur of beer, Bremen also means the opportunity to sample the wonderful, yet rare Becks Gold and Becks Green Lemon.

What is strange about German football culture is the acceptance of the general public on the excessive match day drinking. In the city centre from around 11am you see groups of men standing around a crate of Becks simply drinking. No frills, no fanfare or trouble – just serious drinking and football chat – and of course ensuring that the empties go into the right recycling bin….This ritual carries on right up until kick off where the fans simply finish their bottles (recycling of course), enter the stadium and continue drinking from the bars.

The stadium is located a short journey outside the city centre and most people cram (and I mean cram) on tram number 3 that runs from outside the old cathedral in the city centre. A ten minute journey dropped me at the Weser Stadion stop and immediately I was met with the smell of grilled sausages and enough outside bars serving ice cold Becks to keep me going for days. Most fans get to the stadium early to sample the food and drink around the ground. The stadium is wedged in a bend in the River Weser, and the main entry points are on the north side of the stadium.

Another strange feature of German football is this idea of Fan co-operation – each club has a “favourite” other clubs who when they meet up, share some kind of common enemy (such as Borussia Dortmund) or a common event (a match that saw one team stay up due to a win over the enemy)….Leverkusen were obviously a favourite of Werder Bremen’s as on every corner there was fans mingling and drinking, whilst in the stadium there appeared to be no animosity at all. Hard to see this working at Millwall or Cardiff somehow!

Inside the stadium was impressive. Werder are one of the teams in Germany currently looking at relocating simply to get more people in on a match day. Currently they have room for 42,000 fans but on more occasions than not this is simply not enough. It would be a shame to leave such as stadium though – compact at the sides, traditional curves behind the goal and some strange floodlights certainly give it a unique feel. But money rules the roost in German football, as it does in the rest of Europe and so if opportunities for match day revenue can be made greater by moving away then they will. Currently the club are one of the big five in Germany with Bayern, HSV, Stuttgart and Schalke and any advantage the club can get off the pitch will help on the pitch in the long run.

With the sun setting early in the match, and the temperature barely getting above freezing (yet not one player had gloves on – let alone tights!), expectations of a tight defensive game were blown out of the water after 45 seconds as the Crouch-alike Keissling from Leverkusen went clean through and fluffed his lines. Bremen’s forward line of Rosenborg, the revived Klasnic (he who lost a kidney not too long ago) and the mercurial Diego seem to have adjusted to life after Klose’s pre-season move to arch rivals Bayern very well and Bremen’s amazing home record this season of 13 wins in 14 games (the other was a 4-1 defeat to Bayern with Klose scoring) has not been earnt by defending deep. They soon went on the offensive and how the score stayed at 0-0 for more than 5 minutes was a miracle and it wasn’t. In the 6th minute the deadlock was broken. A 3 on 2 break by Werder was quickly snuffed out and within seconds the ball was in the back of their net as Bayer ruthlessly exposed the Brazilian Naldo.

Their lead should have been doubled soon after when Crouch-alike missed a simple one on one with Werder’s keeper when all of the stadium, TV cameras and most of the city stood still waiting a blatantly obvious linesman’s flag for offside. The legendary Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf acted swiftly and ruthlessly withdrew captain and midfielder Tim Borowski with less than 20 minutes on the clock. He headed straight down the tunnel, not without first seeing Klasnik stab in an equalizer.

At the end of the first half some dreadful play acting (a headbutt that missed and a Bremen forward feigning injury as if he had been hit by Amir Kahn, Joe Calzage and Ricky Hatton all at once) should have led to a Werder penalty and at least one red card, but both teams retreated into the warmth of the bowels of the stadium with the referee explaining to the guilty Bremen player how he should have fallen over to get a penalty and a red card for the opposition. The second half started with a bang, to say the least…46 minutes 2-1 Bremen, 48 minutes 3-1 Bremen, 50 minutes 4-1 Bremen and then 61 minutes 5-1 Bremen….yet the amazing fact was that they seemed to score with every attack, getting every single lucky rebound, every break of the ball and every marginal decision. Leverkusen didn’t give up attacking, knowing that their luk had to change and eventually got one back as Crouch-alike’s misplaced header looped over Bremen’s goalie much to the suprise of the Bremen goalie and 42,000 other people in the stadium.

So a 5-2 win, coupled with Bayern Munich’s draw saw the end of the first half of the Bundesliga draw to a close with Werder level on points at the top with the Bavarian giants. After Werder’s unexpected exit from the Champions League earlier in the week with a 3-0 defeat to Olympiakos there was at least some comfort for a swift return next year to the ultimate European Club Competition.

Less than 30 minutes after the end of the game I was back at the airport, and with efficiency that would have any seasoned Ryanair travellers standing in amazement, I was back in Chez Fuller in time to see Same Difference get kicked off X-Factor at 9pm. Oh, and I had missed another Curbishley inspired West Ham home performance at home with a defeat again to Everton…The cost of my trip was less than £65….The cost of a ticket for Upton Park would have been £5 less…..I know what I’d recommend in future.

About the Weser Stadion

The Weser Stadion has been the home of Werder Bremen for nearly 100 years, although it has gone through a number of major changes during that time. It is now one of the most distinctive looking stadiums in Germany due to its unique floodlights and its oval shape. It was originally used as a general sports field in the early part of the century before being developed for political rallies in the early 1930’s at the time when the Nazi party was on the rise. The stadium was extensively remodelled in the 1970’s with a new roof added as well as the addition of 9,500 seats. During the 2001/02 season the biggest project took place when the pitch was lowered, allowing a further 8,000 seats to be added to the ground. The stadium has a dual capacity depending on the nature of the matches played – for normal Bundesliga matches the capacity is 42,500, but this falls to around 35,000 for Internationals as the terracing has to be converted to seating. In September 2005 the German national team played a friendly international at the stadium against South Africa. The stadium also houses a museum, and holds regular tours of the ground which costs €5 for Adults and €2.50 for Concessions. Plans have been drawn up for a new 50,000 seater stadium a few hundred yards away from the Weser Stadion, and August 2010 has been penciled in as a potential opening date, although construction has not begun as of August 2008.

Who plays there?

Werder Bremen are now established as one of the most consistent teams in German football, after their capture of the domestic double in 2004, and appearances in the Champions League group stages every season since. Their 3-1 victory in the Olympic Stadium in Munich in May 2004 will go down in history as one of the most dramatic games in German football history as it broke Bayern’s seemingly unbreakable hold on the Bundesliga title. The team, led by coach Thomas Schaaf won the title for the fourth time, and the first time since 1993 through the efforts of players like Johan Micoud, the Brazilian Ailton and Miroslav Klose. In the last two Champions League campaigns, the club have made it out of difficult group stages, only to fall against perceived weaker teams in the first knock out rounds. The club were originally formed in 1899, and whilst performing well in the North German leagues, they did not taste any glory until 1961 when they beat Kaiserslautern to win the German Cup in Gelsenkirchen. After failing to be included in the first ever Bundesliga in 1963, the team showed their critics the errors of their ways by winning the Bundesliga title in their first season in the league in 1964/65. Over the next decade the team couldn’t find any consistency and actually fell into the second division in 1980. The appointment of Otto Rehhagel as coach revived the team and under young stars such as Rudi Voller, the team rose again and in 1983 they finished runners up in the league. In 1988 they took their second Bundesliga title, starting a magical period for the club under Rehhagel which saw a further League championship in 1993, German Cup wins in 1991 and 1994 and victory in Europe with the European Cup Winners Cup title in 1992. After Rehhagel left the club in 1995, the club struggled to replace him until they decided to promote Thomas Schaaf in 1999. In his first season Werder took the German Cup after beating Bayern Munich on penalties. His performance during the remaining seasons to date are of legendary status, and the double of 2003/04 has proved to be no fluke after another top two finish last season with Klose, Klasnic and Borowski powering the team forward. Werder are also the highest scorers in German football, as fans have seen the team score four or more goals ten times on average each season, although the loss of Klose to Bayern will be a major issue. Another third place finish in 2007 was fine reward for this exciting side.

How to get there

The Weser Stadium is located to the south east of the city centre on a reclaimed part of land next to the River Weser. The stadium is easily reached by public transport, as well as being close to the A1 Autobahn. From the Hauptbahnhof take tram line 10 in the direction of Sebaldsbrücke and alight at Juergen Strasse, or take line 3 in the direction of Weser. The journey should take less than 10 minutes and the journey is free for match ticket holders.

Getting a ticket

Last season Werder sold out a number of matches, including the games versus Hertha Berlin, Bayern Munich and Hamburg, but the average attendance was around 39,500 meaning that for matches against the majority of opposition tickets are available. Tickets can be purchased from the stadium on match days, as well online at http://www.werder.de. Tickets range in price from €11 behind the goals to €29 in the upper tiers close to the halfway line. Ticket prices tend to be 10% higher for Champions League matches.

The oldest swingers in town – Rooney would love it!



Nurnberg is one of my favourite places in Europe. It has so much history, so many fantastic buildings and loads of decent bars. In terms of football it has a passionately supported team who play in one of the most unique stadiums in Germany. It also has some fond memories for me including the World Cup match in June 2006 when England struggled to over come a very weak Trinidad and Tobago team. On that very hot day my travelling companion was Football Jo (it also includes George the Greek and two unnamed England fans that Jo has picked up in the hotel in Munich and invited them into the Merc for the 2 hour drive north), and whilst enjoying the atmosphere in the main town square we planned to come back to see the culture without the vomit, sunburnt beer bellies and “No Surrender” chants at a later point.

So 15 months later we headed back to Nuremburg, with CMF to keep us (well me) company. We had a rough plan, in which football initially did not play a part. It was to be a weekend of culture, fine food, lots of German beer, and an opportunity for Football Jo to add to her collection of “alternative” DVD’s (for more information on her unusual hobby see March 2008’s post on “Football, Goulash and the Rivers of Piss”). The two things that changed our plans were 1) The amazing weather, and 2) The prospect of a new stadium within a 10 minute train ride and a convenient time.

We arrived early on the Saturday morning, having deposited the little Fuller’s at their Grandparents up north. A two day trip in not quite enough for them to start forgetting what electric lights, knives and forks and computers are but it is a close thing and we have to spend the journey home re-training them on saying words like “Bath, Bus and Roll” instead of “Baath, Bous and Cob”. The sun was already shining at 9am so we decided to head direct for the centre of the action with an early morning tipple in the market square that was so packed in June 2006. Jo had two things on her shopping list – clothes peg porn (as it reads) and bed socks. As the former wasn’t really on show in the market square, we spent a futile 30 minutes looking for the latter, whilst she browsed in amazement at some of the stalls – “Ohh look, they sell dish clothes”…”wow, look at this stall selling batteries”….as I have said before she doesn’t get out of the community care much.

We headed down to one of the best museums in Europe in my opinion, and also the one with the longest name – The Dokuzentrum Reichsparteitagsgelande Fazination und Gewalt. Basically if you have ever wondered about how the Nazi party went from being basically a trade union with no power, to the world’s most destructive force in little more than 10 years then this is the place to come. It is spread over two floors of a new building constructed within the biggest remaining Nazi building – a construction that was to be twice the size of the Coliseum in Rome. It traces the roots of the Nazi foundations from 1933, through the war and the collapse in 1945 through film, pictures and a self guided audio trail. It is located within the old parade grounds area to the south of the city centre, and is a great base for exploring some of the other remnants of the Nazi empire including the platforms where Hitler and go used to preach their messages of hate to 100,000 soldiers, the monument to the dead and the foundations of the Nazi Stadium, a much structure that was to hold 400,000 when complete. The whole area is surreal to visit. On a later Summer’s day with blue sky all above, and families enjoying picnics, boating on the lake and rollerblading it was hard to believe that some of the worst acts of human barbarity had been planned on this very ground. The original plan of making Nuremburg the most famous city in the whole world came within a few years of being reality. After a few hours of exploring we headed back into the city centre for some more traditional entertainment.

The weekend was also hosting some of the key games in the Rugby World Cup, so with West Ham’s early season defeat to Arsenal already secured we headed for the sanctuary of the nearest Irish bar for some oval ball action. Having seen Scotland narrowly fail to lose to Italy we lined up the Guinness for a few hours of Welsh humiliation at the hands of the Fijians. And sure enough they failed to disappoint as they took every chance in the book to throw away the game 38-34 to the south Islanders. With a few pints of Irish’s finest inside us, we decided to head back to the hotel for a quick change, and a quick session before we headed out for food. The night was drawing in, and the shops were closing. As on Sunday’s in Germany shops do not open, Jo was very disheartened that she had not managed to find her socks or her porn. We walked back towards the hotel when all of a sudden on the horizon appeared one of Germany’s most well known brands. Beate Uhse is as famous in Germany as Primark and Burtons are in the UK, except their wares are a little more of an adult nature. Ann Summers is positively conservative compared to these shops, and so it was with glee that Football Jo ran into the shop like a child entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory for the first time. As I have already explained dear reader, the usual hardcore stuff featuring some of the most stunning porn stars in the world enjoying life in all sorts of places, positions and scenarios doesn’t actually appeal to her. Amusement was had by two of the three of our party at the series of “Bridget the Midget” DVD’s, but it was the titles such as “Debbie does Dallas all at once”, “Court Marshalled” and “Nipple Pegfest” that attracted her attention. With a few new titles secured for her collection, her weekend was complete and so we headed back towards the hotel.

The city is surrounded by old walls with wooden fortifications on top,giving the appearance of a citadel. We walked along the old walls for a while before we came to the road behind the hotel. And here we received our first shock of the day, for this was the red light district in the city. That in itself is not a problem. The issue was the “quality” of the goods on display. Hanging out of the windows (like Amsterdam but al fresco) were some of the oldest and roughest looking women you would ever want to meet. Most men’s taste drastically reduces over the course of an evening, and we have been known in jest to judge ladies on a scale of pints – for instance Keeley Hazell would be a half pinter, Charlotte Church a two pinter, Sian Lloyd a six pinter and Emma Riley (her of Emmerdale and You’ve been Framed fame) a fifteen pinter. These women would definitely be in the double figure mark. It also appeared that the towels that they draped outside their windows seemed to signify something. To us a red towel seemed to signify false teeth, blue false teeth and wig and yellow false teeth, wig and new hip joint. However, what was even more shocking was that it appeared that many had customers, based on the windows being closed. This was 7pm – so unless these Germans had been on the sauce all day, they obviously had so little confidence on scoring on a night out or simply had some strange taste in women. It takes all sorts obviously but to have such a concentration of such Rooney-esque talent all in one place must either be a huge tourist draw, or the equivilant of a rest house for old prostitutes from all over Europe.

Dinner was a very cozy affair. We found a guesthouse around the corner from the hotel that was rammed at 8pm,and with a menu offering home cooked food and some decent German wines, we headed on in and shared a table with a German family. Now, everyone nows that all Germans can understand English, yet only 1% of the English can understand German. Poor Jo had difficulty getting her head around this and launched into a graphic description at the table about the new DVD’s she had bought, and having watched one pre-dinner on her laptop, how good it was compared to some of the others she has bought in Amsterdam a few weeks previous (including the wonderfully named Dickie Dogg – think Emma Riley meeting Shep). Obviously Mr and Mrs Ballack, and the little Michael’s could understand every single word, plus a few new ones judging by the colour of Frau Ballack, and I have never seen a family eat their 3 courses so quickly before departing.

After a couple of nightcaps, Jo wanted another wander around the houses so to speak to see who was buying and selling. No real change there as knitting had been replaced by whoring as the favourite Saturday night activity for the Derby and Joan club. There was a distinct lack of punters willing to get any value adds so we beat a hasty retreat to the hotel Jakobsmarkt. Our room was a strange affair. A 70’s style living room, with a kitchen, and then a stairway up to a huge bedroom in the attic and a massive long thin bathroom. Perfect for us to “explore” although poor Football Jo had to make do with her single bed in a cupboard for the same price.

Sunday brought another stunning day. Indian summer temperatures were perfect for a quiet stroll around the city. Jo wanted to see what windows were still open at 10am on Sunday and sure enough the old ladies who had probably been up since 4am, been to the shops, cleaned the house and cooked Sunday lunch, were open for business. We headed off for a wander around the old town, which as I have mentioned before is stunning. Old fashion mill houses hug the river throughout the centre, and little pubs, restaurants and cafes made a wonderful setting for a lazy Sunday morning. As if by magic I had found out that 2nd division Fuerth were at home at 2pm. Fuerth is a suburb of Nuremburg and being only a 10 minute S-Bahn trip down the road it would have been rude to have come so far and not go to the match.

It was carnival time in the region and so when we reached Fuerth the centre was in party mood. German football fans love their beer and the Fuerth fans were tucking into the beer and the fantastic Nurnberg sausages (amazing if you can find them – served in a portion of 5 in a bun with mustard), enjoying the day. The team were on the fringes of the promotion places after a good start to the season and had a reputation as a friendly club, and certainly based on the fans who willingly came over and started chatting to us the reputation was deserved.

We headed up to the stadium, secured our tickets and took in what we thought was the shade. Here my brilliant understanding of German let us down again as we could not have been more in the very hot Sunday sunshine if we tried. Beer was on the agenda to cool us down, and having a sensible set of rules we could drink as much as we wanted in the seats, as long as we paid our 1 Euro deposit for the plastic cups.

Carls Zeiss Jena are one of the most notable ex-East German teams, having played many a season in the UEFA Cup in the dark days of the 70’s and 80’s. They are named after the famous scientist who developed some of the best optical lenses which are today heavily used by the military as well as in some of the top of the range SLR cameras. They were struggling at the foot of the table early in the season but still brought a fair away following on such a beautiful day and were in fine voice. The stadium was not dissimilar to a lower league English one – with one main stand set apart from essentially three temporary stadiums. The Playmobil name came about from the company who are based close by and not the actual material used to built the stadium unfortunately.

The teams emerged to a generous welcome from the fans, none more so that a massive fat bloke who was waving one of the biggest flags you will see who had obviously taken his share of beer and sausages, along with a few other peoples as well. The heat was obviously a factor for the teams as they struggled to put any decent moves together in the opening exchanges. It wasn’t until the 20th minute that we saw the first real shot on goal, and even then it was one that Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud of.

After a goal less first half, the second half started with Fuerth stepping the play up a gear. Eventually they found a way through with a corner that eluded everyone, including the Jena goalkeeper at the near post and went directly in. Despite equalising within 10 minutes, it was always going to be the home teams game and so it was no surprise when the winner came on the 75th minute mark with a swift move up the field and a crisp finish from 12 yards by the impressive Fuerth captain.

With the sun still shining we made our way on foot back to the station, picked up our bags and headed off to the airport back to reality. CMF and myself happy to have spent some quality time together in a beautiful city in the sunshine,Football Jo happy in the fact she had got some more deviant porn. Well, you can’t please everyone – she still didn’t get her bed socks.

About the Playmobil Stadion
The stadium is a typical German affair, with one single terrace, the North stand, and three separate seated stands. The main stand is a tall affair, similar to the main stand at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank which only covers a third of the length of the pitch. On the opposite side of the stadium is a covered single tier structure which is raised around 6 foot above the pitch from row one meaning that views are very good. Behind the south stand there is a narrow but tall temporary stand that is home to the away fans, next to a open seated area that wraps around to nearly join the main stand.

The stadium looks and feels like a lower division stadium with the impression that stands have been added on a piecemeal basis. There are plenty of refreshment bars around the outside of the stadium, as well as a covered area behind the main stadium which doubles up as a stage area for some after the match partying. There is a big screen above the south stand that replays goals scored by the home team only.

Who plays there?
The Playmobil Stadion is home to the fiercely proud SpVgg Greuther Fürth who currently play in the Bundesliga 2. They were formed in 1930, although the current club came into existence in 1996 after a merger between SpVgg Fürth and TSV Vestenbergsgreuth. Whilst their success more recently has been very modest, they were one of the teams that shaped early German football – winning the national championships in 1914, 1926 and 1929.

However, after the war the team slipped down the leagues and were firmly rooted in the 3rd tier of German football come the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963. Since then they have yet to grace the top division, although in the past two seasons they have finished 4th and 5th. They have a fierce rivalry with local neighbours 1.FC Nürnberg that has been known to boil over both on and off the pitch.

How to get there
The Playmobil Stadion is located less than a mile from the town centre of Fürth, and around 5 miles from Nuremberg. The nearest station to the stadium is Rathaus on U1 line, some 10 stops from Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof. When you exit the stadium you can either walk the 15 minutes or so to the stadium, or catch one of the regular shuttle buses that wait outside the stadium and take around 5 minute to drop you on the west of the stadium. If you do want to walk then come out of the station and turn left, following the road downhill. When you reach the river, turn right across the bridge and follow the main road for 500 yards. At this junction turn left and head up the hill. The stadium is around 400 yards on your right hand side.

Getting a ticket
There is no issues in getting tickets to watch games at the Playmobil Stadion at the gate. The main ticket office is outside the main stand on the west side of the stadium. Tickets range in price from €21 in the main covered stand to €14 for a place on the north terrace. During the winter months when temperatures plummet making watch a game on either the open terrace or the open seating in the south stand very uncomfortable. A good bet for the neutrals is the covered seats in blocks G or H which cost €19. The official website does have an online facility, but you will have to pick tickets up on the day of the game from the ticket office.

Getting around
Fürth is really a suburb of Nuremberg, and is connected to the main city via the U1 line which links the two in less than 15 minutes. A one day travel card for €3.60 allows unlimited transport in both areas. Local buses supplement the U-Bahn network, which basically runs through four stops in the town – Hauptbahnhof to the Klinikum.

Local Hotels & Bars
Whilst many people will simply by-pass the centre of Fürth coming to and from football at the Playmobil Stadion, it does have more than enough places to sleep, eat and drink to not be missed. The Tourist information centre can be contacted on +49 911 974 1206 if you need any further assistance.

NH Hotel Fürth – Königstrasse 140
Tel: +49 911 74040 http://www.nh-hotels.com
NH Hotel Forsthaus Fürth – Zum Bogelsang 20
Tel: +49 911 779880 http://www.bh-hotels.com
Parkhotel Fürth – Rudolf-Breitscheid Strasse 15
Tel: +49 911 776 666 http://www.parkhotel-fuerth.de

In terms of places to eat, the town centre has a number of Bratwuerst stands along Fuerther Freiheit and in the pedestrian area. One of the local delicacies is Leberkäs Semmel which is similar to meat loaf in a roll. Other restaurants include:-

Zum Tannenbaum – Rathaus
Asia Küche – Hauptbahnhof platz
Our Place – Behind Rathaus U-Bahn stop

There are a number of bars that are dedicated to the football club around the stadium which are more than welcoming to neutral fans. Alternatively there are numerous decent bars around the Hauptbahnhof including:-

Las Palmeras – Near U-Bahn station Stadtgrenze
Stara Chata – Angerstrasse

Nearest Airport – Nuremberg Airport (NUE)
Telephone: +49 911 93700
Website: http://www.airport-neurnberg.de

The small airport is located 7km north of the city. It is mainly used as a base for regional German airlines. It has two terminals with basic services including duty free shops, 2 restaurants, numerous bars and an observation deck. The airport has seen little expansion since it opened fifty years ago. Last year the airport handled over 3 million passengers. Currently the airport can only be reached by Air Berlin from the UK. U-Bahn line 1 runs directly from outside the terminal to the city centre in less than 15 minutes and costs €1.30 single or €3.60 for a day ticket.