It all started three years ago. I’d somehow managed to rope five friends into joining me on a trip to Germany to watch some Bundesliga football, our main draw being the clash between Vfl Bochum and VfB Stuttgart.
None of us had been to Bochum before, nor did we have any connection with the place. But soon we were hooked. We’d paid exactly Eur 12.16 to stand (stand!) with 12,000 others on the Ostkurve, the beating hub of the Ruhrstadion.
Within four minutes, Bochum were ahead and though the visitors came back to take the points, the home fans were delighted. Down the road, Borussia Dortmund were busy dispatching league leaders and hated rivals Schalke, which meant that with only one game to play, Bochum’s opponents had leapfrogged them into top spot.
This was an excuse for a massive party, helped no doubt by the end of season Eur 1 beer promotion! All that said, I think the best thing to come out of the day was the friendships that were forged, friendships which have remained and multipled to this day.
From thereon, we started making regular trips to Germany, watching Bochum both in the Ruhrstadion and on the road. We’ve visited some great stadiums along the way in places like Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dortmund, all the time paying less than we would for fourth division football back home.
The away games are particularly fun. At the weekend, the Deutsche Bahn is transformed, everyone turns up with crates of beer and heads off to follow their team. One of the most memorable trips was that to Arminia Bielefeld. On arrival, we were met by a line of police, who rather pointlessly marched us to the ground. The police like to put on a show of strength at the football which is a complete waste of taxpayers money, but a good laugh nonetheless.
After a couple of years, we felt it was time to take things on to the next level. Fanclubs are big business in German football, the top clubs can have hundreds. And so, on 14th February 2009, Vfl Britain was born. What followed made the day doubly memorable. We had waited two years for our first Bochum win but it was well worth the wait. It was the Derbysieg against Schalke!
British based fanclubs of German clubs are very much a growing phenomenon. More and more people are growing tired of the endless hype around the Premier League being the best league in the world. This is a league where standing is verboten, having a beer in view of the pitch is verboten, flags are verboten and for which you have to pay a fortune just to get a ticket.
The Bundesliga isn’t without its problems, but it doesn’t have the highest attendances in Europe for no reason. It’s a highly competitive and unpreditable league, but here’s one prediction, once bitten, you’ll endlessly be yearning for more.
By Chris Nash