Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bundesbag Week 6: A Tale of two Lehmanns

"F**k off Hoffenheim!" said Tobias as he swayed against the rhythm of the ICE train to Dortmund, his equilibrium hindered by an excess of alcohol. There were six of us standing in the train bar minding our own business when Sp3ktor went to order some beers and "befriended" Tobias, a Stuttgart fan on his way to the same game as we were. He took it upon himself to join us, verbally abuse us and demand to know what we were doing in Germany. We shrugged our shoulders and smiled politely muttering something about the beer, the company and the cheap ticket prices. Meanwhile Tobias abused his new friend's BVB shirt and seemed to make a number of physical gestures inviting him to have sex with his bottom. This may have been an insult (a most peculiar one if it was) but since none of us accepted his kind offer and started to look askance at him, he decided to head back to his travelling companions at the other end of the bar who didn't look too pleased to see him return.

While there was very little to be gleaned from the exchange, it did reflect a genuine antipathy towards Hoffenheim. Since the village club's promotion to the Bundesliga, the owner and software billionaire Dietmar Hopp has suffered verbal abuse and physical threats. The week before, he decided to prosecute a Dortmund fan for unfurling a banner threatening to kill him. Last Saturday another banner was unfurled in the giant kop end of the Westfalon. Not being able to read German I did not know what is said but the word "Hopp" was prominently displayed. The banner was packed away in good order as the game progressed in front of 71,194 people and 6 Englishman drinking beer and soaking up the atmosphere.

The last time we came to Dortmund we were treated to a 4-0 home win. We weren't disappointed this time either as BVB beat Stuttgart 3-0 thanks to a screamer from Tamas Hajnal (scoring his first goal for his new club) and a great header from substitute Alex Frei. The two strikes were split by a fortunate goal by Felipe Santana who fouled Stuttgart keeper Jens Lehmann, much to our amusement.

Hajnal was man of the match but Kuba must have run him close with an excellent display of wing work.

While the shenanigans at the Westfalon took place, there was more nonsense occurring elsewhere. In Bremen, 40,000 watched the home side go 4-1 up against the hated Hoffenheim. Incredibly, the newbies fought back to 4-4 after 71 minutes. Then, with Werder down to ten men thanks to a red card for Per Mertesacker, they scored the winner. Mesut Ozil rounded off a fantastic performance and is proving to be a player rediscovering himself under Thomas Schaaf.

It was a weekend of upsets in the Bundesliga. When we arrived in Cologne on Friday night to begin our festivities, we bumped into some FC Koln supporters flushed with success after a fantastic (and deserved) 1-0 win over Schalke. The surprises continued on Sunday as Karlsruhe turned over the in-form Wolfsburg 2-1 at the Wildparkstadion. Cotbuss surprised everyone by not only scoring another goal but by not letting any in either. Hertha were the unwilling recipients of Energie's first win of the season.

However the biggest shock of the round was Bayern. The champions travelled to the injury-ravaged Hannover looking to atone for their mauling at the hands of Bremen last week only to lose again, 1-0, thanks to a brilliant strike from Huszti. I waxed lyrical about Bayern last week so there is not much more to say. At least, for Klinsie's sake his team stayed unbeaten in the Champions League this week, which should keep the pressure off.

While Schalke and Bayern donned the inconsistency pants, Hamburg and Leverkusen were running free in the park. The northerners' 1-0 win over the hapless 'Gladbach sounded more convincing than the scoreline suggests. Meanwhile Leverkusen has adopted the Bremen approach of out-scoring the opposition. Patrick Helmes was on the mark yet again as Bayer edged Bochum out of a 3-2 thriller.

On Sunday, Frankfurt and Bielefeld played out a 1-1 draw with Bielefeld. Artur Wichniarek scoring yet again for Arminia. We missed the game on the telly because we were on our way back to Cologne from Aachen.

We had made our way to the former Charlemagne capital (which was very pretty by the way) to visit the Tivoli Stadium and watch the home side play Freiburg. For 10 euros, we stood behind the goals and in front of a whooping great speaker. It was a different atmosphere than the grandeur of the Westfallon, however it did provide us with the second Lehmann of the weekend in the shape of Aachen captain Matthias. In truth, he spent the first 20 minutes looking like he'd won a fan competition to be a player for the day. However, he soon shaped up and the game was won by a goal from his team-mate Daun in the 83rd minute. I didn't get his first name. It was a good goal though.

That's it. Results and tables here.


Jan said...

Unless Tobias scared you off, I would warmheartedly suggest to not just start your trip in Cologne but actually watch a match there. Brilliant atmosphere + bad football, although as a Cologne supporter I'm still confident someone in the club is working hard to fix the latter.

I have a lot of respect for Hoffenheim's very well planned out and executed approach to building a football club from scratch and playing great attacking football while doing so. In a way it even proves that a franchise model type league like the major sports leagues in the US could work in Germany as well.

Though, the thing is that this club has been too successful too quickly and looks to be even more successful in the coming seasons. You just can't built a great passionate fanbase that way - it might still be a big one though. Bayern somewhat suffer from the same problem. Cologne fans e.g. had to go through a lot of pain and suffering, which in return they compensated by even more hope and believe in better times, which the fans then passionately communicate during the matches. But something like that obviously isn't a prerequisit for playing in the Bundesliga. But I guess a lot of fans would at least want a level playing field, and the random event of a billionaire forcing a club into the top division and "stealing" a place from another less fortunate club, is perceived as cheating and a great injustice by many fans.

Duffman said...

Hi Jan, We had planned to go to the Koln match but it was switched to Friday and sold out.

With regards to Hoffenheim, I think that many football supporters are quite conservative in outlook. The reaction to Hoffenheim has echoes of the general feeling of antipathy to MK Dons and perversely Wimbledon back in the day when they were scuttling through the divisions. The comparison doesn't stand up to much scrutiny but that sense of lack of history/un-deservedness is a familiar one.

Thanks for stopping by and for the link.


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