Ian Marshall, a Leeds United fan, not the scruffy ex-Oldham and Leicester City icon, tells us about his Matchday 29 trip to Bavaria – taking in games at the Allianz and at SpVgg Unterhaching’s Generali Sportpark – whilst becoming a closet Eintracht Braunschweig fan. Enjoy.
Saturday – 1860 Munich vs Energie Cottbus
I had been to Munich once before on a stag-do – with a group of like-minded people intent on seeing Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Imagine our delight then, when their game against Hamburg was moved to the Sunday evening, at exactly the same time as our flight back to the UK.
Surely on our return to Munich we would get to see them. And indeed, the fixture computer threw up an interesting Bavarian away tie at Nürnberg.
The weekend’s fixtures also offered up 1860 Munich vs Energie Cottbus – a seemingly inferior game but a chance to get to the Allianz nonetheless. The 1860 game kicked off at 1pm, with the Nürnberg – Bayern game at 4.30pm. Unfortunately, a 90 minute train journey between the two meant we couldn’t accommodate both games, so we took the decision to go see Die Löwen.
My knowledge of Munich’s second club was limited but dated back to a Champions League qualifier against my club Leeds United in 2000. 1860 fielded a strong team including Thomas Häßler, Paul Agostino and Martin Max, but eventually went down to an Alan Smith goal at the Olympiastadion. Since then, the club has suffered a fall from grace not too dissimilar to that of Leeds, and have played in 2.Bundesliga since relegation in 2004. A scan of the squad list yielded only a few names I had heard of, most notably ex-Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly, and former Germany striker Benjamin Lauth.
The night before the match we stayed at the Marriott München (actually cheaper than most hostels!) and on the Saturday morning we noticed the 1860 squad at the hotel preparing for the game, with one of the trainers hauling a tactics board through the lobby. I recognised a few faces, particularly Gabor (who was kind enough to pose for photos) and Stefan Aigner, the right winger who, despite having a haircut any League Two striker would be proud of, would go on to star later that afternoon. Regrettably, they were unable to offer us a lift to the game on the team bus parked outside!
We travelled to the game on the U-Bahn, with the ground in the north of the city, about 25 minutes from the main railway station and Marienplatz. The Fröttmaning station is around a 15 minute walk from the ground, and it was obvious as we made our way towards the stadium that the crowd was not going to be pushing 60,000. The stadium itself looks surreal and, with the sun beating down, almost inflatable. Built, as it is, on what can only really be described as wasteland there was no option really other than to enter the stadium straight away rather than try to get a beer outside. We purchased €14 stehplatz (standing) tickets, on the advice of some local fans, who were also able to get us in at a discount using their members cards. 1860 occupy the Südtribune (the opposite end to Bayern’s most vocal fans) and they had a good number of fanatical ultras slowly starting to gather behind the goal, already waving flags, banners and scarves.
Once the game eventually got underway, we were able to enjoy a beer and a bratwurst in the stand, a luxury which has been removed at English grounds. Whilst it was clear that most of the ultras had been drinking all morning, there was absolutely no hint of violence and unrest as you might expect at an English game – just a desire to get behind the team and make some noise. Even with my limited knowledge of German, it was still possible to pick up a few of the chants – most including Sechzig or die Sechz’ger(the club’s unofficial nickname).
It took 1860 just two minutes to open the scoring – defender Dominik Stahl popping up with a close range header to make it 1-0. Aside from a few half-chances for Cottbus, 1860 dominated the first half and added a second through Stefan Aigner. With Energie, who were a few places above 1860 at the start of play, 2-0 down, we were expecting a second-half fightback, but one never materialised. Tricky left winger Daniel Halfar laid on a third for Munich, and a second for Stefan Aigner, before turning the full back inside-out and crossing for Benjamin Lauth to make it 4-0. With almost the entire left side of the pitch to play with, Halfar was giving the Cottbus right-back an afternoon to forget. Ultimately Cottbus’ performance belied their league position, and 1860, roared on by their fanatical supporters, ran out easy winners in front of a crowd of 19,000.
At the final whistle, the 1860 squad came over to celebrate in front of the fans, with a microphone handed to Halfar (presumably man of the match) who orchestrated a few chants before the players started an impromptu moshpit. Whilst I was aware of this and had seen it before at ‘Gladbach, for me the interaction between players and fans is something that is largely and wrongly absent from the English game (certainly the Premier League) at the moment.
Sunday – SpVgg Unterhaching vs Eintracht Braunschweig
Sunday in Munich provided us with another intriguing game. With the day’s Bundesliga matches in Mönchengladbach and Leverkusen, and no 2.Bundesliga games in Bavaria, our only option was SpVgg Unterhaching vs Eintracht Braunschweig in the 3.Liga. A relatively newly formed league, 3.Liga joined teams from the Nord and Süd Regionalligas together in 2008. Perhaps the most well known sides in this division are ex-Bundesliga outfit Hansa Rostock, who have just been promoted as I write, Carl Zeiss Jena and Dynamo Dresden, both of whom enjoyed success in the 70s.
The game took on extra relevance when it became apparent that a win for Braunschweig would see them promoted. We boarded the Strasse Bahn at Munich Hbf whilst nursing our hangovers from the previous night. This weekend happened to be the Munich ‘Starkbierzeit’ in early April, or Strong Beer Festival. Each of the large brauhauses in the city brew a special 7%+ beer, and it was Augustiner Maximator, which we had enjoyed with the celebrating 1860 fans, that was making us suffer on this occasion.
Unterhaching play at the Generali Sportpark, a 20 minute ride into the suburbs of Munich. The team enjoyed a two year spell in the Bundesliga around ten years ago, and despite their size enjoyed good results against their city rivals. They even handed Bayern a title by defeating Leverkusen on the last day of the season in 2000. The club has a rich history as described in the book Tor! (Ulrich Hesse) – something I would recommend reading prior to any visit – but local fans told us the club was amongst the smallest in the league, and they were already pleased with their mid-table position for the season.
On the 20 minute walk to the ground, Braunschweig fans outnumbered Unterhaching fans, clearly expecting a big result. Both sets of fans shared a beer in the bars beforehand, which was refreshing to see, and it seemed even the SpVgg fans were wishing their counterparts well before the game. It took only a few minutes for Congolese forward Dominick Kumbela to give the travelling supporters something to cheer. Flares were set off, banners waved and an avalanche of fans towards the pitch gave signs of things to come. Despite the best efforts of Unterhaching, the rest of the game passed with little incident. Argentine playmaker Leandro Grech tried to dictate the play, but any chances created were squandered and Braunschweig were able to hang on to their lead and clinch promotion to the 2.Bundesliga.
There were incredible scenes at the final whistle. Initially the Eintracht fans lit flares on the terraces, before a set of Jürgen Klinsmann-esque dives from the players tempted them down from the stands. Around 2000 supporters spilled on to the pitch, and by quickly exiting our stand and walking round the back of the main stand we joined them, hiding our temporary SpVgg allegiances. Bottles of champagne were handed out, whilst the players took it in turns to drink beer from an oversized glass. The hardcore Braunschweig fans carried the players to the dugout, where coach Thorsten Lieberknecht was given a microphone and led further celebrations.
In the beer garden an hour later, the barbecue was lit, and both sets of fans (albeit some happier than others) celebrated together. A karaoke session of Braunschweig chants was quickly set up, and despite a few brave Unterhaching chants, Braunschweig partied into the evening. We took the opportunity to grab photos with a rather disconsolate SpVgg manager – the 1990 World Cup winning Klaus Augenthaler – before heading back in to Munich.
All in all, despite not seeing Bayern (again), we found the Allianz to be truly stunning, and the promotion party pitch invasion has turned me into an armchair Braunschweig fan. Perhaps next season it will be worth sticking to the German lower leagues, which offer just as much entertainment as the top European leagues, and welcome English supporters with open arms, even if they can’t understand why we are here!
On the pitch, things don’t look too bad for Die Sechz’ger (the ‘Sixties’ in Bavarian). With six games to play, they lie in a comfortable 9th with no danger of troubling the top 3 or indeed the bottom 3. For achieving all that, even after picking up an unwelcome 2-point deduction for a ‘breach of licence’ in October, their coach Reiner Maurer deserves acclaim. But that point deduction merely scratches the surface of a toxic concoction of off-pitch issues. I’ll cover that soon. A little (ok, maybe more than a little) history lesson and pitch matters first.
I’ll skip the first 100 years. (They didn’t play football for around 30 years and even after then not much happened, save for winning a single Tschammerpokal (German Cup) against Schalke in 1942).
The club’s first real success came in 1963 when it won the Oberliga Süd. In doing so, they were one of five Oberliga Süd outfits to be granted automatic entry into Germany’s new professional league – the Bundesliga. What gave their league title significance was that it prevented eternal rivals Bayern from entering immediately (despite finishing 3rd) as the German Football Association (DFB) did not want two teams from the same city in the new league. The 60s were definitely Die Löwen’s halcyon days with a second German Cup in 1964, a losing Cup Winners Cup final appearance (0-2 vs West Ham) in 1965 and a Bundesliga Championship in 1966.
From this point on came a period of instability, not just on the pitch (where they were relegated as far as the tier III Amateur Oberliga Bayern in 1982), but off it too (where they were denied a licence due to financial problems. A sign of things to come? You bet.)
Anyway, things picked up and in 1994, 1860 were promoted back to the Bundesliga, where they managed to spend a decade (including a brief Champions League appearance in 2000) before a disastrous 2003/4 campaign saw them relegated in their last ever season at the Sechzgerstadion, and the return of their financial problems. [Trust me: I can empathise with that exact situation being a Leicester City fan.]
Enough of the past for now, let’s return to the present. Following consecutive defeats to the promotion chasing duo of Erzgebirge Aue and Augsburg in mid-February, Reiner Maurer has seen his side’s form pick up. That is until they lost at Aachen on Sunday afternoon. In the meantime, they had managed to pick up 10 points from a possible 12, including thumping wins at Bielefeld and at home to Karlsruhe.
Central to this run has been Kevin Volland. Having stepped up from the reserves this season, the Germany U-19 striker has now bagged 5 goals and provided 4 assists in his short first-team career at the Allianz. The bad news for the Lions is that he’s joining Hoffenheim. The good news is that he’ll remain an 1860 player until the summer of 2012.
They can also field the fourth highest 2.Bundesliga scorer in Benjamin Lauth. The Bavarian-born striker, who has been capped 5 times by die Nationalmannschaft, returned to the club at which he started his career (1992-2004) in 2008, and has since established himself as club captain.
Ok, that’s enough of the good stuff. Unfortunately. 29 year-old Lauth is having the season of his career with 13 goals and an assist to date. Not that you’d know it. ‘Everyone is hoping and trembling’ he said last week.
The crisis that TSV are now facing is not a bolt out of the blue. They’ve suffered before and this time the issue has been brewing since that 2004 relegation and in particular the move to the Allianz Arena.
How have they managed to get themselves into such a state again? A culture of mismanagement seems to have plagued the club for decades, but big spending on players such as Abedi Pele, Thomas Häßler and Davor Šuker as their careers wound down in the 90s will not have helped their wage bill. With hindsight, chasing the Champions League dream around the turn of the millennium wasn’t particularly wise.
But this latest crisis is first and foremost to do with the stadium and subsequently, gate receipts. 1860 have been suffering from a worrying trend in attendance since their first season at the €340m arena:
This season the downward spiral has continued and whilst they can boast the 3rd highest average in the 2.Bundesliga, they are again way down on last year’s figure at a miserly 18 875. Perhaps this isn’t particularly unsurprising. Before they moved to the Allianz, their attendance floated around the mid 20s even in the Bundesliga, so half a decade of mediocrity in the 2nd tier will have done nothing to inspire the blue side of Munich.
This latest, sorry chapter in TSV’s history started when their late President Karl-Heinz Wildmoser made the awfully controversial decision to share the Allianz with Bayern. He was accused of all sorts including ‘selling-out’ 1860’s identity and was later caught, along with his son, in a bribery scandal involving the construction contract for the new stadium.
In April 2006, with TSV majorly struggling both on and off the pitch (trying to avoid relegation to the Regionals and insolvency), Bayern bought out 1860s 50% share of the stadium for €11m. Stefan Ziffzer, then managing director said this move had staved off insolvency for the time being. This lead to the first signs of discontent within Bayern fans – something that would again rear its head last weekend. Chairman of Bayern’s holding company (FC Bayern Munich AG), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was forced to defend the decision stating that it ‘was not done because of brotherhood or sympathy, it’s in our own self-interest.’
The contract stated that TSV could choose to buy back their share any time before June 2010, but in November 2007 they relinquished this right, a sign that they were not out of the woods. Time moved on and when a ray of light appeared in the form of the Schwarzer Group (a Berlin-based financial consultancy firm led by Nicolai Schwarzer), it was not long before things went black again as the DFL failed to approve 1860s investment plan in February 2009. A few months later, Schwarzer indicated that the deal was not dead and had merely stalled. He said that there was regular communication between parties, but gave no timescale.
Nothing much was reported between then and October 2010, when Kicker ran a story suggesting Schwarzer had invested around €2m in 1860, and in December 2010 he confirmed that he wanted to buy further shares and save the club.
In mid-March, 1860 were given a deadline. They had to find a significant portion of their debt by April 1st or bankruptcy loomed. Then on Friday, at the last minute, Schwarzer stumped up an extra €1.5m to pay the players’ salaries for March, thus preventing ‘Black Friday’ and a further 9-point deduction from the DFL.
Schwarzer has since said that he was told ‘the chapter of 1860 will have to close’ should he not provide the cash. Dieter Schneider, current 1860 Club President, can now afford to speak with more confidence and despite the club still needing around €10m to stave off insolvency, he has said that the club now has ‘four or five weeks to find a solution’ and that he is ‘99% certain the club will remain in business.’
The Future – See Part 2 Below OR click here