The fact that our hands were tied was of little real consequence – we’d have gone to Frigg anyway. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you definitely should always choose a football team for its name (and for the fact that they appear to be the only team playing in the city that day). You should. Always. Really. Never hesitate. It was a lovely afternoon at Frigg, and not just because of the smuggled bottle of wine drank from its hiding place in the sleeve of a jacket, or because of the quite remarkable Vigelandsanlegget a short stroll away – a park full of naked statues in striking poses ranging from joy to despair to hope to aggression to love. (Recommendation: go while tipsy. Hours of fun.)
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It had been a while since we had a decent Berliner Pokal final. Over the last couple of years, it was nice to see the Berlin-Liga minnows of Stern and Gatow make it all the way to the Jahn-Sportpark, but they were ultimately comfortably dismissed by Dynamo and BAK respectively. This year, however, we had two contestants from the Oberliga, and, with BAK’s historic triumph over Hoffenheim in last year’s DFB Pokal first mind still fresh in Berliner minds, the stakes for this encounter felt higher than ever before.
The official attendance was 6,381, but it sounded like many more. Maroon outnumbered red by around 4:1 but for the neutrals among us, the more Dynamo fans present, the better. For occasions such as this, there is a primal urgency about their roars that is a wonder to behold, like a wounded lion refusing to accept that his days of bossing the savannah are over. Regional cup finals and third place in the fifth division are not this beast’s natural habitat, and one can sense a feeling of resentful indignity mixed in with the boundless passion of the weinrot fans. read full article
The concept of relegation is very simple – the worst teams in a division drop down to a lower league after a year of proving that they don’t deserve to be in the division in the first place, to be replaced by teams from the lower division who have proved that they are too good for their division. A beautiful organism is created that works for the über-rich professionals in the Bundesliga all the way down to the team of chubby, hungover chancers in the Kreisliga. In that sense, the perfect simplicity of the idea is borderline genius. There is only one element of the concept that is in any way arbitrary or unjust and that is the pre-determined number of teams that are considered to be not good enough. read full article
Knowledge is power, they always said down through the ages, but it’s not a saying that translates well into modern times. Now, knowledge is nothing without the ability to communicate it. But now, the power to transmit thoughts, images and ideas lies in the pocket of the majority of men, women and children on the planet. The power, therefore, assuming the presence of those elsewhere willing to listen, lies with the little people, those wielding little lumps of plastic and microchips rather than he wielding a sceptre from an imagined throne.
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If recent league form was anything to go by, neither Lichtenberg 47 nor Staaken were very likely to win their Berliner Pilsener Pokal semi-final. The home team had won only one of their last ten in the Oberliga; the visitors only two of the last eight in the Berlin-Liga. Perhaps it was a bout of vertigo that had caused the collapse – both had been mounting unlikely promotion challenges up until recently, but now had nothing else but the dangling golden carrot of potential DFB Pokal participation to play for. read full article
There are lies, damn lies and statistics, they say. They’re right. They can be mendacious, onerous little things to interpret, those stats. Because Stefan Kießling is the Bundesliga top scorer, does that mean he is the most valuable player in the league? Just because RB Leipzig have romped away with the Regionalliga Nordost, does that mean that they are guaranteed to go up? Nah. Course not. Football loves to defy statistics.
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The Regionalliga Nordost is a strange one. Last year, there was no relegation; this year RB Leipzig’s dominance has meant that everyone knew, pretty much from day one, that one playoff spot belonged to them. The fans of Schadenfreude amongst us (as well as fans of teams not buying success) would have a nice little giggle if they were to lose the playoff and be forced to compete in the Regionalliga again, but then we would most likely have the same situation once more: RB Leipzig dominating, everyone else scavenging around for scraps. No fun. read full article
There were many things about Fürstenwalde that reminded me of my own small, rural hometown. It’s three times bigger in terms of population, but some basic dynamics appeared the same: if it’s a sunny day and there’s a large sporting event on, people will come in droves.
Where I come from, the sporting event is much more likely to be Gaelic football; here, it was the visit of first-placed BFC Viktoria 89 to play second-placed FSV Union Fürstenwalde in the Oberliga Nordost-Nord. The turnstiles clicked and clicked as the impressive crowd of 1,179 took to their places with some of the worst sounds the 90s has ever produced blaring forth from the loudspeakers. Kids with ice-cream smeared all over their faces scampered around the sandy terraces of the S-OS Arena, and the sausage sellers worked overtime to fulfil demand. A small crowd of ultras, one of them armed with a megaphone so minute that it rendered its own name deeply ironic, tried to create some atmosphere, but the surroundings just felt too pleasant and welcoming for any form of extremism, and the sun too hot for getting all worked up. Sitting and enjoying was the name of the game. The ultras therefore contented themselves with baiting the decent troupe of Viktoria fans, who chanted for their team more at this game than I’ve ever heard at their home ground. ‘Spitzenreiter, Spitzenreiter’, they hollered – a little misinformed considering their boys were only four points ahead, having played three games more. read full article
There is a pivotal moment in the final series of The Sopranos when Tony, after a near-death experience, appears to start re-evaluating his violent way of life. “From now on, every day is a gift,” he says, and we are sure that Tony is very seriously considering putting his life of crime behind him. Alas, it turns out that the opposite is true. At that key moment, when Tony’s future could be whatever he decides it to be, he comes close to taking the path of virtue but ultimately dramatically tips further than ever before into the brutal darkness, becoming more manipulative, cruel and murderous than we imagined possible. The final episode is the spectacular, understated dénouement to that journey into darkness (and if you saw that ending and didn’t quite grasp how it is probably the finest single scene ever made in televisual history, you might need to have a read of this).
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One thing I have learned from my thirty-odd years on this earth is that no matter how smart I think I am, I will always look back on that smart me of a few years previous and see only an utter twat. This was especially noticeable, of course, in those formative late teenage years, when I was absolutely convinced that I was the most incredible person who ever lived, but now am absolutely certain that if I met that 19-year-old, I’d want to give him a clip round the ear and a kick up the arse for being a complete fool. What I needed back then was a reality check. I needed that clip round the ear and a forceful example that I was getting far, far ahead of myself. In short, I needed what BFC Dynamo gave to Hürtürkel last night. read full article