I can now tick off another thing on my German Integration Checklist: Attend a local football match.
Fellow expat Scott (@papascott) invited me to join him at the HSV vs Stuttgart match last night and of course I jumped at the chance. I loved watching the World Cup and had, subsequently, wanted to attend a Bundesliga match.
It was a chilly and damp winter’s night but that didn’t stop 48,223 fans from turning up to a game in the middle of the week. But even with that many people it didn’t feel overcrowded. We arrived an hour before game time which gave us time to leisurely grab a drink & in my case a pretzel before heading to our seats. It also gave Scott time to warn me about what was about to happen – namely a local celebrity King Karl being hoisted up in the air on a cherry picker to sing HSV’s pre-game song ‘Hamburg, Meine Perle’ (Hamburg, My Pearl) during which all dedicated HSV fans stood up and waved their HSV scarfs in the air. It was, let’s say, an experience.
Despite being up in the top section, we had a great view of the game.
The camera makes it seem so far away but we had no problems seeing the players and the ball and regrettably the HSV players forgetting that the main aim of the game is to take the ball with them and not leave it behind.
Scott also pointed out to me the pen in which the opposing team’s fans are kept.
That’s them there in red with the line of police in fluro. Sorry about the somewhat blurry photo. The sad fact of German football is that to help prevent violence the opposing team’s fans need to be kept separated from the rest of the stadium. There were only about 500 Stuttgart fans in attendance, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in noise. They spent the entire game banging on drums, singing and chanting. I guess you need to be a pretty hard core fan to come all the way from Stuttgart for a mid-week game.
The game itself was pretty exciting. The teams were fairly evenly matched, both of them being at the bottom of the Bundeslinga table. Whilst the HSV team could get the ball to the goal, they just couldn’t get it into the goal, much to the disappointment of the fans. When they left the field at half-time after Stuttgart scored a late goal, the HSV fans actually booed their own team. I have to admit I have never seen a team’s fans actually boo their own team, but the HSV fans were not happy – and I can’t blame them.
During the second half, tempers were frayed on the field with a Stuttgart player getting a red card for what looked like a minor scuffle and a HSV player got a yellow card for trying to start a fight with a Stuttgart player. However, up in the stands the fans were kept happy by the mobile beer sellers.
Unfortunately the score line remained at 0:1 so I never got to see how HSV fans react to their own team scoring. However, it was nice to note that language is irrelevant at a football match ‘Yeahhhh!!!’ and ‘Awwww! are universal. As are hurling whatever abuse you feel like at the ref that missed an obvious foul.
Getting back to the train station was almost as exciting as the game itself whilst the arena tried to deal with over 48,000 people trying to leave all at once. Waiting for and then trying to get on the shuttle bus involved a fair dose of humour as we were basically herded like cattle. Fortunately, despite the loss, the cold weather and the large amount of people, everyone was laughing and I saw no aggression or even yelling, just good humoured comments about all of the above.
Thanks Scott for a wonderful night out! You might make a HSV fan of me yet.