Sunday, 6 March 2011

Germany - part 1

Saturday 5th March 2011

Today is a first for me with a day trip on the continent to watch football. It all started between Christmas and the New Year when I was messing about on Ryanair's website to see how much a flight would cost between Stansted and Weeze in north west Germany. A price of £30 return (including taxes and charges) was quoted and I mentioned this to Gary and we both booked our flights separately for the first Saturday in March. Gary is a regular traveller to Germany and has visited numerous grounds in the country so was able to point me in the right direction to a couple of excellent websites:
1) and 2) Euro Plan Online. We knew that both Duisburg and Bochum would be at home this weekend but would have to wait until the fixtures were confirmed to see if either would be playing on the Saturday. Once Bochum was confirmed for the Saturday (1pm kick-off) Gary booked the tickets (25 Euros) for us and we would collect them from the stadium before the game. He then found a second game seven miles away in Herne for a 3.30pm kick-off between Westfalia Herne and Duisburg II, but with less than a week before we were to fly out the fixture had been changed to a 3pm kick-off which put a spanner in the works. Not to be outdone Gary's knowledge of German football came to the fore and came up with another fixture for us to attend before our flight home that evening. More of this later.

An early start on Saturday morning saw us depart Leicester at 4.15am for the 105 mile journey to London Stansted Airport which takes around 90 minutes to complete. Nearly the entire route is on the motorway network (M1 and M11) and the A14 dual carriageway. The flight to Weeze takes around an hour and an a half with it landing at 10am local time.

Bochum is a city (population around 375,000) located in the Nordrhein-Westfalen region of Germany. The region itself, usually shortened to NRW is the most heavily populated (approximately 18 million), westerly and economically powerful. It was formed in 1946 by a merger of the Rhine Province and Province of Westfalia. These were two territories of the Free State of Prussia. A year later in 1947 the Free State of Lippe was incorporated into the region. It has a land area of 13,158 square miles and shares a border with both Belgium and the Netherlands. Dusseldorf is the capital, Cologne the largest city, while other notable cities include Bonn, Dortmund and Essen.

NRW Flag
map showing location of NRW
Bochum itself dates from the 9th century when Charlemagne set up a royal court at the junction of two important trade routes. It's first offical mention was in 1041 by the name of Cofbuokheim in a document of the archbishops of Cologne. In 1321 it was granted a town charter by Count Englebert II von der Marck, but until the coal mining and steel industries emerged in the Ruhr area it remained insignificant. A more detailed history can be found on the Wikipedia page by clicking here.

Bochum coat of arms
To be honest I had only heard of Bochum due to its football team and would not have been able to pinpoint it on a map, but it doesn't take long to find quite a bit of information about the town on the internet. From what I have seen and read it does seem a place worth visiting with numerous tourist attractions. These include the City Hall, Railway Museum, Altes Brauhaus Rietkotter (Old Reitkotter Brewing House) and the German Mining Museum. A pfd file on tourism in Bochum (taken from can be downloaded here: Discover Bochum. As previously stated we are only here for a few hours so did not have time to have a look round but it is somewhere that I will certainly consider visiting sometime in the future.

VfL Bochum is one of the oldest sporting organisations in Germany and they claim a founding date of 26th July 1848, when an article in the Markischer Sprecher newspaper called for the creation of a gymnastics club. It (the Turnverein zu Bochum) was formally established in the 18th February 1849. For political reasons the club was banned on 28th December 1852, but re-emerged on the 19th June 1860. In May 1904 the club was reorganised as Turnverein zu Bochum, gegründet 1848, with a football section not being added until 31st January 1911. After World War 1 the club merged with Spiel und Sport 08 Bochum to form the Turn-und Sportverein Bochum 1848. A split occured on the 1st February 1924 when the gymnastics section broke away from the other sporting departments under the name of Bochumer Turnverein.

The present day VfL Bochum as is known today was created on the 14th April 1938 when the Nazi regime forced Bochumer Turnverein to merge with Turn-und Sport Bochum 1908 and Sportverein Germania Vörwarts Bochum 1906. Today the sports club has around 5,000 members with the football section accounting for nearly half. Other sports include athletics, basketball, gymnastics and handball.

Before joining the Bundlesliga in 1971 the club played in various regional and local leagues, winning the Regionalliga West title twice in 1969/70 and 1970/71. From the mid-nineties they have consistently been a yo-yo side gaining promotion or being relegated eleven times between the Bundesliga and 2-Bundesliga. A breakdown of leagues competed in between 1939 and 1971 is listed below:

1939-45 Gauliga Westfalen
1945-49 Landesliga
1949-53 2-Oberliga West
1953-55 Oberliga West
1955/56 2-Oberliga West
1956-61 Oberliga West
1961-63 2 Oberliga West
1963-65 Verbandesliga Westfalen
1965-71 Regionalliga West

Their home is the Rhurstadion, which is also known as the rewirpowerStadion due to a sponsorship agreement that ends this year. It was originally opened in 1911 and had a capacity of over 50,000, but this was reduced after various modifications. The stadium was rebuilt between 1976 and 1979 and currently has a capacity of 31,328. The opening game after the building work was completed was against SG Wattenscheid 09 on the 21st July 1979. Ticket prices for adults vary between €11 (terracing) and €35 for the most expensive seats. 
Stadium exterior

Bochum fans

Karlsruhe fans celebrating their goal

This season Bochum currently sit in 3rd place after twenty-four rounds of matches and are only four points behind table toppers Hertha Berlin. Karlsruhe meanwhile are at the other end of the table finding themselves in 16th place and in a fight to avoid relegation to 3-Bundesliga.

There were no problems in getting to Bochum and we arrived with around two hours to kick-off. Parking the hire car was also a breeze as we parked adjacent to an Aldi store near the stadium for free. An added bonus with it being ideal to make a quick exit to get to our second game. On the other side of the road to the Aldi store was a small cafe / pastry shop in which we had a small lunch for €5 which consisted of a cheese cob, hard boiled egg, coffee, orange juice and a cake. Exellent value and it was no wonder they were doing a roaring trade. A short walk was then made to the stadium itself in which we firstly collected the tickets before walking round the perimeter taking some photos. The annoyance occured when I was entering the stadium itself as the security did not like my slr camera and I had to leave it at a security office and collect it after the game. To be honest I found this very jobsworth as there it nothing on Bochum's website that states that cameras (of any kind) are not allowed in the ground. As a note they did not stop Gary even though he was holding his camera like me and once at our seats the security or police did care that photographs we being taken - the police did not even mind him taking a photo of them!!! The stadium is enclosed on all four sides with the majority of the home fans standing on terracing behind the far goal, which was unsurprisingly full. We were in a section that had a few fans of both clubs which were outnumered by police, though probably being next to the terracing which held the Karlsruhe fans had something to do with it.

The game in a nutshell was a shocker. Considering Bochum are going for promotion they were very negative in their tactics. What I am going to write is to make a bad game sound good so do not be fooled. The opening chance came on 50 seconds when an Alexsander Iashvili shot flashed across the Bochum goal which would have given the visitors a perfect start. Bochum took time to get going and their best chance of the whole 1st period came on 16 minutes when two shots (from Umit Korkmaz and Giovanni Federico) crashed against the frame of the goal in the space of five second of each other. Two half chances in the final five minutes of the 1st half came to Bochum, but the first was saved by the Karlsruhe keeper and the second was over the crossbar by some distance.

At half time we asked ourselves if the 2nd half would be as bad as the 1st. Well for the majority of it yes. It was the visitors who were the better side for the better part of it and they who looked like to open the scoring. When they did it was in some style through Nigerian Macauley Chrisantus who hit an unstoppable shot past Andreas Luthe in the Bochum goal on 78 minutes. This finally woke Bochum from their slumber and they equalised with five minutes from time. A free kick was awarded some thirty yards out and North Korean international Chong Tese left the Karlsruhe keeper Kristian Nicht stranded with a piledriver of a strike.

Despite being only half full the atmosphere was much better than for example 30,000 in the Walkers Stadium (Leicester City FC). This is without doubt due to the sections of terracing. The Karlsruhe fans never stopped singing for the whole ninety minutes who (I believe) like most German clubs have someone who orchestrates the singing and does not watch the game.

Admission: €25
Programme: €1 
Badge: €3.75
Attendance: 14,684
Match rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 (mainly due to quality of the two goals)

A quick exit was had and we made our way to the car for game two in Dusseldorf. More in part 2 later.

A few more photos of the ground can be found here: VFLB
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