Well, I’ve finally got around to writing something about the 4 match trip to Holland and Germany that we made towards the end of November. I apologise for the delay. I had a 6 day visit from mother as soon as I got back from Holland, then I started a new job soon after and had a visit from a friend from New Zealand. Then I had the knackering effects of working after almost 3 and half months of being worthless dole scum. Routine can certainly take it out of you. The rest of the time since the trip has been taken up with sleep, making soup (economy drive), more sleep and Christmas shopping.
We all met up in Ealing on a bright and crisp November day, with the adrenalin still pumping around the veins from the Wild Beasts gig the night before at Shephard’s Bush Empire and belly full of a usual high quality full english from the Walpole Cafe in Ealing. The first leg was Ealing to Rotterdam (Liverpool or Rome) for the Friday night match between Sparta Rotterdam and FC Eindhoven in the Dutch Jupiler League (their second division). All went like clockwork until Dover when JB needed to find a Lloyds Bank and quickly. A Cash ISA maturing no doubt.
We had a decent enough crossing on DFDS, although I wasn’t that impressed with their sofas (DFS gag), and a pleasant enough trip through Belgium until we got to Antwerp which is the Bristol of Belgian motorway junctions. Too many roads being forced around a small place. We were delayed for over an hour. Niggly little hold ups cost us more and then we ended up getting to Rotterdam just an hour before kick off. We told the little work experience oik behind our hotel reception that we were in a hurry. The little tosspot then went on a go-slow. We checked in. Then checked out. “Be careful in Spangen” says the little receptionista “it’s not a very nice area”. I then drove the boys through central Rotterdam avoiding suicide cyclists and trams being driven by Stevie Wonder. We got to Spangen and parked up in a free club car park after a small drive around. A “not a very nice area” in Holland isn’t quite the same as drinking on a Friday night around the Elephant and Castle. Spangen seemed quite nice to be honest. A far cry away from some sort of Dutch “Harry Brown” estate in the wilderness.
Het Kasteel, the home of Sparta Rotterdam is a lovely stadium set in a residential area. The main stand has an enourmous glass frontage to it with the Sparta footballer emblem proudly being shown off. Outside the stand was also a London Taxi customised in Sparta colours.
A few minutes later our man in Holland (A dutch Torquay fan!) turned up after a mad dash after work from Nederweert in the deepest south east of the country. We got the tickets and sat down just minutes before kick off. I breathed a sigh of relief. Job done.
The ground was modernised in 1999 and it set out in a horseshoe whilst still keeping the famous castle as the centre piece of the whole ground. There was a good atmosphere inside. Old songs being sung, shiny coloured paper being waved around in defiance of health and safety guidelines to any ADHD sufferers in the crowd. They also have heaters under the roof to take the nip out of the cold north sea air.
The game itself was of a better standard than the previous Dutch 2nd Division games. It ended 2-2 after FC Eindhoven scored with the last kick of the game from a free kick which was 63 metres out. Centre half Wesley Vanbelle waited for his goalkeeper to get into the penalty box and then belted the ball towards the penalty spot, only for the Sparta keeper to misjudge the flight completely as it sailed into the net. A bit harsh on Sparta. Apparently the first choice keeper was in hospital with his wife expecting the delivery of their baby. I don’t think he has to fear losing his place that much.
After awaking nice and early in Rotterdam. It was full steam ahead to revisit Preußen Münster in their Liga 3 clash with FC Heidenheim at the old school Preußenstadion.
We parked for peanuts, got four tickets at 9 euros each and took our places on the fantastic terrace I last frequented in September. Not much to add really apart it’s a wonderfully civilised (and cheap) place to watch football. It’s lovely to enjoy a crisp beer (Warsteiner), a hot sausage and a smoke (if you’re that way inclined). In the case of JB, he enjoyed all of these things and a one way chat with an elderly fella from the Polizei who decided to join us and watch the game.
The friendliness of everyone really impresses you. Even in this beer and sausage fuelled environment droves of young ladies turn up to enjoy the experience. Germany builds marvellous women. Build quality is top notch. Maybe there’s nothing else to do in Münster on a Saturday afternoon.
The game finished 2-1 to Preußen. They were comfortable at 2-0 until Heidenheim bundled a chance in late on which tensed up the crowd a little.
The original plan was to drive straight from Münster to Hannover to watch Hannover 96 V HSV Hamburg but we couldn’t get tickets. We drove to Hannover anyway and got stuck into the Christmas Market before getting very drunk in a Schnitzel Haus and then joining up with a couple of Hannover 96 fans who took us to a indoor Beer Garden/night club with many different generations of women. We had a couple of beers before collapsing in the overnight hotel.
We did miss this goal though. A late equaliser from Jan Schlaudraff.
Waking up next morning was an awful chore. I was amazed to find out that the Krombacher and the schnaps we drank had completely dissolved the huge Schnitzel and Chips I ate. Worrying. We drove the short distance to our next game of the weekend, the 2nd division sunday showdown between Eintracht Braunschweig V VfL Bochum. I’d bought E-Tickets for the famous Sudkurve at 11 euros each. The Sudkurve is marvellous 6,000 capacity curved covered terrace.
We swiped the barcodes on the tickets and walked into the ground. We stood for sausage and a coke (I couldn’t face the beer). Pikey looked like a man running on empty. Fu Man chu was struggling and I could see JB shuddering with every sip of beer.
The main terrace.
The Sudkurve is one of football’s better terraces. It was pretty full. Again with the same mix of people wearing plenty of yellow and blue, a pleasing sight for hungovered Torquay eyes. Just over 20,000 had turned up for this match which is about 4,000 short of the capacity. Braunschweig seem to be a team on the up again.
They were German Bundesliga champions back in 1967. On the 67th minute of the game the Sudkurve sang “Deutsche Meister, Deutsche Meister, Neunzehnhundert siebundsechzig” (to the tune of “My darling Clementine” or as the Torquay version goes “Build a bonfire, build a bonfire put the Argyle on the top, put the city in the middle and we’ll burn the ‘kin lot). I realised later on that some members of the 1967 championship side were in the ground.
Eintracht ran out easy 4-0 winners. The Bochum defence had no answer to the pace of Dominick Kumbela and the guile of Dennis Kruppke. Wir sind Eintracht.
So from Braunschweig to Bremen. A wonderfully affluent and rich city which was our overnight stop before heading back into Holland for the monday night game at Cambuur Leeuwarden. A nice quiet night in Bremen. A civilised meal and more coca cola with an early night was just what the doctorb (Dr Nick Riviera) ordered. We woke up late. Had a fish sandwich from Nordzee and another small breakfast and coffee in one of the fantastic self service bakeries you have in Germany. A brief stop for shopping in Oldenburg and then a drive into the north of Holland. The Tom Tom had an epileptic fit near Groningen but the calmness of our designated driver (me!) got us out of the sticky stuff.
So the Monday night game. SC Cambuur Leeuwarden V Almere City. Rob decided not to join us this time, citing the words “sofa” and “warm”. It was a nippy night in Leeuwarden alright and no mistake. Proper football weather. It was a good job that we’d all stocked up on the excellent Hertog Jan beer and yet more Schnitzel before the game.
The game was a rather poor one. Lots of technique but no real attacking intent. Plenty of space out wide but no one really wanting to use it. I’ve found it to be one of the more frustrating aspects of Dutch footy. Almere City had a man sent off and shortly after SC Cambuur scored. From then on it was only a matter of when they scored again and how many they would score.
The temperature dropped yet further. The pace of the game dropped even more. Almere dug in. Half time came. Outside for a much needed warming drink of coffee and a ssssccchnickers bar. I could gradually feel the warmth returning. Surely the 2nd half could only get better?
Marginally it was. SC Cambuur decided to attack a bit more and added further goals to make it 3-0 by the end. I was frozen as Hans Solo about 10 minutes from the end. I was only warmed up by Pikey shouting abuse in english to the SC Cambuur centre forward who had an awful match. I don’t think he’s ever walked off the pitch to a “you’re shit, aaaaahhhhhh” before though. I had an attack of the giggles and managed to stave off the cold until thankfully the ref blew the whistle.
To sum up. Football is alive and very well outside of England. It’s far more civilised and without the health and safety nanny state approach to stewarding and organisation which now blights the football experience at even League Two level. Both football in Holland and Germany is also refreshingly free of this impatient mock outrage and over the top protesting so evident in English football. Maybe the low ticket prices help fans to keep a sense of realism and a certain calmness when things aren’t going so well. Perhaps if in English football we have Dagenham and Redbridge charging £22 then perhaps some argue we are entitled to complain and moan.
There is a big difference between Germany and Holland. Sparta Rotterdam is way above the Dutch football experience average and more like the more atmospheric games in Germany. SC Cambuur is about the average although on a sunny day it would be a lot better. To my mind the experience at Münster is fantastic. Cheap and very scenic. Eintracht Braunschweig is a special place to visit. The vocal and very knowledgeable crowd create a great atmosphere.
Plans for the next trip are already being made.