Friday, March 07, 2008

The Unbearable Lassitude of the Neutral Fan

So I found myself stranded on the volatile Dutch-German border yesterday. But thanks to the Kicker match calendar, I found a match within a 2-hour train ride. So, I hopped on a Deutschebahn train to the frighteningly boring town of Leverkusen, home of a 100-foot high tab of aspirin.

A bit OTT? Maybe, but it's been over three months since I've last seen a match - and that a bloody awful one in Mexico. Which, now that I think of it, I've never written about. Short version: Apertura quarter-finals, Cruz Azul v. Atlante, Cruz Azul had no tactics other than hoofing the ball high to Jared Borgetti, which was a shame because Borgetti was so crap he was risking a health warning and Atlante won 1-0 on a goal in the 90th second. The only plus was getting to watch a game through barbed wire, which is a lovely if perverse pleasure. So I was desperate enough to travel to watch a UEFA cup match, Leverkusen v. Hamburg.

So, Leverkusen, then. First of all, the BayArena is tiny. Basically, it's BMO field if you filled in the corners. How a team from this dinky little place consistently challenges in the Budesliga and even made it to the Champions League finals one year is beyond me.

The match: to describe the first half as soporific would be to do a serious injustice to sleep medications. Of the 22 men on the field, only Leverkusen's Gonzalo Castro looked like he was awake. The most interesting stuff was actually the fans. Turns out, German fans really do sing "roll out the barrel". I have no idea what thea actual words were, of course - if you don't understand the language well, all songs sound like - lah da da da laaaah, la da, la da la daaaaah. Although, to be fair, a lot of English songs sound like that, too.

On paper, Hamburg are the better team, even with Juan Pablo Sorin out injured. Vincent Kompany, a couple of years ago the world's most sought-after 19 year-old defender, has now moved up to central midfield in a 4-1-4-1 system with Guerrero up front. This would be a decent formation if Guerrero were a decent front-man (he isn't) or if any of the midfielders ever got up in support (which, apart from van der Vaart, they didn't). And so, despite having more skilled players and on the whole a better set of chances in front of net, Hamburg couldn't find a way through.

That was OK for as long as Leverkusen kept the woeful Sergey Barbarez, who has the turning radius of an 18-wheeler truck, in the match. The team's speed of transition from defence to offence could be mesured in weeks, and they were congenitally unable to find the right pass when pressing forward until the young Chilean Arturo Vidal was introduced as a sub in the 74th minute. In the 77th, though, Theofanis Gekas was permitted to stroll into the area unopposed on a corner and he converted with ease. A dull nil-nil was thus - barely - avoided.

Anyways, as I'm watching all this spectacle - nice pitch, a very short Rudi Voller doing commentary by the field, good fans and loud singing, but crap football, I start thinking to myself. Do I really give a toss? I have no real interest in either team, and I've just travelled two hours and spent thirty euros on a ticket to watch a bad football match. Has my football fixation actually come to this? Spending a chilly night watching a boring game between two teams I don't really care about just so I can be in a crowd, watching 22 men pass a sphere around?

And then, when they played The Scientist by Coldplay over the tannoy after the game, I thought to myself: fuck this, I really hate German football.

But I'm still going to see Dortmund-Hertha tonight.

UPDATE: No I'm not. I'm tired, It's cold and windy, I have a 5 AM train to catch and last night sucked the joy out of football for me. For 24 hours at least. Maybe I'll watch it on TV.


Blogger Terry Duffelen said...

Right well, thats you off the Christmas list then ;)

If you are going to the Westfalen, be sure to stand in the Kop end. You may find the experience more pleasant than Leverkusen on a Thursday night.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Cheers Duffman. Is it reasonably easy to get tickets there, then?

8:15 AM  
Blogger roswitha said...

But, as you no doubt heard Chris Martin sing, nobody said it would be easy!

1:35 PM  
Blogger Terry Duffelen said...

Sorry I didn't reply, I was busy at work. Did you get in OK? I watched the game on the telly when I got home. Thought it was a bit scrappy. Bizarre non-sending off though.

7:47 PM  

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