SV Sandhausen 4 v 1 FC Sankt Pauli:
I found myself finally looking forward to a match this weekend. With the majority of matches having been scheduled for Friday and Monday nights, a certain amount of the joyful anticipation for going to the football has disappeared for me. A great deal of why I go is related to seeing friends, whether those travelling from NRW like myself or Hamburg-based mates. This ridiculous situation of rushing from work to games on a school night, means the fun is lessened unless the football or atmosphere particularly good is (a rarity this season). Various friends are taking breaks from football or have given up all together. Suddenly spending all that money on tickets and travel, alone, loses its appeal. Yet this weekend two friends had returned from travelling. A chance to reclaim the fun of going to football.
We set off blissfully late in the morning (even time for breakfast!), having sorted ourselves a rather spacious rental car. One cigarette break on the way, and we had the snow covered Sauerland behind us and were soon in Sandhausen. There wasn’t however much to see. We were directed to a carpark in a field, which was followed by a pleasant, if a little cold, walk through the woods to the ground. There was no beer on sale outside the ground (new caterers who appeared to have only ordered 3 crates of beer for the match), so we headed in. Inside the ground it was no better. No food, and only low-alcohol beer. I don’t mind the lack of alcohol, but a lack of flavour is a bit of a nause.
The rather narrow terrace behind the goal was already full, so rather than fighting my way through the crowd to where my group and USP were stood, we joined a few ex and current Fanladen bods in the paddock. It was freezing cold stood in the shadows and not a great deal of fun. I thought standing there might mean a little old school support, with chants and beer, but it was a disappointment. The beer as mentioned, was verging on undrinkable, and a view across all sides of the ground caused sadness too. The place was full, but only the small ultra patch of the home and away support showed any interest in singing. Elsewhere fans stood or sat, with no interest in generating an atmosphere, seemingly completely ignorant to the appeals of their respective ultra groups to join in.
Ok so it was cold and St Pauli were awful, but something seems to have gone stale in German football (I wouldn’t restrict it just to recent matches with Sankt Pauli). Only the ultras make any attempt to sing, the others seemingly relying on them entirely to create an atmosphere. Even in the ultra section, it often seems to be mimicking what a lively atmosphere would look like. Gestures, flags, singing, but only really with half the effort of real emotion. The more traditional support either seem to have forgotten what singing was like, or didn’t have any of their own songs in the first place. From our part of the ground, the only noise was the odd chant of “Sankt Pauli!” and extremely lily livered attempts at the “wir sind Zecken” song and You’ll Never Walk Alone. People can whinge on about the state of atmospheres in England, but I cant help thinking things are heading in that direction in Germany too. We need to wake up. We need to either find simple, short, staccato type chants, or longer rousing melodies that are likely to encourage and give time enough to draw in other parts of the crowd. And with the football being so crap at the moment, those who currently don’t even consider singing, need to rediscover the fun of that element of going to football. It cant just be left entirely to ultras.
On the pitch, things were just as bad. No effort and incompetent in every area of the pitch. We lost 4-1 and it flattered us. A relegation battle appears to be on the cards. Let’s hope that we remember how to fight if that’s the case.
Freezing cold, we trudged back to the car and headed on to Mannheim. A warm fire, proper beer, food and pleasant company saved the day. Yet when football seems to have become an irritating interruption to an otherwise pleasant day out, we need to take action.