So, the project is complete now. I went to two games over the weekend, both of them in the fifth tier of German football, the Oberliga Nord.
On Friday afternoon, it was an easy one to get to. Just a few stops on the S-Bahn and a ten minute stroll to see SV Lichtenberg 47 v SV Victoria Seelow at Hans-Zoschke-Stadion. It’s got another name right now, the name of a sponsor, but let’s just use its former name, for it was named after a resistance fighter killed by the Nazis in 1944.
It was eight euros to get in. Most of the stadium is grass-covered terrace, with a small section of seating in the middle of one side. At one end, there was a little bar. Outside the bar, a couple of stalls selling more beer (€2.50), sausages, and merchandise. I bought a pin for my collection to commemorate my Eleven Berlin Teams Project. The pin was €3.47. I liked the use of “47” there. (Photo of all of the pins from The Project teams at the bottom of this post.)
Beyond the trees at the other end of the stadium is where the Stasi headquarters used to be. This city, man, it’s got some history, and it’s kinda cool to have lived here for the best part of a decade and still see things I didn’t know about.
I saw a few people with clothing that referenced the two biggest teams in the city, Hertha BSC and Union Berlin. Lots of people in crowd (attendance: 349) seemed to know each other. I guess with these teams with smaller attendances (it was 349 that game) must foster that. It’d probably be quite lonely going to games alone like I’ve been doing, if you were going to the same stadium every time. People seemed happy there, which was nice to see. It was a decent enough game. The home side won 1-0. When they scored, they played Zombie Nation over the speakers.
After the game, walking back to the S-Bahn station, I had a nice feeling. A bit smiley. Just one game left.
And that one game was the next day. Tennis Borussia Berlin v FC Hansa Rostock II. When I was planning the project, with possible dates for every team, there were only really three fixtures that stood out. For negative reasons, the Dynamo game, and for positive reasons, the 1. FC Union Berlin game and this Tennis Borussia Berlin game. I’d often thought, back in the day, that I should go and see Tennis Borussia play. Their fans are known for being lefty, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia. And they play in purple. Always a winner, a purple kit. Not sure why I never did that. Laziness, I guess. Not appreciating the city I lived it. And, probably more pertinently, not appreciating the joys of going to lower league football. If I wanted to see a game back then, it just felt natural to go to the Olympiastadion. More for the building that Hertha BSC, really.
“TeBe” play at Mommsenstadion, in the former West of the city. Quite close to the main bus station if you’ve ever arrived in Berlin that way. There’s a nice wee walk from the local S-Bahn station through a bit of a park. It’s another one of those stadiums with one grandstand, lots of terracing, and a running track. Six of the eleven teams in the project play at stadiums with running tracks. And over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten a bit used to their presence. Still not as good as a football-specific stadium, but, y’know.
It was a shitty day. Quite a lot of rain. Plus, Easter Saturday seemed to have affected the attendance. It was the lowest home attendance of the season for TeBe, just 285. They have averaged 439 this season, which is the highest average attendance in the league. The stadium was bullt in 1930 and renovated in the Fifties. And the entrance (€8 to get in) and main stand are very attractive.
The vibe in there was good from the off. You could see it people’s face, their manner. Nice people. The speakers played Method Man, Susanne Vega, and the Pixies. The place where one could buy sausages had a vegetarian option. There were sparrows flying around, perching on the fence between the grandstand and the field. Like they knew it was a nice place to hang out.
The atmosphere of a small crowd on a rainy day was very much aided by TeBe getting off to a cracking start. It was 1-0 after four minutes, 2-0 after six. I drank a few beers (€3), had a walk around, and yeh, this place is nice, I like it here. I was glad that the schedule of The Project had this game as the last one. As I walked away from the stadium, I could hear the PA playing “Caravan of Love” by the Housemartins.
So there we are. The Project is done. It’s been an absolute joy. Going to places I’ve never been before, train stations I’ve never used, seeing fans of lower league teams. Doing this was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had, I think.
I’m quite sure I’ll go to some more games before the season is over. I’ve got used to having football in my life regularly. Indeed, including the two non-canonical games, and not including the Hertha BSC game (part of The Project, but I’d not thought of doing the Project until three weeks after going to that game), I’ve seen a game every 2.4 days on average. Excluding non-canonical games, I saw three wins, three draws, and five defeats for the home teams. 3.6 goals per game.
Every team has more games going on between now and the end of the season, but there are some that are more attractive than others. I’d happily go to another Union game, but probably won’t. They’re pushing for promotion (third place, two points off automatic promotion with five games left in the season), so tickets are hard to get, and me buying a ticket is taking a ticket away from a real fan for whom those games mean a whole lot more than they would mean to me. I want to see two other teams again, though.
In the modern world of sports, I find it increasingly difficult to separate my politics from sport. It’s wrong that citizens pay for new stadiums when teams and their owners make huge profits. I don’t wanna support teams that have shitty owners. That thing of sport being something to get away from your normal life, I think I can only really do that in my brain if there’s not a kernel of annoyance there. There were times in the last couple of seasons going to see my local football team (Cruz Azul) and my local baseball team (Diablos Rojos) in Mexico City when the owners have done shitty things, and it’s like a splash of piss in the beer of enjoyment.
So I’ll spend my money at Tennis Borussia Berlin or SV Babelsberg 03 games in the next few weeks. The teams with the cool lefty fans. One of those two teams will undoubtedly become “my” team at some point. Right now, though, I’m happy to dig both of them and make the most of the remaining weeks of the football season.
The Eleven Berlin Teams Project:
Hertha BSC v Eintracht Frankfurt, (25/2/17)
FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin v 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig (18/3/17)
FC Hertha 03 Zehlendorf v SV Lichtenberg 47, (19/3/17)
Berliner AK 07 v FC Schönberg 95, (22/3/17)
VSG Altglienicke v FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin, (25/3/17)
Berliner FC Dynamo v Hertha BSC II, (29/3/17)
Hertha BSC II v FSV Union Fürstenwalde, (1/4/17)
Charlottenburger FC Hertha 06 v 1. FC Frankfurt, (2/4/17)
1. FC Union Berlin v Erzgebirge Aue, (5/4/17)
SV Lichtenberg 47 v SV Victoria Seelow, (14/4/17)
Tennis Borussia Berlin v FC Hansa Rostock II, (15/4/17)
Another good Word podcast recently with Tessa Niles and Gina Foster about backing vocalists. Worth a listen if that’s your sort of thing.
The song in my head when I woke up this morning
Only You by Yazoo
On this day
The Supergrass biopic was on telly last night, 18 April 2016
Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article