"I've been watching Victoria for years. Make sure you enjoy the currywurst and beer as it will be a miracle if you enjoy the football."
|SC Victoria Hamburg 3-3 Condor Hamburg. Stadion Hoheluft.|
No less an authority on debaucherous behaviour than John Lennon once said “I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg”. Before they were famous, The Beatles spent a lot of their time there, largely on the cities Reeperbahn which is known across Germany as the most sinful mile.
Sinful is the right way to describe it. It features a red light district, restaurants, back street bars, live music venues, theatres, brothels, strip clubs and sex shops. It isn’t hard to see why John, Paul George, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe – this was pre-Ringo when the Fab Four were the Not-So-Fab-Five – had such a good time in Hamburg.
|Hamburg Razvan Rathaus. A splendid building|
The city isn’t just good for those looking for pursuits that would require a three figure number of Hail Marys in the confession booth on the return home. It is also a cracking place if you are on the lookout for football and it isn’t just about the cities two big teams, Hamburger SV and St Pauli. Dive into the fifth tier of the German pyramid and you find Oberliga Hamburg, a regional league based around Hamburg that feeds into the Regionalliga Nord.
That means you can go to Hamburg on virtually any weekend of the year and be able to find some form of football to watch. And on this particular Thursday night, that meant a trip to Stadion Hoheluft in a north eastern suburb of the city to catch a Hamburg derby between Victoria Hamburg and Condor Hamburg.
|Herbertstrasse - part of that sinful mile|
Victoria Hamburg have been going since 1895 with little success of note, bouncing between the fourth, fifth and sixth tiers. They do have some pedigree in the German Cup in the last decade however, having qualified and faced Bundesliga sides FC Nuremberg, Vfl Wolfsburg and Freiburg as well as pulling off a massive shock by defeating second tier Rot-Weiss Oberhausen in 2010.
But there was plenty to do in Hamburg prior to heading off to Stadion Hoheluft which naturally involved that most sinful mile for “cultural purposes”. Those cultural purposes were namely visiting St Pauli’s famous home, Millerntor-Stadion which is handily placed at one end of the Reeperbhan.
|Some wonderful St Pauli grafitti|
Last time I visited Millerntor-Stadion was in 2010 when St Pauli were a Bundesliga side and Wolfsburg were in town. Back in those not-so-glory days when Steve McClaren was leading Die Wolfe, the Millerntor was halfway through a redevelopment with two shiny new stands featuring corporate boxes down one side and behind a goal. In the intervening five and a half years, the rest of the stadium has been completed and with it has gone the character of the crumbling terraces and old school stands. I am afraid that not even the famous anti-capitalist St Pauli have been able to avoid the lure of the corporate world and the money it brings in.
There wasn’t a lot going on at Millerntor on this quiet afternoon bar the bar being open and so after a hearty pint of Jever it was onto the Reeperbahn to sample a few (or seven) of the pubs this fantastic area of the city has to offer. Best of these was Zum Anker where, despite it being just 3pm on a Thursday a party was in full swing with loud 1980s music blaring out and women dancing as if it was 11pm on a Saturday.
That was too much for me, especially with a huge Hamburg derby to come and so it was off to Stadion Hoheluft. A 40 minute journey from the Reeperbhan via U-bahn and walk with the obligatory 10 minutes thrown in for getting lost left me arriving at the gates a matter of minutes before kick off. Or so I thought.
|Stadion Hoheluft and it's old school turnstiles|
|Welcome to SC Victoria Hamburg|
|Arriving just the hour before kick off...|
|Standard German urinal fun and games|
The communication breakdown that had made me one of the first people through the Hoheluft gates did have one upside however and that came in the shape of the stadium bar. Situated under the main (and only) stand, it was almost a pub in itself serving food, doing fantastic beer and featuring those wonderful gents urinals with a miniature football and goal which you can try and use your urine stream to score with. If the FA are genuinely looking for a way to mirror the German’s ruthlessness from six yards, then installing a set of these in every football ground in the country could be the way to go about it.
|The Victoria ultras gathered in force behind the goal|
There are far worse places to mistakenly arrive over an hour before kick-off and after putting away several more pints it was time to join the 203 other hardy souls on the terraces. Among those 203 were the ultras of both sides making as much of a racket as groups of approximately 15 people each can do. The Victoria hard-core support took their position on a small terrace behind one of the goals while the visiting Condor fans were on another small standing block next to the large main stand.
That main stand was elevated above a flat area and was home to everyone else in attendance bar a handful of folk who, like me, took up a tactical placing in front of it that allowed, a) quick and easy access back to the bar at half time, and b) a handy position next to the food cabin that was doing a roaring trade in excellent plates of currywurst. Just the two of those for me.
|The wonderful old school main stand|
|Currywurst for €3? That's going straight in my basket|
Opposite that was another uncovered terrace that ran the length of pitch but is only ever used when one of the big Bundesliga sides was in town. And judging from the comments of those around me, it will be some time before that happens again as despite Victoria sitting pretty in third spot in the league prior to this game, I was warned by one home supporter clearly channelling the spirit of Victor Meldrew that the game was likely to be schiesse as he questioned my sanity at being in attendance when there was plenty of other things to be getting on with in Hamburg. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but we both knew it was another reference to that mile of sin.
He’d dampened expectations nicely and it certainly looked like he had summed up his sides ability when after only four minutes that old maxim of “keep it tight in the opening exchanges” was thrown completely out of the window as Victoria’s perfectly named Torben Wacker decided to whack someone in the box, conceding a superb unnecessary penalty and allowing Alexander Krohn to give Condor the lead.
|Victoria giving away a penalty after four minutes was a wonderful|
start to proceedings
Needless to say, this didn’t please the German Mr Meldrew and neither did his side missing a succession of easy chances. The best thing about sinking to this level of football is that it is often punctuated by all manner of hilarious cock ups and after that ridiculous challenge to concede a spot kick inside five minutes, the bloopers kept coming, particularly from Victoria’s strikers who didn’t appear as if they’d be able to hit the posterior of a milk bearing animal with a string instrument.
You can imagine the surprise then as after a succession of chances that you suspect a bedridden grandmother would have done better with, Victoria not only equalised through Marcos Rabenhorst but then took the lead through Julian Schmid with only five minutes of the first half remaining. Quite the turn around and a defining moment if Victoria could get to the break with the lead intact. Of course they couldn’t as three minutes later Emre Coskun equalised. “Ich glaube nicht es!!!” cried my new friend.
|Excellent use of garden furniture going on in the home dugout|
German Meldrew may have been right in his assessment of the standard but he was certainly wide of the mark when it came to the entertainment levels on offer. But surely the second half couldn’t match the breath-taking pace of the first? Condor clearly felt it could as they took the mantra of “anything Victoria can do, we can do better” and subsequently gave away a ludicrous penalty of their own, this one inside three minutes of the restart thanks to the antics of Benjamin Kruk in goal. Marcel Rodrigues converted for the home side.
Not to be outdone with their fine efforts of throwing away a lead within three minutes of taking it in the first half, Victoria went one better this time as they allowed Condor to draw level within 90 seconds as Ibrahim Ozalp netted the sixth and final goal of a ridiculously enjoyable game.
There could and should have been more goals but again both sides finishing let them down but this was a wonderful advert for Oberliga Hamburg and the only way to celebrate and calm the nerves after an end-to-end encounter was by naturally heading back to the sanctuary of the bar.
|Post game shot anyone?|
|The mystical ceramic bull|
Here, the party was kicking up a notch with trays of shots going round and a strange green ceramic bull in full Victoria kit sat on the bar which nobody was able to suitably explain the purpose of. Had the option existed, I could have happily stayed at Stadion Hoheluft all evening talking football and taking selfies with the locals but unfortunately at some point the bar had to shut with McCarthy as one of the last people to crawl out of it and into the Hamburg night, significantly lighter in wallet but happy to have donated a large number of euros to such a superb club.
|My new Victoria Hamburg friend poses for his first ever selfie|
|A "you've got a Jogi Loew jumper on" selfie|
And where did that Hamburg night take me? Back to the Reeperbahn of course and that is I am afraid to say where the brilliant story of Victoria Hamburg versus Condor Hamburg must come to an end. For legal reasons, I am unable to report on what happened back on the Beatles favourite street.
All I can say about the nights activities is this: Hail Mary. Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary...Hail Mary….
SC Victoria Hambug: Tobias Grubba, Tarek Abdalla, Marcel Rodrigues 1, Vincent Boock, Jan-Ove Edeling (Mats Neumann), Torben Wacker, Matthias Ribeau (Luis Hacker), Len Stromer, Julian Schmid 1 (Kevin Zschimmer), Benik Carolus, Marcus Rabenhorst 1.
Condor Hamburg: Benjamin Kruk, Adam Hamdan, Alexander Krohn 1, Isaak Hoeling, Emre Coskun 1, Kevin Mellmann (Lars Ludemann), Mike Theis, Till Daudert, Max Anders, Ibrahim Ozalp 1, Stefan Klaes (Julian Kunkel).