"Fussball ist wie Schach, nur ohne WÜrfel".
- Football is like chess, just with no dice.

Entries from Will Studdert

Self-destructive TeBe blow the title race wide open

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by Will, Image © Ian Stenhouse 1 Comment
TeBe Dynamo

I’ve always wanted to visit the Sportforum. An atmospheric listed monument and a cradle for DDR’s sporting elite, it still reeks of the aspiration and anabolic steroids of a bygone era. Through the scratched windows of the M13 tram, you can just about make out the tips of the floodlight masts which peep out over the grey concrete of the ice hockey stadium. Both BFC Dynamo and the Eisbären have since moved onto bigger and better things in heart of shiny new Berlin, but the memories – and Dynamo’s under-23 team – remain. Adding to the nostalgia for the game against top-of-the-table Tennis Borussia, Dynamo seemed to be doing everything they could do live down to the worst stereotypes about the club. After TeBe rejected a last-minute offer to move the fixture to Friday night in order for it not to clash with the first team’s trip to Magdeburg, it was announced that the game would take place behind closed doors, apparently because the security staff would be off in Sachsen-Anhalt with everyone else. Who, then, would be around to police the notoriously peaceful lila-weisse entourage? Frantic negotiations ensured that the decision was reversed, but no banners would be allowed, lest they add colour or fun to the occasion, and as the would-be Category C hooligans trooped in to the venerable old stadium, a poisonous atmosphere of passive aggression lingered in the clouds amassing over Hohenschönhausen. read full article

Gloomy forecast for Frankfurt as 1.FC fail to prepare for stormy Werder

Posted on: August 19th, 2013 by Will, Image © Olya Lyubchenko

Brandenburg is rather a misunderstood place, with the dominant view of it summed up beautifully in the German cabaret star Rainald Grebe’s ode to Berlin’s down-at-heel neighbour, littered with jokes about neo-Nazis, Lidl, population decline and the much-hyped return of wolves from across the Polish border. These stereotypes all have their roots in reality, but the state’s perennial inability to market itself competently hasn’t helped – the current advertisement on the platform at Ostbahnhof features a massive picture of a tiger (presumably housed in some zoo or other rather than wandering the streets of Schwedt) flanked by photogenic, blonde families picknicking merrily on anonymous grassy knolls. So it’s still a reasonably well-kept secret (or poorly-advertised fact) that one of the best things you can do in Berlin during the summer is hop on an RE train with your bike and then set out in any direction through the countryside to stumble upon 13th century traces of the Knights Templar, beautiful lakes, unspoilt Prussian towns and thousand-year-old village churches. read full article

Ten-man TeBe show what all the Fuß is about

Posted on: August 15th, 2013 by Will, Image ©

There’s a cliché from the 1980s American teenage rites-de-passages films where the dumpy, bookish girl with the glasses removes them at the end of the movie to reveal that she’s actually beautiful, and the hero can now fall in love with her in a socially acceptable context. This image involuntarily sprung to mind today at the Julius-Hirsch-Sportanlage, the wonderful little sports complex that is home to TuS Makkabi and which until now I’ve only witnessed on windswept, grisly nights and grey, frozen winter afternoons. Like the girl from the John Hughes movies, it has always been charming – cultured, even – but not exactly an architectural Wynona Ryder. This evening, however, with the summer sun trickling lazily through the leafy forest environs, casting a golden haze over the atmospheric almost-terracing that flanks one side of the well-kept pitch, I realised for the first time what a knock-out this little ground is. And with friendly Russian-speaking Makkabi employees dishing out beer and bratwurst to the numerous, equally good-natured TeBe fans, as well as a few curious folk in the colours of another local side, SC Charlottenburg (who share the Mommsenstadion with TeBe) milling around benevolently at the side, the whole thing felt more like a neighbourhood barbecue than a competitive game of football.
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A nightmare against the club of shattered dreams leaves Babelsberg needing a miracle

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 by Will, Image © Ian Stenhouse

The streets outside football grounds while the match is in progress are forlorn, strange places, and Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse in Babelsberg at 1.45pm on Saturday was no different. Due to an arbitrary law of physics which decrees that I’m incapable of ever making it out to Babelsberg in time for kick-off, I found myself hurrying down the picturesque little boulevard amid an almost ghostly silence. The Vietnamese lady who owns the shop by the station was standing in her doorway dodging rogue pieces of tumbleweed, while two middle-aged beer bottle collectors sat with their bounty and drank a well-earned Feierabendbier on the bench. Beyond that it was pretty much dead, except for a tall fellow strolling purposefully ahead of me in the direction of the KarLi. “You going to the game?” he asked as I overtook him, “I can’t even tell if it’s still on, it’s so damn quiet here.”

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Kragl’s rocket rescues a derby point for Babelsberg

Posted on: December 2nd, 2012 by Will, Image © Ian Stenhouse

The strange course of German history has slightly warped the use of the word ‘derby’. Granted, Babelsberg and Chemnitz, or Karl-Marx-Stadt as it was known back in the day, both belonged to the German Democratic Republic, but since FC Karl-Marx-Stadt played in the top-flight DDR Oberliga and Motor Babelsberg were generally second-tier, the sides can’t have had much to do with one another even then. Nonetheless, due to their common East German heritage this game between clubs separated from one another by no less than 283 kilometres of picturesque Brandenburg and Saxon countryside is considered a derby, and after a 12-minute “atmosphere boycott” by the Chemnitz fans in protest at planned DFB security measures, it certainly felt like one. But recent history adds to the game’s significance: Chemnitz, like many clubs from the former DDR, has a prominent and problematic right-wing following, while Babelsberg 03’s fan culture is firmly rooted in left-wing politics and anti-fascism. And this is the real reason why, as in any true derby, the supporters can’t stand each other. read full article

Frederic the Great saves three points for Babelsberg in a tale of two Prussias

Posted on: November 26th, 2012 by Will, Image © Olya Lyubchenko
Babelsberg - Münster

Officially, the kingdom and historic state of Prussia ceased to exist in 1947. And yet in the German imagination, and possibly in my local supermarket, the idea of Prussian-ism lingers on; a byword for duty, militaristic efficiency and heel-clicking professionalism. In no other area of public life, however, does it get its dues more than in sports, with Preussen and the Latin variant Borussia being popular prefixes with those earnest folk in the late 19th and early 20th century who were seeking a nice, patriotic name for their new athletic associations. And although Berlin was the last Prussian capital, the kingdom’s spirit somehow lives on the strongest in Potsdam, with Frederick the Great’s opulent Sanssouci summer palace just a stone’s throw, or a badly-placed corner kick, away from another fine architectural structure, the Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion. read full article

Tschauner’s heroics can’t prevent St. Pauli marching in pointless

Posted on: November 20th, 2012 by Will, Image © Olya Lyubchenko
Toronto and Berlin Autumn 2012 209

Fyodor Dostoevsky published his account of the four years he spent in a Siberian prison, The House of the Dead, in 1862. It would therefore be unreasonable to insist that the great Russian novelist was thinking of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium when he wrote it, since Hertha BSC’s home ground was built 74 years later. But there were certainly enough parallels on Monday night’s game against FC St. Pauli to have an over-zealous Professor of Slavic Studies reaching for the telephone. The tales of watered-down vodka smuggled into the prison bore a suspicious resemblance to the special low-alcohol beverages (3% Carlsberg, 2.5% hot punch) on offer, while the petty exchanges of childish insults which Dostoevsky described in collective captive life found their equals on the stadium’s shared concourse as grown men hissed childish variants of Scheiss St. Pauli! or Scheiss Hertha! at one another while they queued for hot dogs. And last but not least, in spite of the nearly 40,000 spectators and the presence of a serious promotion contender (Hertha) and a club with bona fide cult status (St. Pauli), the Olympic Stadium was still half empty and, well, kind of dead. read full article

TeBe serve up a bleak forest Gatow

Posted on: November 11th, 2012 by Will, Image © Ian Stenhouse

Officially speaking, the first day of winter is 21st December. For Berlin football fans, however, winter symbolically begins on the day that Glühwein is served at games. It signals the point when following one’s team ceases to be the more-or-less happy duty on a late summer or autumn evening, and becomes a sort of masochistic test of loyalty, often to the detriment of health and normal human relationships. The mulled wine is the warming consolation prize for spending hard-earned weekends trekking out through wild boar-ridden forests or frosty industrial estates to shiver on the terraces behind a large metal fence. The long and tedious Winterpause (winter break) enforced on German football each year, ostensibly due to poor playing conditions, is probably the DFB’s attempt to save fans from themselves and limit the annual numbers of frostbite cases. read full article

Babelsberg’s sweet dreams turn into Saar grapes

Posted on: October 2nd, 2012 by Will, Image © Will Studdert

Babelsberg went into this game with the history books stacked up against them, having failed to beat Saarbrücken in their six previous encounters. The fact that Saarbrücken also once essentially had their own national team (representing the French occupied zone of Saarland in the 1954 World Cup qualifiers) may also have intimidated the more historically-minded 03er. But Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion at 13:50 on Saturday afternoon was an agreeable mix of brilliant sunshine, foaming 1-litre beers and loud punk rock, and anything seemed possible. Saarbrücken’s noisy entourage, armed with colourful flags and dodgy puns (‘Saarcasm Fan Club’, I’m looking at you here), played their part too, and even autumn had read the script, with picturesque gusts of amber tickertape periodically tumbling goal-wards from the trees behind the away terrace.

The game started just as brightly, with Babelsberg batting the ball about in a brisk and surprisingly attractive passing game that belied their lowly league status. With the ball on the floor, they looked the more confident side and dominated the first few minutes of the proceedings, with the lively Touré in particular causing problems for the guests. This brief Babelsbergian Belle Époque climaxed in the 8th minute, when a long pass from right midfield carved the guests’ defence in two and the ball landed at Christian Essig’s feet. Just a few yards out and with only the keeper to beat, he ballooned the ball spectacularly over the bar.

Thereafter, perhaps sensing that it might be their day after all, Saarbrücken began to play with a greater sense of purpose. Granted, it wasn’t a particularly attractive sense of purpose, but the long balls thumped deep into the Babelsberg half unsettled the nervy 03 defence and the hosts’ confidence evaporated fast. The Saarländer began to gain the upper hand and might have taken the lead in the eighteenth minute, when with everybody expecting a cross, Sven Sökler drilled an audacious direct free kick past the wall to Frederic Löhe’s left. Last week’s match-winner and with two clean sheets in a row, the in-form Babelsberg keeper made a fine low catch to keep the scores level, making it look much easier than it was along the way.

Unfortunately for Babelsberg, Löhe’s team-mates lacked his cool-headedness. With the hosts opting for the long hoofs when shorter passes would have been more effective, the game deteriorated into what the realistic spectator might have been expecting all along – a scrappy 3rd division match. As the first half drew to a close, the gathering sunlit clouds above Babelsberg’s UNESCO skyline resembled something out a Flemish landscape painting, increasingly vying for attention with the earthly recreational activities down below. In fact, with both keepers solid, the strikers ineffectual and the game plodding towards a seemingly inevitable 0-0 draw, the heavens were arguably becoming the more interesting spectacle.

Both sides brought their lack of ideas out of the dressing room with them for the second half. Philip Kreuels did offer a brief respite in the 48th minute, dinking his way deftly past two defenders onto the edge of the six-yard box and finding himself one-on-one with Müller. His finish was superbly blocked ice-hockey style by the Saarbrücken keeper, who stayed on his feet long enough to let the ball ricochet off his left arm and out for a corner. But Babelsberg paid for their absence of clinical finishing in the 64th minute, when a fine long pass through the hosts’ defence found Sökler on the left-wing. His low cross was headed home emphatically at close range by Ziemer, triggering euphoric, if somewhat surprised, celebrations among the travelling support at the other end.

This setback snapped Babelsberg into life. Almost from the restart, Evljuskin’s powerful curling shot from 18 yards forced another fine save from Müller. A hectic and messy final phase ensued, with a string of 03 corners and chaotic goalmouth scrambles enlivening (if not necessarily beautifying) proceedings. Perhaps the referee Dr. Manuel Kunzmann was thinking of the nervous health of the 2262 spectators when, with everybody looking forward to at least five minutes of heart-pounding, gut-wrenching stoppages from the injury-laden second half, he inexplicably decided to prescribe zero extra time.

Either way, he kindly spared everybody the potential adverse effects, leaving 03’s coach Christian Benbennek to rue his charges’ lack of focus. “You can’t say that we didn’t want anything, that we didn’t try to play,” he concluded afterwards. “But I had the feeling that it wasn’t clear what we wanted.” The answer for Babelsberg may lie in the first few minutes of this match, when it fleetingly seemed as if they might just have known the answer.