…Or how to go to rush off a match report during a lunch break shortened due to high workload… and still not finish it in time, mainly because you spent ages rambling about alcohol-free beer…
A mate I used to work with is a Hertha Berlin fan. Or, more specifically, he is a Harlekin, one of the ultras groups that follow Hertha home and away. As I’d been to a Union Berlin game previously, he kept whining at me that I had to balance that out by seeing the other, bigger Berlin club. In fact, every time I would tell someone about the atmosphere at the Alte Försterei, he would become even more insistent that I experience a Hertha game at the Olympiastadion.
Eventually, his dog-like persistence paid off. It’s not so much that I had been reluctant to go, but usually I found something more interesting to do (such as write about Shola), and, to be honest, I didn’t find the club to be as interesting as Union. Call it reverse snobbery, I guess.
But, as my parents were over last week, he bought a ticket for my dad and I to go to Hertha’s game against Stuttgart. And I’m glad he did.
So, anyway, I met my parents after work, and we had a quick beer at Berlin’s best Irish bar, The Lir. Unfortunately for my mam, my dad and I spent the duration of our quick pint talking about the Toon’s win against Scunthorpe in the cup the night before. Within twenty minutes, we were walking to the S-bahn, having left my mam and the missus in the Irish bar up to their own devices. Neither are big drinkers, but they had planned to go to a cocktail bar, so they seemed to be set for the night without our presence.
I gave my dad a wegbier (beer for the road), which I had pre-chilled at home, to drink on the journey to the stadium. Apart from in a few restricted areas, you can drink in public in Germany. Aside from the roaming gangs of tramps you find in park areas, it’s a pretty sweet law. Anyway, we squeezed onto the S-bahn, and were at the stadium within 15 minutes. After queuing for sausage outside the stadium we made our way through security, still talking about Sammy Amoebi’s goal against Scunthorpe, to meet my mate.
As kick-off neared we went to the bar with the intention of getting litre beers each (well, for the two Geordie lads anyway. The Jorman wanted a cola, but he’s not a beer drinker. I know…) but ended up stuck in a queue behind someone arguing with the barman about the deposit on the glasses (he wanted the glasses, not the drinks, and didn’t understand that they would charge him more for that. Despite being told. Five times.) Anyway, as we waited, we quickly realised there was no beer.
No sodding beer!!
Is Germany taking the piss. I could kind of understand it at the Dresden – Rostock game, as it was clearly a high risk game. But this sure as shit wasn’t. Stuttgart fans were mingling happily with Hertha fans outside the stadium, and there was a minimal police presence.
The last two games I have been to in this country have been beer-free. Beer is as much a part of football as knee-high tackles, sulky French wingers and an Ameobi goal against sunderland. It gets me upset just thinking about it. If this happens at the next game I go to, I’m gonna have to seriously consider my mission to watch German football as failed and instead do something else. Perhaps visit public parks. You sure as shit can drink there at least, although my repertoire of songs may not be as appreciated.
So, thoroughly devastated by this turn of events, I picked up two shandies (they had two percent alcohol in them, and the other option was alcohol-free beer, which is about as pointless as Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham (at the time of writing)), said goodbye to my mate, and then my dad and I wandered into the cavernous Olympiastadion.
My mate had surpassed himself – seats just to one side of halfway and about 30 yards from the front. Excellent seats. On the end of the aisle also, so we could get to the bar quickly. Or would have been able to, if there had been any bastard point in going to the bar…
Sorry – I need to change subject a bit so this doesn’t turn into a rant. Hmm…
The stadium. Ah, yeah. Built for the Berlin Olympics of 1936 (the Jesse Owens/Adolf Hitler one. Not that they raced each other, obviously, but you know what I mean. Hitler had stubby legs anyway, so he would never have made a world class sprinter) and revamped to host the 2006 World Cup final, the stadium is certainly an impressive site, and obviously filled with history.
The thing I first noticed about the stadium though, having never been there for a match before, was that the running track didn’t seem to hinder the atmosphere in any way at all. We always hear that running tracks impact the atmosphere, but, if that is true, the noise of the 52,000 in the building was louder than most home stadiums in England by a good way. I mean as much as I love the Toon, St James’ rarely bounces in the way a German stadium does, with the exception of certain games. I would compare the atmosphere in German stadiums, or, at least the ones I’ve had the pleasure of being in, as comparable to having the stadium filled with away fans.
So, onto the game. I had heard my mate tell me about the planning that goes into the ultras’ “choreo”, as he calls it (their singing, bouncing and banners), and I can actually appreciate the planning that goes into it, even if I found it strange when I first heard about it. The atmosphere was bouncing throughout the game (as was the Ostkurve – literally at some points), and it was certainly impressive.
More so than the players. Neither team was really that good. Patrick Ebert, on the right for Hertha looked good, and I like Stuttgart’s Cacau, but the quality of the players, on these two teams at least, is probably lower than the Premier League. But that doesn’t mean the game wasn’t interesting – far from it.
It was a classic battle, with both sides giving and taking. Ramos, or ‘Shola’ as my dad and I nicknamed him, was lively, although his decision making was certainly suspect, and Kraft in the Hertha goal made some smart saves. Stuttgart’s wingers also looked sharp, but Cacau was too often isolated alone up front until the arrival of Pogrebnyak towards the end.
As we reached the last ten minutes of the first half, I needed the toilet so had to nip out the stadium quickly (the toilets and bars are on a concourse on the outside of the building). I thought I would pick up four shandies on the way back, so joined a queue behind two big lads ordering sausages. The queue was the shortest, but as the others got longer, I worked out why. German is a charming language – basically they were accusing the woman of “arsing” them by not giving them enough change. And she was shouting that she wasn’t “arsing them”. What is it with Germans? They love to complain, especially when people are waiting behind them for (non-alcholic) beer (shandy). Anyway, I’m stubborn so I refused to switch to one of the longer queues, as I was sure I would get served soon as this would not last long.
I didn’t realise I would have to wait ten minutes. In fact, one left, and the other took one step away, but then turned back towards the booth before I could slip past him ninja-style. He shouted at her, threatened her, threatened her boss, got his money back, a free sausage, and still continued to complain. Tosser.
So, by the time I held our four shandies in my hand (I’m embarrassed just typing that), I had to fight through the people leaving the stadium at half time. Awesome.
I’m ranting again. Here’s a picture to distract you. And me, hopefully:
Ah right, anyway. Hertha scored from a breakaway in the 86th minute, just as Stuttgart had thrown on an extra striker and began to push for a winner of their own. Shola (Ramos) broke away with Ebert to his right and the gifted-but-disinterested Raffael to his left. True to form, he shot instead of playing Ebert in, but the keeper’s parry fell to Ebert. The winger whipped a the ball across the goal and the little Brazilian Raffael planted a header in the far corner.
That proved to be enough for Hertha’s first win at home in the first division in over two years (their home record was absolutely terrible in their relegation season), and we all went away happy. Well, happy and sober. So not that happy.
Hertha: Kraft; Lell, Hubnik, Mijatovic, Kobiashvili; Ottl, Niemeyer; Ebert (Janker 91), Raffael (Lustenberger 89), Lasogga (Torun 65); Ramos
VfB: Ulreich; Celozzi (Boka 60), Tasci, Maza, Molinaro; Kvist, Kuzmanovic (Gentner 79); Harnik, Hajnal (Pogrebnyak 73), Okazaki; Cacau
Attendance: Just over 52,000
For more (and much better) pictures of the Ostkurve in action during this match, go here.