A Day Trip To Dortmund

A work placement found me in Germany last weekend so I couldnt resist driving over a day earlier to catch some Bundesliga.
My intention was to catch a regional Bundesliga derby game between KFC Uerdingen and Essen.
However due to traffic on the autobahn I arrived late in the first half and decided to give it a miss.
My only other option was the game between Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach and despite being sold out, I couldn’t resist the appeal of such a fixture.

I arrived at the Westfalenstadium about 3 hours before kick off and set about trying to get a ticket.

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After an Immediate rejection at the ticket office I was approached by a fella offering me a seated ticket for €100. With a €50 note in my pocket left over from Munich the week but I’d already spent €6 on the parking so really €40 was my limit for a ticket. The chap wasn’t best pleased with my counter offer.

I still had ages till kick off and decided to stroll about and play the field, there was half a dozen fans needing tickets and all holding a sign saying “suche karte”. I soon witnessed one fan buying a ticket for what looked like 30€ so I decided this was the way to go.
So some beer packaging and a purchase from the club shop later..

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It took about 20 minutes but sure enough I managed to get a ticket. A Dortmund fan and his niece offered me their spare season ticket in exhange for my €40, it was in the famous terraced area in the South Stand. I was delighted and snapped their hand off.

The only downside I discovered after it was too late was that not only they needed to escort me in the ground, fair enough I’d not let anyone get their hands on my season ticket but once inside each section of the stadium had a second check so once I entered the block with them I couldn’t leave.
It also dawned on me that I only had 1€ euro on me and 2 hours till kick off.
The smart card top up desks didn’t take card like they did at the Allianz

However my season ticket friends realised my predicament and bought me a couple of pints pre game, a lovely touch.

After this I was at their mercy and agreed to stand on the terrace an hour before kick off with them.
I understand its a ‘thing’ on the continent but I cant remember the last time I was in a ground this early and certainly not this sober.
The terrace was almost full already so at least I was able to make the most of the experience.

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The South stand at Dortmund or The Yellow Wall as it is known is renown for its atmosphere and one of biggest capacity stands in the modern game holding 28,000 fans, all standing. The noise started as soon as the players came out to warm up and didn’t seem to stop till the final whistle.
A rousing moment came before kick off as the Dortmund fans sang their version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the one song that my season ticket friends enjoyed telling me I could join in with.

The game was excellent, a under par season for Dortmund so far but they really seemed to move up a gear here and could easily of won by more goals.
Monchengladbach were 3rd in the table before the game and looked threatening in spells but the game was decided by a freak own goal.
A 40 yard back back pass from World Cup winner and Ex FC Bochum player Christoph Kramer, looped in over his own keeper. I don’t think I’ll ever see a better own goal again.

At the final whistle the fans stayed behind and welcomed the Dortmund team’s traditional salute to the south stand with a ferocious wall of yellow noise.
German fans are so proud of their team, I stood on the block 13 section of the south stand where my season ticket friend proudly told me how he’d stood for every home game in the last 12 years.
He was even wearing a hoody that he’d designed himself with his initials on that read “Sidtribune block 13” on the back.
Before the game he laughed when I asked if Jurgen Klopp is still the man for Dortmund with them being joint bottom. “Of Course, we love him”, he said.

English Football could certainly learn from the Germans fans loyalty and faith in their clubs, as well as the whole experience of standing in modern football.
For me this is only the 2nd time I’d stood on a sold out terrace in my lifetime and yes there’s a couple of worries sure. I did witness a young girl get up from the floor looking badly hurt after the goal and it is a issue trying to get out mid game if you need a piss or a pint.
The atmosphere and experience it generates though far out weighs these issues and with a bit of work to prevent injuries standing has to be the way forward for football grounds in England.

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A Diary of a Bundesliga Tourist

Bayern Munchen Vs Borussia Dortmund
01-11-14

Sure its a grand old team to play for sure its a grand old team to support.
A song regular heard on merseyside I feel would be fitting anthem to describe FC Bayern Munchen.

It began with a 7am flight out of Heathrow arriving in Munich with plenty of time to soak up the pre match atmosphere of what is German football’s ‘Clasico’ game in the football calendar.
Today showcases 6 players who played in the World Cup final and in arguable the best football stadium in the world, the Allianz arena.
As far my ground hopping career reads so far this certainly is the jewel in the crown and I was excited.

Before kickoff the Munich’s beer halls were over run with a blanket of yellow. Dortmund’s fans who had made the 500km journey in numbers were in Jovial mood thanks to locally brewed Augustine beer at 3.60€ a pint and 6.90€ a stein (a 1L glass) .

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The journey to the ground was simple enough, a train from one of the cities main stations (Marieneplatz) taking about 20 minutes.
Understandable it is packed even 2 hours before kick off, Germans fans like to arrive at their stadiums early.

As the Allianz Arena, a magnificent 80,000 capacity stadium glows on the horizon. The stadium approach is packed with merchandise laden fans. Replica shirts, scarves, baseball caps , flags, seat cushions and even lunch boxes. Ive never seen such a wide affection for club merchandise .

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Once inside the ground there’s a variety of bars selling Pauliner beer and a variety of sausages reasonably priced too with similar prices to the pubs in the town, no wonder the fans like to arrive so early.

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Like many other stadiums in Europe you need a smartcard to purchase items inside the ground, this helps speed up the queues, even 5 minutes before kick off and at half time I was only queuing a few minutes for service.

My ticket was in the North stand behind the goal and cost €45.
The south stand lower is where Bayern’s Ultra fans stand on a terrace holding around 4,000 fans.
The away section is in the North West corner of the ground and held the flag waving Dortmund fans of similar numbers who were vocal through out the game.

My seat in the North stand behind the goal there was also home to visibly hundreds of Dortmund fans scattered through out the section all wearing club colours and allowed to support their team with out incident.

With the quality on both sides apparent in the starting lineups the first half lived up to its billing. Bayern created many good chances mostly through Arjen Robben who was a constant threat however the home side were foiled by valiant Dortmund defending thanks to an inspired performance from Matt Hummels.
On 36 minutes the deadlock was broken and it was Dortmund who took the lead into the break with an excellent diving header on the counter attack from Marco Reus. Que wild hysteria in the upper corner of the crowd as well as pockets of yellow dotted all around the ground.

Half time : FC Bayern 0 Borussia Dortmund 1

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During the interval I had plenty of time to frequent the gents and stock up on a couple of pints to take back to my seat. Yes drinking at your seat is allowed in the Bundesliga so I took full advantage.

Matt Hummels didn’t reappear for the 2nd half due to injury allowing Bayern to slowly dominate the game and the resilient Dortmund defence was beginning to crumble.
The Introduction of Frank Ribery on 70 minutes proving the catalyst and just 2 minutes later Robert Lewandowski pounced on a stray pass inside amongst the Dortmund defence and drilled it home from the edge of the area.

Bayern with the momentum pushed forward in numbers and substitute Ribery got in behind the Dortmund defence only to be bought down in the area which Arjen Robben duly converted to give the lead with just 5 minutes to go.

Each goal for Bayern was marked with the most horrendous goal music i’ve ever heard.
Its Bayern’s own song with the words surprisingly in English. Think a cross between “Rainbow – Since you’ve been gone” and “Is this the way to Amarillo ” at Oktober fest. The Glen Daley classic, surely would be more fitting.
During this the stadium announcer shouts the goal scorers first name while the home fans en mass chant the surname, a redeeming touch.
Full time and Bayern take the spoils with a 2-1 victory, an entertaining game but it was a shame for the spectacle that Dortmund crumbled in the 2nd half allowing the 2 soft goals.

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The walk back to the station wasn’t as painful as I was expecting, there was heavy crowds getting trains back to the city but it was marshalled well with an automatic gate stopping the station becoming to swarmed with fans but this did allow some order and the crowds moved through quite quickly.

By the time I’d made it back to the city centre it was 10pm and I decided to end the night in a Italian restaurant dining with some Dortmund fans I’d met before the game.

It had been a special day, if nothing else being able to witness so many world class players perform in a massive game with the Bundesliga match day experience always being so enjoyable.
The atmosphere at Bayern Munich is somewhat tame compared to my visit to Eintracht Frankfurt last year and I’d Imagine its like this compared every other club in the top divisions but this was to be expected and the class on the pitch makes up for it.

Also worth a visit for a football fan in Munich…

Stadion Bar
I was searching for a bar to watch the Manchester Derby and just as I was setting off to the nearest Irish Bar I came across this place.
Every inch of wall space is covered with scarves,shirts,pennants and photos from clubs around Europe.
The bar is fair size but has 3 big screens all capable of showing different games.
Spaten beer on tap at a very reasonable 3.50€ , they also serve food. I had the biggest Schnitzel I had ever seen.

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I cant wait to return next time In Munich with a Wolves scarf in hand to go on the wall.

World Cup Diary – Day 16

I staggered to bed at 1am the previous night and had the worse night sleep in the last 2 and half weeks . The reason being I went to bed with responsibility again knowing I had to be up on time to catch a coach to Rio, then fly back to London in time to go straight back to work starting at Glastonbury Festival. People were relying on me.

I made it to the coach station in good time with Liam, Dave and Bill in tow, they had decided to head to Rio early with me and soak up a little extra time on the Copacabana before they fly home in a weeks time. I had agreed to let Liam have my France Vs Ecuador ticket as he had only seen 2 games so far while the rest of us had seen 4. However sadly there was no more seats available on my coach so they had to settle for the 11am coach to Rio and thus missed the game.
I said my goodbyes and started my final journey solo.
I was knackered, hungover and weary and spent most of the 8 hour journey catching up on sleep.
I woke with a hour to go as we entered the city and pondered how I would get to the airport.
It was at this point I realised I had booked a flight months ago from Belo Horizonte to Rio that I’d forgotten about and would of seen me at the airport I needed to be at without the need for a transfer from the coach station and of taken 2 hours instead of 8. I only booked this coach a week ago in time to make the France game.
Never mind, there had to be only cock up on the trip .
The coach arrived into Rio at about 3pm and I arrived at Rio international Airport for 3:45pm.
A part of me had the urge to leave my baggage in left luggage and head to the Maracana for the 5pm kick off but in mind my trip was over and I just wanted to get home.

I came across a TAM airways desk and managed to refund some of my future flights I’d booked in case we made it to the latter stages. A small financial compensation even if is going to take 40 days to refund me.

I was expecting Rio airport to be vast with plenty to do and good shopping but it was sparse and terrible. I managed to find for a final time a all you can eaten buffet and filled my plate while watching the France vs Ecuador game. To my relief it ended a forgettable 0-0.

Im writing this a few weeks after coming home and the remaining games I had tickets for Germany Vs Algeria and Argentina v Belgium and apart from a vibrant extra time period in the Germany game both seemed uneventful games and far from the World Cup classics I had hoped for.

Maybe i made the right decision after all.

Eventually it was time to check in on my flight. I took one last look at Brazil from curb side at the taxi rank. The lights of the favelas twinkled in the darkness and I breathed in the humidity in the air. A fella came up to me and kept asking to shine my shoes, I was wearing trainers but he kept insisting he would scrub them, despite telling him to do one he wouldn’t leave me alone and thus ruining my moment. I headed to the departure lounge in a huff.

The overnight flight to London was more pleasant than I was expecting, whilst booking I paid a extra $50 with British Airways for an economy comfort seat and it was well worth it.

Managed to get about 6 hours kip and the flight went quickly. Bleary eyed I landed at Heathrow and this image made me realise my adventure was over and real life dawned on me.

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No doubt the best 2 and a half weeks of my life, the most fun i’ve ever had meeting some great people along the way.
A dream holiday you could say in a hot country with beautiful women which revolved around football. Roll on France 2016, I’m hooked.

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World Cup Diary – Day 15

Its my penultimate day in Brazil and England’s final group game and subsequently our last participation in this World Cup, I was determined to have a good time in a last day of the season kind of way.

I was up at 8am for breakfast then headed over to Kai and Sarah’s hotel for a few pre match beers while we waited for their tickets to arrive from Viagogo. We were joined by Simon and Delaney who’d caught a overnight coach from Rio. Our full Manaus gang was back together, it was set to be a great day.
Come 11:30am and with just 90 minutes till kick off Kai’s tickets still hadn’t arrived and things were beginning to get frantic. It took me a while to get to the ground for the Argentina game and 11:30am was my cut off point to make a move.
As a group we decided to do it and jumped in two taxis hoping to pick up 2 tickets for Kai and Sarah outside the ground.

We arrived at the ground at 12:30 and needn’t have worried, Kai picked up a pair off the same scousers he had sold his extra Uruguay ones to a week ago so they gave him a good deal.

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We marched up the long road to the ground through various security and ticket checks and made it in the ground just in time for the anthems. It was a glorious hot day close to 29oC and the England supporters section was basking in direct sunlight.

As we arrived late and with England’s ‘stand where you like’ attitude we found ourselves in the gantry between the lower and upper tiers. There was some locals stood in front of us on the back row of the lower tier looking very confused with this.
It was a real party atmosphere , I was worried they’re might of been some empty seats with rumours of people flying home or staying in Rio or maybe boos and attacks on the team but this was far from the case. “Always look on the bright side of life” rang out from our fans who once again didn’t stop singing all game.
The game was a bit of a dead water, Daniel Sturridge had a poor one and missed a handful of chances that would of clawed back some pride to sing about but we didn’t need any , all the fans were in great spirits, lads we bumped into throughout the trip were present and it was good to see them and find out their plans for the rest of the tournament.

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As the game drew closer to a dire stale mate the England fans attentions switched to winding up the neutral Brazilians who grew more and more annoyed at our continued laughable boycott of their attempts at a Mexican wave, then as the team came close to a goal at our end causing a pint pot going skyward covering a section of Brazilian fans sat down just a few yards away from me, the death stares a dozen of them gave us was comical and it was only a matter of time before another pint got thrown in their direction. They were’t restrained the 2nd time and about 6 of them charged up the seats in our direction. Just as it looked to be getting a bit nasty the Brazilian Militaria stormed in and its surprising how quickly things calm down when there’s dozens of tear gas rifles being pointed in your face.

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The final whistle blew on the game and also signalling the end of our World Cup.
Personally I was looking forward to giving the team a good ovation to send them home, I’d appreciated their efforts in trying to play a different style of football than that we’ve had to put up with in South Africa and the Ukraine. Although it got us through to the latter stages it was dull and uninspiring, a park the bus mentality if you will.
Here in Brazil the team had tried to create chances, no more so than in the Italy game where we really could of won and the whole campaign might of been different.
It boiled down to us not being good enough , tactically and playing as a team, not to mention key players having poor tournaments.
However I feel this is a real stepping stone to better performances in the future and French and Russian tournaments look a bit more rosy.

The previous two games had seen the players (Joe Hart an exception) skulk off with not a lot appreciation to the travelling support, which hadn’t gone unnoticed.
Today was different , led by Steven Gerrard and Roy Hodgson the whole squad came over to our corner and applauded us for what could of been a full 5 minutes while we rousingly sang our appreciation. “LA LA LA LAAAA ENGLAND” to the tune of The Beatles – Hey Jude”

Looking back on this trip, I’ll never forget that moment, it was truly heart warming.
We filed out the ground and managed to breakout the cordon into a local bar i’d discovered after the Argentina / Iran game. It was here over a few Brahmas we learnt of Luis Saurez’s actions in other game of the afternoon. I felt a rather selfish satisfaction knowing he’d surely get banned and miss the rest of the tournament.

Once the crowds had died down we wondered down to the nearest main road and managed to grab a taxi back into Belo Horizonte.
We spent the evening in Kai’s hotel bar, drinking are last Caiprihinias and consuming all the local produce we had left . I’d made some great friends on this trip, so much so that I spent more time with these guys than the original mates that I came out to meet in Sao Paulo.
We made plans for a holiday and also for the Switzerland game , the first of the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

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World Cup Diary – Day 14

Waking up early refreshed after what was literally a day off from Brasil yesterday (if you dont count the terrible local pizza) I was ready to make the most of what turned out to be my last free day in Belo Horizonte and Brasil. A mix of work commitments and with England’s early exit I have decided to head home 10 days earlier than planned and book a direct flight home from Rio in 2 days time.

A sad ending but I’ve had such a great time in the past 2 and half weeks, Im happy to accept an early end and with England being the main reason I’m here everything else was a bonus anyway.

Decision made I headed into town for a quick browse of the shops on a souvenir mission before stumbling across the Englandfans hub in Belo Horizonte , aptly named “The Lions Den”. Despite full of like minded England fans, the food beverages were priced a premium compared to local bars and there was an annoying token system but past that it was a decent place to watch the Brazilian game without any cocky locals about.
I spent most of the day here watching both the Dutch and Brazilian games. There was entertainment from the likes of Chris Kamara, Tony Gale and Soccer AM’s Tube’s who were all in attendance hosting competitions and telling stories to pass the time between game breaks.
However the atmosphere in the pub was very sombre as “night before the game” nights go. This is first time I’d come across England fans on mass since the Sao Paulo defeat and our inevitable exit from the competition and it showed, with a much less jovial and excitement for game amongst the fans.

By about 9pm I decided to turn in and head back to the hotel for the night. The early kick off was looming in the morning and I wanted to make the most of my last game at the tournament

World Cup Diary – Day 13

Today was a write off I’m afraid thanks to excessive partying the night and morning before.
I managed to stir just in time for the Portgal vs USA game and ordered a Pizza and X-Burger as a hangover cure midway through the first half time.
By full time it had still not arrived, went down to reception to ask them to call them and thats when he instantly arrives while they’re were still on the phone, of course he does.
Ive not really warmed to Brazilian food at all since I’ve been here and so have ate very little of it, the pizza arrived heaped in Bolognese sauce, so much so that the steam on delivery had made it a soggy mess, fortunately the X-Burger never fails to disappoint, a diamond in the rough in local cuisine, a simply dirty burger with bacon egg and cheese, in this instance it bizarrely came with sweetcorn and noodles on, I scraped them out and it was still fine.

After that I soon headed back to sleep for a early night and recharge my batteries to start the week.