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The Second Tier: Season Preview

13 Jul

Hi everyone, it’s been a while. Thanks to all for being so patient for the last month whilst I’ve been away but as promised, I’m back and ready for the start of the 2.Bundesliga season on Friday. Here we go…

It’s the 13th July. In just two days time, before the extremely successful Women’s World Cup has drawn to a close, Germany’s unified second division will kick off for a 20th time. It seems a bizarre time to be starting a season – in the height of summer – but when voted on, only tiny FSV Frankfurt opposed the motion. (Although Bochum gaffer Friedhelm Funkel didn’t mince his words when more recently slating the ‘shit’ decision.)

Of course then, FSV would be one of the four teams to get the ball rolling. The other three – East German outfits.

Last season was something of a renaissance for former DDR-Oberliga sides. Although 2011/12 will be the third year running that all eighteen sides in the top tier are from the former West, both Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden were promoted from the 3.Liga. With Union Berlin, Energie Cottbus and Erzgebirge Aue also there, the 2.Bundesliga will have five representatives from the former East – the most since the league was unified in 1992/1993.

Eintracht have required well since relegation

So what can we expect from this season, save for some feisty games between these Eastern sides and culture-club St. Pauli? It could be the most competitive promotion race in years. Assuming Eintracht live up to their billing – you can only get around 2/1 on them ending up champions – the fight for second and third could involve any two from around 10 teams.

The relegation battle could be equally as tense. The promoted clubs will be looking to get to around 37 points as quick as possible, and the teams that narrowly avoided the drop last season – Ingolstadt, Paderborn, Karlsruhe and the likes – are all likely to struggle again whilst teams like Union, FSV and even a side like Aachen could be dragged in.

So what do we think will happen? I’ll start with my expectations but please feel free to add to the debate below! It’s always a good laugh come May when we’ve accurately predicted nothing but our own idiocy.

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Tales from Austria and Bavaria – Part 2

27 Feb

Fürth – SpVgg Greuther Fürth vs FC St. Pauli

Feeling a little worse for wear on Sunday, we were off to watch the St Pauli promotion charge away at Fürth. After milling around in Fürth and drinking beer during the day (as well as finding out Leicester had beaten Middlesborough on the final day of the season), we headed towards the Trolli Arena (formerly the Playmobil Stadion) to get involved once more.

The first half for St Pauli was pretty much a non-event, really. Tremendous support from the home fans, who willed their team on with a constant wall of noise and saw them go in with a 1-0 lead over the visitors at the break. Pauli were not helped by a horrific looking injury to their ‘keeper early in the first half, either, whereby he lay out cold for a minute or two, got up, bled from the mouth and then collapsed in a heap after he tried to move. He did this twice more and didn’t move at all the 3rd time – something extremely concerning to see.

In the second half, however, they were unbelievable. To this day, the second half onwards remains one of, it not my favourite, football-experience of all time. They must have been given a proper volley of verbals because after the break they managed to score 4, have 1 disallowed and generally look a much more dangerous, purposeful, inventive side every time they went forward.

Inevitably, the second half performance lifted spirits in the St Pauli ends (the entire uncovered end behind the goal and half of each side stand – awesome following) also, and I would suggest that the second half atmosphere could only have been improved by having a roof on the away end. There was mass standing in both the seated area and obviously the terrace with a real non-stop party atmosphere, accompanied by a few beer showers after the goals!

At the end of the game, it was clear that barring a miracle, St Pauli were back in the Bundesliga. What followed was a large-scale, completely mental pitch invasion which was not policed in the Nazi-like way it invariably would have been in England. It passed literally without any trouble whatsoever. The Fürth fans were very respectful towards the Pauli lot, and they even applauded the celebrations. The police, of course, were taking pictures and filming the shenanigans… on participants own phones in the goal mouth! Had that been over here, there’d have been riot police and stewards charging at fans with battons and dogs to clear the pitch, with several hundred arrests and banning orders no doubt being issued. Not here. Photos in the goal area were encouraged and the police were chatting away happily to everyone, congratulating them on the win and even having their own pictures taken inside the area.

The Pauli fans stayed on the pitch for a good 45 minutes to an hour after that game, chanting, dancing and singing, hugging each other and generally just celebrating a brilliant achievement. Of course, the players both joined in with and started the songs – most notably Deniz Naki – and there were repeated calls for the manager to make an appearance, which he did. But I do wonder if they’d have taken part in England? Perhaps not, as they’d have been immediately ushered away down the tunnel, and even widespread media condemnation of such scenes later on.

It was a brilliant way to end an awesome weekend’s football. I managed to see 3 games with a total of 12 goals in two different countries, witness a team’s promotion to the top tier, a top-tier title win and take part in a full-scale pitch invasion – all for the price of just ONE Premier League game at Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford, and I know for a fact I had a much better time in doing so. It really is a different culture and a different world on the continent, and it’s one I’d recommend any real football fan take in and experience. I’ll certainly be going back. Repeatedly.

by Jamie Treadwell

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