Sunday, 21 April 2013

VVV-Venlo v FC Twente. 21/04/13

"I know Japanese people are fanatical, but traveling halfway around the world to Venlo just to see Bobby Cullen sit on the bench? That is ridiculous."

VVV-Venlo 2-2 FC Twente. Seacon Stadion.
Sunday 21/04/13
The third and final game of the Dusseldorf 2013 weekend saw us venture across the German-Dutch border for a taste of the Eredivise at the marvelous Seacon Stadion - home of VVV-Venlo. The decision had come about through what is now bordering on a dangerous obsession with Schteve McClaren, who had been due to bring his FC Twente side to Venlo. We'd been kicking ourselves that we never saw the Wally with a Brolly manage at Twente in his first spell, so this was an opportunity not to be missed. Fate is a cruel mistress however and you've guessed it, he resigned two months before the trip.

How's that for a sustainable transport plan?
Luckily we had a back up reason to justify our attendance and that was Roland Bergkamp. The second best player in the Bergkamp family was on-loan to Venlo from our very own Brighton and Hove Albion and some typically creative e-mails from Rumble to the people at Venlo meant that not only did we have tickets for the game, but we also had a signed Roland shirt for our troubles. Winning already.

Wonderful floodlights
After an hour on the train and a 30 minute walk to the outskirts of town, we found ourselves entering a wood. Unlike Hansel and Gretel, we didn't come across a gingerbread house but in fact a stadium in the most surreal of locations. Security was tight as you'd expect from a top flight venue allowing us to walk straight into the ground for a look around, which to be more precise meant wandering into what the Dutch call a cafe but what you and me would more commonly refer to as a supporters bar. We spent 90 minutes in there pre-game sipping on Lindeboom, admiring the wonderfully garish yellow and black decor and receiving complimentary team sheets.

Lindeboom and a complimentary team sheet in the fans cafe
Seacon itself was like nothing you would expect from a top flight stadium. Not just the fact that it's woodland setting made you half expect Legolas and a band of elves to swarm onto the pitch bow and arrows at the ready, but also in it's design. Two small, roofed terraces were present behind one goal and down one side and they were familiar enough to anybody whose seen a League Two. The main stand was a single tiered effort built on a hill, in front of which were some seats cut into a bank. Didn't fancy sitting in your seat? Don't bother then, just stand on the large gravel path between the stand and bank and why not smoke a joint while you are at it.

Seacon Stadion
Some wonderful stand designs at Seacon
The other stand behind the goal was a similar affair to the main stand with the added bonus of a prison cell in the left hand corner where the Twente fans were quite literally penned. They spent the game making quite a racket however, which was no mean feat given how disappointed they should have been not to have Schteve at the helm anymore.

The Twente fans in their cage
But if the stadium was odd, then proceedings got a whole lot weirder before the end. Firstly there was a large gabble of Japanese women who had come purely to see the compatriot Bobby Cullen, who remained on the Venlo bench. Incidentally, that was more than Roland managed as he wasn't even named among the subs. And then there was the halftime entertainment, which featured around eight disabled people attempting to run with a ball from the halfway line and score. This was not put on for sympathetic reasons or to encourage education about disabilities, but purely for entertainment and naturally went down a hoot with the laid back locals - especially when the participants took it upon themselves to do a lap of honour of the ground much to the anger of the organisers who frantically tried to stop them with the second half minutes away.

Disabled people asked to run from the halfway line and score
made for an interesting take on half time entertainment
An impromptu lap of honour causes meltdowns from the
organisers with the second half minutes from starting 
As for the game, relegation threatened Venlo stormed into a 2-0 lead through Nils Roseler and Uche Nwofor. You'd have thought that would get the home fans blood pumping but as one local put it with brutal honesty at half time "no point getting excited, we'll just **** it up." By the hour mark that prediction had come to pass as two goals in a minute for Twent from Rasmus Bengtsson and Luc Castaignos rounded off the scoring as the game finished 2-2.

Don't feel like taking a seat? Just stand wherever you want
That was a serious blow to both Twente's hopes of European qualification and Venlo's of avoiding the drop. After the game we hung around the ground, becoming the envy of teenage Japanese girls everywhere by meeting Mr Cullen as well as Twente star defender and Newcastle United transfer target Douglas. Knowing that the ease with which we met the players afterwards would have meant that long dreamed of photo with Schteve would have happened had he not resigned, the only way to get over that disappointment was wandering into the town centre where there were a number of bars in which the Lindeboom again flowed.

Bobby Cullen fan club one
Bobby Cullen fan club two
Venlo itself was a wonderful little place. The main street was packed with a variety of drinking establishments, from dank and dark British style pubs to continental cafe bars with strong Dutch beer aplenty. Unfortunately, we had a train to catch back to Dusseldorf Airport which meant that we only got to experience a couple of these venues and Venlo really wasn't enjoyed to it's full potential. So if somebody at Brighton and Hove Albion is reading this, if you could do us a favour and send another awful player on-loan there so we have an excuse to go back it would be greatly appreciated.

Rumble and Douglas - nice bag
Dutch beer in Venlo. We didn't have time for a pint of each
VVV-Venlo: Niki Maenpaa, Guus Joppen, Marcel Seip, Nils Roseler 1, Jeffrey Leiwakabessy, Kaj Ramsteijn, Aleksandar Radosavljevic, Ahmed Ammi (Ricky van Haaren), Bryan Linssen (Oguzhan Turk), Yuki Otsu (Yanic Wildschut), Uche Nwofor 1.

FC Twente: Nikolay Mihaylov, Tim Breukers (Roberto Rosales), Douglas, Rasmus Bengtsson 1, Edson Braafheid, Felipe Gutierrez, Leroy Fer, Willem Janssen (Tim Holscher), Dusan Tadic, Nacer Chadli (Dmitri Bulykin), Luc Castaignos 1.

Attendance: 5,700.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Borussia Dortmund v FSV Mainz 05. 20/04/13

"Buying a denim jacket and covering it with badges would probably be the final straw when it comes to my wife thinking I'm having a midlife crisis"

Borussia Dortmund 2-0 FSV Mainz 05. Signal Iduna Park.
Saturday 20/04/13 
If football is truly like religion, then Dortmund has to be one of the great pilgrimages to make. To most of the world it is a pretty unglamorous industrial city in the Ruhr Area. To football fans it is the home of the biggest average home support in Europe, the remarkable Yellow Wall and Jurgen Klopp's exciting young team that has torn through Germany and the continent in the last few years.

The masses gather at Signal Iduna Park
Game two of the Dusseldorf 2013 Weekend was Borussia Dortmund v FSV Mainz 05. The wonderful transport system of the Fatherland did it's typically excellent job in depositing us in Dortmund after a 30 minute journey during which the previous days tiredness and hangovers were combated with that very German medicine of Jagermeister poured into cans of beer.

Dortmund branded beer being drunk in the ticket office
Signal Iduna Park has it's own U-Bahn station which they've used that well know German imagination to call Stadion. The ground itself is in the middle of a park with not many bars around but this, being Germany, is not a problem as fans (and children) just mingle on the streets around the ground drinking bottles and pints of beer which can be bought from street vendors and are Dortmund branded. You were even fully encouraged to sink a couple of these while queuing for tickets and let's be honest, it would have been rude not to adopt some of the local customs.

Child drinking a beer - as you do
The alcohol branding machine got even better inside the stadium with each beer being served in a plastic cup with a Dortmund player on. You pay a €5 deposit for one and then use it for the rest of the afternoon before returning it at the end to get your money back. Or in our case, collect the glasses so you end up taking home a set of ready-to-use pint cups featuring Mats Hummels, Marco Reuss and ultimately Herr Klopp which go down as well as a hog roast at a barmitzvah in the typically anti-German English pub.

New pint glasses for the cabinet at home
There are a few stadiums in the world that take your breath away when you first see them after climbing the stairs and catching your first glimpse through the entranceway at Dortmund is without a doubt one of them. Our seats were in the top tier, tucked away high in a corner looking down on the Yellow Wall on our right. The place was simply huge and when it filled up before kick off the atmosphere was electric, particularly when the 25,000 on the Wall whipped out their scarves and flags for You'll Never Walk Alone.

The Yellow Wall in full flow
Marco Reuss put's Dortmund 1-0 up after 60 seconds and
that's game over
For a big match you could imagine the noise inside the place being so loud that even Beethoven would have been able to hear it, but this wasn't one of those great occasions. With Bayern Munich having the Bundesliga in the bag, there was little to play for save a tune up for the small matter of a midweek Champions League semi final clash with Real Madrid and to make it even more of a non-event, it was effectively game over after just 60 seconds when Reuss put Dortmund 1-0 ahead. They added a second through Robert Lewandowski with five to play but in truth it was a meaningless game and it showed although that didn't stop the stadium rocking.

The Yellow Wall after the game
Signal Iduna Park
Afterwards we hung around and ventured onto the terrace and it's really only then you appreciate the vastness of not just that particular part of the ground but of the whole place. It was empty at this point and looking up the Wall was enough to give you vertigo. If you can imagine one of those epic movie scenes where an athlete runs up the steps of a stadium, then the scale of it is probably best summed up that if one of those scenes were shot at Signal Iduna Park, it would be over after a quarter of the terrace had been climbed when Sylvester Stalone keeled over from the effort.

On the route back to Stadion Station we stumbled across Sportwelt Dortmund, a large swimming pool facility which on matchdays bizarrely has a large bar opened right next to the pool. We took several pints in their, meeting some of our favourite types of German fans in the shape of the denim jackets covered in badges brigade. Despite the dangerous mixture of beer and a body of water, nobody took a dive in with the most risky moment being Rumble seriously considering buying a jacket which could well have led to a divorce on our return home.

Rumble's denim jacket heroes
The day was finished back in Dortmund city centre and Katharinentor, a delightful little pub a stones throw from the station. It showed the live evening game featuring the mighty Wolfsburg with the added bonus of Jens Lehmann on commentary. Katharinentor had a large array of beers and it only seemed right we tried to sample one of each, which meant we never actually left it to explore anymore of Dortmund before the last train back to Dusseldorf. And we even managed to avoid ending up in Mochengladbach this time.

Borussia Dortmund: Roman Weidenfeller, Lukasz Piszczek, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Gundogan, Nuri Sahin, Jakub Blaszcykowski (Kevin Grosskreutz), Mario Gotze (Julian Schieber), Marco Reuss 1 (Moritz Leitner), Robert Lewandowski 1.

FSV Mainz 05: Christian Wetklo, Stefan Bell, Bo Svensson, Nikolce Noveski, Zdenek Pospech, Julian Baumgartlinger, Yunus Malli, Marcel Risse (Adam Szalai), Nikita Rukavytsya (Marco Caligiuri), Shawn Parker (Nicolai Muller).

Attendance: 80,645

Friday, 19 April 2013

VfL Bochum v St Pauli. 19/04/13

"Bochum, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do, now you're in Bochum"

VfL Bochum 1848 3-0 St Pauli. rewirpowerSTADION
Friday 19/04/13
The wonders of German public transport mean that you can stay in one place - in this case Dusseldorf - and from there get to three different places in three days for three games of football. That was the plan for this particular April weekend as Rumble and I were to head to VfL Bochum v St Pauli on Friday, Borussia Dortmund v FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday and then over the border into the Netherlands for VVV Venlo v FC Twente on Sunday.

Schumacher Alt - a delightful beer in Dusseldorf
Dusseldorf itself was an excellent city which got even better when we realised that our double bed that had been accidentally booked was in fact two singles that could be pushed apart. No offence to Mr Rumble, but combining our night time bodily functions in one confined bed would have been like letting off a nuclear bomb. There were a huge number off beer halls in the city which we felt it only right to visit before the train to Bochum for game one, a 30 minute or so journey. The best of these was probably the Schumacher-Brau although it was unfortunately not named after either Michael or Ralf - a marketing trick missed if ever there was one.

Once in Bochum, we headed straight to the rewirpowerSTADION - a fine combination of random small and upper case letters - where we found an excellent pub directly opposite the stadiums tram stop called Ritterburg with memorabilia, beer and that standard item in all good German bars, the electronic dartboard. The joy was short lived however as the dart board didn't actually work.

The fan bar - with non-working electronic dartboard
There was a massive attendance for a 2.Bundesliga game, with nearly a capacity crowd of 30,000 packed into the stadium. It's single tiered all the way around with a home terrace behind one goal and the visiting St Pauli fans on a small piece of terracing in a corner. Despite the enclosed nature, the ground retains it's floodlight pylons and the atmosphere inside from such a compact yet large arena was excellent.

rewirpowerSTADION - excellent floodlight pylons
The visiting St Pauli support
The best thing of all however was the food selection. Germany is already renowned for it's food and beer inside it's football grounds but the selection of sausages at rewierpowerSTADION would be enough to get even Louie Spence excited. He'd also no doubt have been excited about Bochum's manager, a certain Peter Neurure who was not only sporting jeans in the technical area but a quite stunning squirrel's tail that he'd stuck on his top lip.

Little boy enjoying a pint of beer
You just couldn't turn down a nibble of sausage at those prices
It's obviously not just dressing like a 1970s porn star that Mr Neurure excels at as his side breezed past St Pauli with ease scoring three unanswered goals. Zlatko Dedic netted a first half brace including one from the penalty spot and Yusuke Tasaka was the other man on target in an extremely impressive Bochum performance.

Peter Neurure - by day Bochum manager, by night 1970s porn star
It was back into the town centre afterwards where we found a pub packed with Bochum supporters and partied the night away, including teaching them a new song in "Bochum, concrete jungle where dreams are made of" which we were promised would be used on the terraces at the next game. If it was, then we are truly sorry as in the cold light of a sober day it becomes clear that is the worst football song in history and that includes anything John Barnes-related. The combination of German beer and a wonderful clock that ran backwards led to all kinds of confusion and we only just made the last train back to Dusseldorf. Thinking that was that, we settled down for the journey only to both fall asleep and find ourselves arriving in Monchengladbach at midnight.

Backwards clock + beer + last train to catch = recipe for disaster
Bochum till we die
In England, this would have been a disaster but fear not, Borussia Monchengladbach had been at home that evening as well and that meant Football Special Trains running late into the night. What could have been a total cock up turned into no issue at all as we simply joined the Monchengladbach fans to return to Dusseldorf. God bless Deutschebahn.

rewirpowerSTADION in all her Friday night glory
You'll Never Walk Alone - Bochum style
Bochum FC provide vital life skills to kids, such as climbing
VfL Bochum: Andreas Luthe, Paul Freier, Marcel Malritz, Jonas Acquistapace, Michael Lumb, Yusuke Tasaka 1, Leon Goretzka (Christoph Dabrowski), Christoph Kramer, Marc Rzatkowski (Faton Toski), Zlatko Dedic 2, Mirkan Aydin (Michael Delura).

St Pauli: Philipp Tschauner, Jan-Philipp Kalla, Markus Thorandt, Christopher Avevor, Sebastian Schachten, Patrick Funk, Florian Kringe (Fabian Binge), Lennart Thy (Marius Ebbers), Dennis Daube, Fin Bartels, Daniel Ginczek (Akaki Gogia). 

Attendance: 26,072