Testgames are those meaningless friendlies played on a weekday's afternoon. About fivehundred people assembled, students and pensioners, grandparents with children considered too small for the „real thing“of a Saturday's 34.000 crowd. A handful of away-fans.
Suddenly a single voice matters – like allegedly in elections – and the echo from three empty stands not even opened for the event, make it carry over a roughened up pitch which isn't subject to daily careful care with top league legs skimming over it in mind.
That single voice carries over the pitch in a clearly audible „So, what?“ when the first goal is conceded.
Laughter from 499 throats is iwhoseue reward.
Normally support chants do not emerge from single voices. They start at 100, slowly revving up volume. And they die at fading down to the original 100 again, not able to stand the prospect of silence a mere 100 voices among 34.000 too closely resembles.
Yet among 500, 5 make a choir. The same weighing silence that makes me fall mute when I suddenly realize I'm only one of 100 in the big theatre, now buoys me up into a defiant shout of „Auf geht’s Mainzer, kämpfen und siegen!“ The sound of my own voice, otherwise intimidating, suddenly rings strong and authentic in my ears.
At testgames every voice is needed and allowed to ring.
Testgames disperse the crowd and give the individual back her dignity
Defiance gets even more pronounced in the away-fans's voices. Separated from home-fans out of habit or necessity sparked by the opponent's name and nature (Karlsruher SC, about whom neither a charleslemagnian greatness nor a particular need for quiet can normally be noted), they sparsely people the opposing stands. Banners displayed and shouts greeting the deserved lead are answered not with the usual wave of insults and explicite suppositions about maternal profession, but rather with a grudging respect. For having turned up at all. On a weekday. For a testgame.
Die-hard recognizes its equivalent.
Another attack dies in the boots.
„Sub him!“ shouts individual dignity.
What is normally drowned in the presence of 34.000 here stands out in simple ingenuity. The witty, the spontaneous, the fit-the-moment remark, normally lost to the crowd and forlornly typed to some overseas Facebook friend lest it be lost for eternity (thus the next almost-goal being lost on the typer). „Hey, ref, we know your barber!“
The collinaesque ref doesn't respond. The 499 do. Moments of acknowledgement.
On the pitch the players are displaying various degrees of meaningless. Those whose starting place is relatively secure treat the ball with a certain air of surprise should it come their way. „You here? What shall I do with you?“
At one moment a player kneels down to retie his boots. It takes him almost two minutes and he rises to a standing ovation.
Others who are struggling to find their way – back – into the starting eleven are weaving in and out of the game with the clear demeanour of men on a mission. Impress the coach or die trying!
There is Danny Latza, all knowledgeable concerning his qualities. When he stands at the centre spot, hands on hips, chin up, shoulders lowered, self-confidence personified, the message is clear: leave me out at your loss.
On the other hand Pierre Bengtsson struggles along the sideline as if he felt the margins were his natural habitat. His gaze is turned to the ground more often than not. The ball once off his foot obviously feels abandoned and trails across the line into the nothingness of out. I feel compelled to shout something encouraging especially for him but don't trust my voice to reach him. It's easier to reach the 499.
Anyway, I don't speak Swedish.
Sub-keeper Gianlucca Curci, keen to prove first-league qualities by expressing first-league temperament causes and then protests a penalty with flying colours. As fans we hide our faces in shame over the sudden appearance of a fully fledged Thespian in a Punch-and-Judy show. He'll stay sub-keeper for some time.
Both coaches take advantage from the testgame to test. The whole squad shifts and varies over the 90 minutes. Most players,despite their rare appearance on first league team sheets are known to the fans and greeted amiably. In some cases we are mystified by shirts sporting only numbers, no names, indicating the wearer's insignificance.
This is an illusion as one Aaron Seydel unveils in a beautiful goal (assist Philipp Klement) to make it 2:2 at full time. As becomes a testgame both teams remain undefeated and on friendly terms.
I leave the stadium curiously satisfied.
This was all about me and football today. Neither DFB nor DFL nor FIFA nor, for that matter, the media had much to do with it.
(Mainz 05 played Karlsruher SC on Thur 03/24/16 in a friendly at Bruchweg Stadium, Mainz)