A day at the football, 2. Bundesliga style
This extract has been taken with thanks from Two Men in Search of the Beautiful Game.
Sunlight is flooding into our room this morning as we both lie in bed, questioning if those extra beers at the hotel were a good idea following the Friday night frivolities at Rot-Weiss Essen. Although it's our second early kick-off in a week, an altogether more interesting proposition than an FA Cup game against Hull has us both in a far better mood.
It’s still cold – I think that is going to be a running theme this weekend – but instead of grey skies it's a brilliant blue. To borrow an expression from a certain Northerner: “there's enough blue to make a pair of sailor's trousers”.
VfL Bochum (VfL) of the 2. Bundesliga play in an agreeable blue and white, and their fans are visible at what is fast becoming our second home: Dortmund HBF. It would seem everyone and their mother is waiting for the same train.
We've not even had breakfast yet and everyone's on the beer. Some have even taken it up a notch: “he's on the JD and Coke”, points out Tom, and I’m sure I saw a woman with a mini bottle of Cava and a straw. Our ever-so-slightly delicate constitution means food will have to come before we can consider a drink.
Opposite the stadium a small, white trailer is already doing a good bit of business. What better way to start the day than with heaps of chips and a curry sauce-doused sausage? Ohhhh, it's good. I have to pinch myself when we cross paths with an expressionless builder – yellow hard hat and all. He's the mascot of one of the sponsors, and is followed by a large, blue mouse in full VfL kit. I wonder for a moment what was in that curry sauce...
With just under an hour until kick-off the Ostkurve is already tightly packed. We're quickly put to work when a fan approaches, a heap of scrunched-up material in his arms. He hands over some rope, and without a word we help to put up a banner.
The arrival of the home players kick-starts the drums, flag waving and cheers. With just over a quarter of an hour until kick-off the stand is almost full. People are walking up and down the gangways, looking for somewhere to squeeze in.
“That drum is wicked” comments Tom, as the drummer shows all the flair and skill of John Bonham somewhere deep in the crowd. As the teams huddle, the Capo and his accomplice point to different sections of the crowd, demanding more noise and asking them to match those right at the front, who are relentless.
It's the home team that comes closest to scoring in the opening minutes. It was so close to going in that a big chunk of the crowd celebrates until they realise otherwise. They aren't waiting for long, however, as with ten minutes gone VfL go ahead. A sweet curling shot following a knock down and the Ostkurve erupts.
Almost exactly ten minutes after the first goal, “toorrrrrrr!” rings out around the ground for a second time as VfL score again. This time the attacker rounds the onrushing keeper. He looks certain to be clipped and go down but remains on his feet, finishing powerfully into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
The half ends with VfL completely dominant, SV only having had one half-chance. A fan behind us asks me what I’m doing. “Are you writing a football diary?” As most other people chat, smoke and drink, I’m head down scribbling away – trying to recount all the things we have seen and heard. I explain and tell him about the other games we are going to in the Ruhr area, or “the home of football”, as he calls it.
As the crowds return, we see oversized cheese-covered pretzels hanging over one woman's arm like a giant's bangle. Tom is not empty-handed either. After a quick toilet break he returns with beer and pretzels, reconfirming what a good bloke he is.
VFL walk out to a reception befitting a team who have been so in control. They almost rubber stamp the victory when they a shot from a wide free kick bounces awkwardly in front of the SV keeper, who does well to keep it out.
With their first clear-cut chance of the game SV get a goal back. “It’s happening again” says Tom, as we both get the feeling we might see a repeat of the comeback from the away team at Essen. The visitors are now well and truly on the front foot, and VfL only have themselves to blame.
Things go from bad to worse. Less than ten minutes later things are all square. A mixture of good hold-up play, bad defending and a bit of luck allows SV's big unit up front to turn in the box and finish from close range. Two fans return from a beer run and are forced into a double take, looking at each other and back at the scoreboard with a ‘what the fuck has happened’ expression.
As we all know, a game is not won or lost until the final whistle, and this game proves that it has one final twist as VfL are awarded a penalty. “Simon Terodde! Simon Terodde!” chant the fans as the penalty taker prepares himself. No pressure, then.
Alan Shearer knew how to take a penalty. Now, imagine the opposite of one of big Al’s spot kicks and that might give you a good idea of how Mr Terodde took his. But at least it goes in. The keeper goes one way and the scuffed, rolled, bobbling shot the other.
The air is filled with a mixture of beer and confetti. Fans around us hug and celebrate with each other – it's a sudden release after all the tension that preceded the goal. The scorer runs to one corner of the pitch, followed by his teammates. “Simon Terodde! Simon Terodde! Simon Terodde!”
As if the match needed anymore more drama, SV have a late penalty appeal turned down. The bench are on their feet, flabbergasted. Heads are in hands, and some players and staff have even encroached onto the pitch. Thankfully for all concerned (in the home end at least) hearts are spared and the game finishes 3-2.
This German football lark really is a thing of beauty. It's addictive. They seem to do so many things 'the right way' – that being the way Tom and I like to enjoy an afternoon at the football.
There's more to come. Next stop is to see the yellow and black lot and their big bloody wall...
– Words by Daniel Magner. Photography by Tom Sparks.
You can follow more of Daniel and Tom's adventures through the football world at beautifulgame2015.blogspot.co.uk