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!