Sunday, 17 May 2015

Lila Weisse & the Random Applause (Berlin Pt2) - Football Abroad

Despite the rather lacklustre events of the previous evening, I still awake with a somewhat foggy head. Although I can't decide if that's a response to having gone so long without a beer between dinner the previous evening and then entering a properly ropey Techno joint about 100 yards from our apartment, or the pounding electronic tunes we'd been exposed to whilst we smashed back a few desperately needed bottles of Veltins.

A shower, a cuppa and rather low rent cheese toastie helps and the rabble are soon assembled and ready to go get some proper food. Drunken idiots we might be, but even we prefer to line the stomach if we can. After a slightly less aimless wander than last night we find a cafe bar place offering an all day breakfast menu. That'll do. Time for a plate of meats, bread and cups of tea. It's a strange place, as getting the bill turns out to take almost as long as getting our food in the first place. It takes so long that we almost assume it's one of those old East German places where the top brass ate and thus never had to pay.

"Alice Eddie? Never heard of 'em!"

This has the effect of making us a touch late for our meet with the Tennis Borussia Berlin masses, but we figure we didn't want too appear too keen. Play it cool lads, play it cool. Fortunately, finding our contact Tom, an ex-pat lving in the city who follows TeBe, is easy enough. Mainly as there's about 50-60 people in violet and white gear milling about in the shadow of the Weltzeituhr, a strange looking 360 degree world clock in Alexanderplatz. Well, they would be stood in the shadow of it if the sun were actually visible today and able to cast a bloody shadow. Yesterday's warmer weather having disappeared in favour of heavy grey overcast skies and a stiff breeze. Lovely.

After the big crowd, packed house & noise of yesterday's Bundesliga 2 clash over at the Forsterei, we're into slightly more familiar territory today. Our choice of game is in the capital's own Berlin League, which like Conference South back home sits as the 6th tier nationally. However, the clubs are generally a little more Combined Counties in  facilities and supporter numbers!

There is an exception to this however. Tennis Borussia Berlin, who we'll tagging along with this afternoon. They're one of many old German clubs with fine histories but that now find themselves well down the pecking order in this cruel, modern footballing world. Once the big rivals of near neighbours Hertha and twice Berlin champions in the 30's & 40's, they missed the cut on the Bundesliga at its formation in '63 and since then have mainly chugged along in the 3rd Division. But after financial issues at the turn of the century, they're now down where we find them today. However, they're slowly hauling themselves out of the depths and currently sit 5 points clear at the top of the table.

"I think they might be following us!"

TeBe also have a slightly tenuous link to our own beloved U's in that the district of West Berlin they call home, Wilmersdorf, (where Bayern Munich & Germany player Jerome Boateng grew up fact fans!) is one of sunny Sutton's 'Partner Stadts'. Or twin towns. And as we we'd chosen the German capital as the venue for this latest adventure abroad, it would be terribly rude of us not to look them up as we're local. Sadly though, they're away from home on this occasion and we'll be heading back towards the East again for a clash with another old name from the city's footballing past. Dynamo Berlin, albeit their u23\reserve side, so our maiden trip to our twin town will have to wait.

After the wall went up, Dynamo became the favoured team of a total bastard by the name of Erich Mielke. The bloke who ran the notorious East German secret police more commonly known as the Stasi. Naturally, when you've got patronage such as this to fall back on, success ain't hard to come by as you can tend to pinch whatever players you like and the refs tens to be a bit more 'favourable' to your cause. And off the back of this, the club won 10 straight DDR league titles up to 1988, shortly before that wall fell again and they unsurprisingly slipped down the leagues.

To go with the slightly moody weather, there's also a little edge to todays contest. TeBe's opponents wanted to move the match to the Friday as their 1sts were playing down in Magdeburg today in the 4th Division. And as their fans have a reputation as being a tad on the 'excitable' side, all the club's security team would be travelling too to ensure they weren't naughty boys. Tennis weren't keen on the re-arrangement and after a brief spell on Friday where it looked very much like the match would be behind closed doors, common sense prevailed and we'd be heading to Dynamo's spiritual home at the Sportforum Hohenschonhausen. However, there were some conditions attached to this. Firstly, they wouldn't be allowed to take any flags or banners to the game (that's ok, we didn't bring any!). Secondly, the usual 5 euro entry price was being doubled apparently to pay for 3rd party security in the absence of Dynamo's own. And finally, TeBe's support would be escorted to the game by the local old bill. I shit you not! And it's because of all this that while we're stood chattering away, waiting for the nod to get the tram out to the ground, a van load of Berlin po-po sits a few yards away. Watching. And no doubt bored out of their minds.

Now we're not exactly wet behind the ears, but a police escort to a 6th tier game, especially away to someone's reserve team, is certainly a new one on us!

TeBe twinned with Sutton. Sportforum twinned with Croydon?

We fill the few minutes before departure chatting to Tom, a couple of his mates Felix (a tall chap in a natty violet coloured pork pie hat) & Henry along with Kenny, another ex-pat who is responsible for a football blog we like, 'Adventures in Tinpot'. Kenny is also a non-league loser like us, being a regular at Weymouth before finding himself in the Fatherland. He's also a collector of weird Ultra stickers like my good self and has brought a nice selection for me to add to my collection. Top man! If there's one thing I like as much as rubbish football and beer, it's stickers.

As it's de rigeur in Berlin to simply stroll around quaffing bottled beer, we grab some refreshments for the trip and just as Nick returns from the shop with our booze, we get the word. Saddle up, time to move.

We cross the square and we all pile onto one particular tram to head out to the ground. We skip towards the front and spend the trip down supping Berliner Pilsner and chatting with Kenny. Who, amusingly, it turns out works in the British Embassy. "Everyone reacts like that" he says as we chuckle at this revelation. Meanwhile, outside, that wagon of Der Feds from the square is following close behind. Oh come on, this is just fucking daft!

The trip takes about 10 minutes or so and we're deposited on Hohenschonhauser Strasse, across the road from Dynamo's Sportforum complex. Unfortunately, due to the fact we'd got on the front of the tram, we're seemingly right at the front of the away supports short march to the ground. Er, fuck that! Not only do we not know where we're supposed to go, if any of Dynamo's firm are in attendance we'd be the first to meet & greet. So given we're more Green Party than Green Street, we hang back and try to allow the rest of the crowd to overtake us whilst I try and recall the German for "Not the face, not the face!". We stroll over the road and into the complex to be greeted by a large concrete office style building that has seen better days, covered in graffiti and with barely a intact pane of glass in place. Next to this is what looks like a more residential looking building. This has fared no better and looks very much like Croydon after a rough night. It seems that these were the offices and some accommodation for the athletes of the different sports teams once run by the Dynamo organisation. Now since the state organ that funded them all is long gone, they stand empty and ruined.

Shut. Closed. Nein. Denied. Verboten. Fuck off.

A little further up the path, I once more find myself in a situation I really prefer to avoid. One of the TeBe lads has clearly heard there's some knobbers from London amongst them and he's looking for some sound bites for something or other. So like Bruges, I end up with a microphone stuck in my face. Lovely. So I try my best not to sound like the clueless dickhead I am and give him something usable. I doubt I succeeded. Worst part is, unlike the last time, I don't even have the excuse of being borderline steaming if I make a tit of myself. If this stuff ever comes to light, I apologise.

We're soon at the ground and our police escort has parked up, alongside a second van load of coppers. Wondering what the locals think of this ridiculous waste of their tax Euros Dollars, we queue at a small table to pay our 10 Euros and get our tickets. It's then up to the entrance gate to be manhandled by dayglo clad chaps to ensure we're not bringing anything dangerous in. Like a bottle of water. To my right is a small refreshments van and somewhat disappointingly, it's shut. Having been thoroughly touched up, I find Tom and Felix looking sad. "It's fucking shut! I can't believe it!". All around, word gets out that we're to be denied refreshments of any sort and there's now a fair few visiting fans grumbling.

Kenny isn't happy either. In fact he's distraught. "I don't think I've been sober at football since I was 15!".

Despite this somewhat shitty state of affairs, it's hard to ignore the arena in which we find ourselves. A brilliantly dilapidated place, with sweeping crumbling grass covered terraces around 80% of the perimeter and then a small almost apologetic little stand plonked on the right touchline. If you watched football on telly in the 80's, it's the sort of place Liverpool & Forest used to come in the early rounds of the European Cup, usually behind the Iron Curtain to play a team normally described as a 'crack outfit'. I'm in shit ground heaven.

"These'd never make the grade in Conf South" chuckles Dukey as he boots one of the iffy looking steps of terracing.

Sportforum panorama...

Naturally, with no pints to sink & pass the time before kick off, we chat the usual shite you'd find on a normal Gandermonium awayday whilst awaiting the sides to appear and have a go at taking our minds off how dreadfully sober we're all going to be for the next 90 minutes. I also note with some sarcasm that I'm glad to have our police escort given the rabid Dynamo hordes that confront us. About 20 old blokes and what appears to be players friends and family in the stand. Not 1 person in the home ends. Anyone know the German for "Fuckloads of overtime"?

The two teams have been having wildly different campaigns. As mentioned, TeBe are top and 5 points clear with 3 of their last 4 games against struggling oppo, including today's hosts. So a formality for the league leaders, surely? Cruelly, the game gets underway late just to rub in the beerlessness. Oh footballing gods, you have such a dreadful sense of humour.

The first 10 minutes are pretty average to be honest. Both sides struggling with the long grass and blustery wind, but Dynamo definitely look the livelier. TeBe on the other hand look anything but table toppers. Despite this, they have a couple of half chances that require last ditch clearances from the hosts defence, however the best chances fall to Dynamo. On 2 or 3 occasions, simple balls into the space behind the TeBe defence leave their keeper one on one with attackers, but each time he saves his team with some brave stops. Then just as it looks like they're about to get away with it, TeBe show that they've got more in common with Sutton United than just the twin town thing.

Another ball in behind and the TeBe defence again looks like a fleet of container ships turning in treacle with a heavy chop. And this time the Dynamo no.6 legs it in and tucks the ball into the far corner. The little clutch of old men in the stand cheer and the Gasteblock groans. Soberly.

At the break, with nowt else to do I go and take a wander around the vast Gasteblock to see if there's any obscure stickers about and get a few filler pictures for this here write up. Meanwhile a few of the regulars wander down to the beer van on the off chance they might have changed their minds and poured us a few beers to whet our whistle. Sadly for them, there's more chance of a full house at fucking Carshalton.

The teams come out. Late!

The second half kicks off and the grey overcast clouds we'd woken too still hang low, threatening rain. As if to taunt us. Because in this big old open terrace, there would be nowhere to hide and we'd all get pissing wet through. "At least it's not raining" mutters Tom, almost on cue. He gets several dirty looks and a couple of Fuck off's for his trouble. Silly man! TeBe are now shooting towards their travelling fans and the guys raise their voices to try and give the lads a lift. There also seems to be a random outburst of clapping every so often as well. Naturally, we join in. Well, when in Rome. Er...Berlin. Oh you know what I'm getting at...

They've also made 2 changes, brining on the lively Raychouni who I'd seen score a corking goal the previous weekend against Tasmania Berlin in a top of the table clash that the club broadcast live on the web and Saloun Tore. With the 2 new men on and playing wide, the 2nd 45 is certainly a bit livlier than the first. TeBe certainly look like they've had a half time bollocking and are pushing forward with more purpose than before and the subs are certianly having an effect, with Toure in particular flying down the far side & taking his man on whenever possbile. More random applause breaks out.

Some half chances come and go and as it looks like they're going to spend the match camped in the Dynamo half, the TeBe defence goes AWOL again and the hosts have 3 good chances in several minutes thanks again to simple balls in behind opening TeBe up. The first is just cleared off the toe of a striker as it looks like he has a tap in from a low ball across. The second is somehow bundled off the line with a goal looking certain and then the third and final one does the damage. Another desperate scramble and even from where we're stood about 100miles away at the far end, it looks distinctly like someone's just handled on the line to keep out a certain goal. Sadly, the ref is much closer and has also noticed and has no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Shit. Peno and a certain red card coming up. This isn't going we.....hang on, did he just show a fucking yellow card there??

The away support packing out the Gasteblock.

Incredibly, the ref completely ignores the letter of the law and declines to send off the offender, instead only cautioning him. Naturally this confuses us for a couple of moments as we're sure so blatantly palming it off your own goalline that it can be seen from over 100yards away is defintely a red card. Christ, this bloke wouldn't look out of place in the Conference South! Having somehow escaped being a man down, TeBe aren't quite so lucky with the spot kick and despite Pruschke guessing correctly, the ball bobbles out of reach into the far corner and there's another old man bout of cheering from the stand.

The TeBe fans raise their voices once more with their calls of "LILA WEISSE!" (followed shortly by some random applause). A defeat here and a win for one of the chasing duo could blow the title race wide open once more. The visitors throw on another sub and step up a gear as Dynamo now start to sag back into a more defensive stance. Raychouni and Toure out wide continue to be the real threats and eventually with 20 minutes to go, a breakthrough. A foray down the left, a nice 1-2 and a low shot across the 6 yard box is palmed out by the previously untroubled home keeper and TeBe's legendary finisher, Michael Fuss, pounces and rifles the loose ball high into the net from 8 yards. No celebrations, just the ball fished out of the goal and a dart back to the centre circle. The "Lila Weisse" chants get a bit louder. There's still time to save this.

But apart from a little flurry 5 mins after the goal, TeBe find it hard to really take the game by the scruff of the neck like a side at the top of the table should do and instead, 2 or 3 in Violet shirts get into petty squabbles with oppo numbers. Hartmann, the TeBe no.6 in particular looks to be in a right old paddy and having got booked for trapping off at the ref, has to be physically pulled away by a team mate to avoid an instant second. Rythm broken, the match peters out to more bouts of random applause and as we go into added time, Hartmann again mouths off as Dynamo launch a goal kick up field and the ref's patience runs out. Second yellow, off you go sunshine. Silly boy! Injury time passes with no further incident and the final whistle brings wild celebrations from the Dynamo bench, causing Dukey to quip "Is that the little bald bloke from Staines down there?".

"Can we get beer now?" asks Kenny. It's crazy, way way out there idea, but I think that might just work.

Lifesavers! They did beer here. And sausages.

We amble back to the tram and Tom checks the other Berlin Liga scores. And it's not good news as both Hertha 06 and Tasmania have both won, meaning that they're now just 2 and 3 points behind the Lila Weiss with 3 to play. Ooops. Waiting for transport back, the lads are in apologetic mood about the lack of beer, moreso that than the performance! So they set about trying to find us somewhere suitable to make up for it and eventually hatch a plan. Berlin Mitte.

"Mitte?" scoffs Dukey "We were there last night, there's no fucking beer round there!"

However, it seems there is. As Berlin Mitte contains a small 9th tier football club and they're playing at home today. "We can catch the second half down there. They'll definitely have beer and their clubhouse is brilliant" Tom assures us. Ok then, we're the tourists, what the hell do we know. Lead on Herr Macduff!

The tram trip back into town is mildly amusing, with the somewhat bizarre random clapping from earlier continuing. We also get onto discussing people who'd be embarrassed to be killed by their own products after we pass a bunch of people on a Segway tour and someone presents the fact that the Segway company owner Jim Heseldon drove his off a cliff. Several suggestions are made before, who else but Dukey, kills the debate stone dead with his suggestion of "Dildo". More applause ensues, this time not quite as randomly as before. This then segues into a discussion about what a good band name 'Death by Dildo' would make as we disembark a short walk from our intended destination. Next is to secure a beer for the walk, so the parched party proceeds to scare the shite out of a poor kiosk owner in the nearby station by charging en masse into his tiny retail space and relieving him of many Berliner Pilsner. Cheers chief. You can probably close up for the day now!

SV BW Berolina Mitte panorama...

A short stroll ensues and we find ourselves winding our way around some rather well to do looking streets. We gather this as the lads are discussing just how little graffiti there is on display. Surely there can't be a football club here? It looks just, well, far too expensive! But, my doubts are unfounded when we take a final left turn and there before us is the entrance to Blau Weiss Berolina Mitte 49. We wander in, immediately locate the wurst stand and clear them out. We then set about getting the pints in and make ourselves at home just as the half time whistle goes on the pitch. Timing!

It's an odd place. Basically a tight little astro surfaced pitch, with a small block of single storey changing rooms, admin offices and a little bar down one side. And it's surrounded on all 4 sides by some pretty high rent real estate. The only way we can think to describe it is like a Combined Counties side slap bang in the middle of Mayfair. "How the fuck do this lot still exist?" puzzles Mr X "The land must be worth a fortune!". The answer is that the club's members simply refuse to sell apparently. They recieve regular offers, but always say no. And you can kind of understand why. They're called Berlin Mitte for a reason. If they did sell up, they'd be absolutely minted, but where would they go? The club would simply either lose its identity or cease to exist. So fair play to 'em. Another example of where German football has it right and ours doesn't. An English club in this position would have cashed in bloody years ago or allowed themselves to be taken over and sold out.

Dukey. It's always fucking Dukey.

Over beers, the second half of Mitte's reserves against Gatow's 2nd team plays out in front of us and a cracking bit of entertainment it is too. 2-1 up at Half time, the hosts lead 3-1, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3 and then finally 5-4. Although the highlight is the Gatow no.11. A proper unit, he finds his earnest efforts outshone by players around him far better in ability. Then with the score at 4-3 and a couple of minutes left, he takes a ball down superbly, turns, gives his marker as well as the keeper the eyebrows and with the goal gaping, shanks his shot about 5 yards wide. Moments later, Mitte break and make it 5-3. Brilliant stuff. After the game, we stick around and patronise the rather fabulous little clubhouse. Tom wasn't lying. It's brilliant. Tiny, but absolutely brilliant. A veritable Aladdins cave of footballing trinkets and goodies, with the ceiling almost entirely covered with various pennants and the walls plastered with photos and scarves. Even the beer fridge is impressive, adorned with a replica of the Bundesliga League championship shield! Naturally, with the game over, a couple of the guys can't resist commandeering a ball and heading out for a few potshots on the pitch.

This goes well, with a couple of small children nutmegging Felix & Nick to our amusement. But we soon tire of the show and get back to chatting nonsense. Then we notice Nick leaning against one of the posts. At first I assume he's been 'megged by one of the kids again, but it's a little more amusing than that. "Bring some tissues!" shouts Felix "Your friend is bleeding!". Oh for fucks sake! I snatch a wad of napkins off the BBQ table and run them over to Felix whilst everyone else present pisses themselves laughing. Sums up the day really! It seems that our man has misjudged a shot from our new German comrade, although we decide for the purposes of the report, that it was a 5 year old child doing the damage. Felix seems almost hurt by the fact he can't claim credit!

Tom & Kenny eventually say their goodbyes and head off and after a couple more pints and a few more penalties on the pitch, we take our leave of our fabulous hosts and stroll back to the station. Here we say further goodbyes to Felix and the remaining chaps. Hopefully we'll get over to see them again soon for a home game! From here we dive in to a rather inviting looking rib place to load up for a night's beer. Stuffed to the gills, we then make the correct choice and head off towards Friedrichshain, where we should have gone the previous evening! It looks like it could be a lively old place, but on a Sunday it's far more subdued. Still, we enjoy beers at a couple of bars recommended to us and then head back on the last tube to Alexanderplatz. Again we raid the 24hr shop for Berliner Pilsner and retire to our luxury top secret East Berlin HQ to continue boozing into the early hours.

"That 5 year old girl had a HELL of a shot on her!"

The following morning, we pack up and await the return of the cleaning crew who'll be bearing our 200 euro cash deposit for the gaff. After some faffing, we're on our way and having dumped our bags in some lockers at the station set about a whirlwind tour of some Berlin sights. And in typical Gandermonium fashion, we find the Brandenburg Gate sealed off by more old bill than you'd get at a Dynamo Berlin reserves game. Arse! It seems the Israeli PM is in town for the weekend's events to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2. Ho hum, s'pose it gives us an excuse to come back! We then spot the British Embassy, but a stern Polizei man with a gun refuses to let us past. Apparently he's never heard of anyone called 'Kenny'. Pffft! We'll have you directing traffic in Eisenhüttenstadt by the end of the fucking week sunshine, just you wait and see. We're connected!

Soon after we find a bit of the infamous Berlin wall and decide that even with a decent ladder we'd have struggled to get over it and after a bit more of a wander about take in Checkpoint Charlie. Which is dead easy to find, being round the corner from 'Trabby World', a large site dedicated to the awesomely shit two-stroke powered East German automobile. Then sadly, our time is up, so we head back to grab our bags and get the S-Bahn out to the airport. Naturally, things don't go smoothly. The airport is packed, Dukey gets a tug at security because of his Zippo (they only let him go after they've stripped it and removed the wadding and wick!) and getting anything done (like buying fags etc) takes eons meaning our plans of stuffing our faces go out the window. So we step onto the plane home starving.

Even this isn't easy to solve. We order up loads of nibbles and in the end, Dukey gets missed out when it comes to recieving his Croque Monsiuer. So I give him half of mine and promise to repay his charity in paying for mine (I've only got a 50 left and they wouldn't change it!) by ordering him up a pizza from GoGo's when I get home.

It's not ALL twatting about and boozing you know.

So, Berlin. I don't think we've even scratched your surface you big Teutonic capital city you. So I think we might have to return. Hopefully for a TeBe game in the Oberliga! Where next for our adventures? Well, we're not sure. Although Copenhagen popped up again and Prague looks a good option....

Before I go, a huge thanks to everyone who made the day so much fun. Tom & Felix at TeBe, the DAWB crew and of course, the Ambassador's man, Kenny (cheers for the photo!). The TeBe lot are a fun crowd, so if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods and you're from the Peoples Republic of West Sutton, pop along and take in a game. Tell 'em we sent you!

Actually, on second thoughts, don't tell 'em that. Just to be on the safe side eh?

Taz

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