Montag, 28. März 2016



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.

You can study every face, hear every voice.

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.

And only those present know its reality.

(Mainz 05 played Karlsruher SC on Thur 03/24/16 in a friendly at Bruchweg Stadium, Mainz)

Dienstag, 1. März 2016

How to support a plastic club

You shouldn't, of course.
Plastic clubs are a waste of passion. They have money in abundance, so they can buy their fans as well as their players. They don't need you, your enthusiasm, your voice, your flag, your love. They're just after your money.
In Bundesliga Bayern Munich is the plastic club par excellence. Even their own fans hate them. Or so I've been told. Like Barcelona they have their most enthusiastic fans on the internet or the other side of the globe.
But - fairness first - Bayern isn't really a plastic club. They have tradition, were founded in 1900, worked their way up in Bundesliga and in Europe until they became plastic enough to set up an office in New York. If they're plastic, they're oak effect.

A plastic club is a mockery of the real thing. Anybody with a bank account and an ego huge enough can manufacture one. You are a Russian billionaire, a Qatari sheikh or a German software developer bored and looking for a new spare time activity which is tax-deductible (at least in the beginning)? Why not design a football club? Buy the best! Player, manager, venue, colours, logo, merchandising, fans ...China makes it possible for you in no time. You can even chuck your aged players there in the dusk of their careers. Plastic clubs are global players.

Plastic clubs don't have fans, they have customers. These people expect the club's owner to arrange for good weather for matchdays, special program for the kids, and a good result should be guaranteed anyway. You don't pay €50 a seat to see a draw.
Plastic clubs have plastic fans. They don't want the other kind. They don't want fans who start yelling on top of their lungs when things go wrong on the pitch or climb the fence when they don't. They don't like passion shown so blatantly. They don't want love, they want entertainment.
So, there is really no reason why anyone who calls himself a football lover should support a plastic club.
Except it happens.

It grows on you. Creeps up in the night like a cold. You sneeze once the first day, twice the next. Soon you'll start looking for a hankie.
First you start noticing their results, then reluctantly stream a match, but tell yourself you're just casually interested. Or you like to watch good football for a change since your local team breaks the european record for being bottom of the table with hardly any points. Or you just want to see if they're really worth the millions they have cost.
And then you see them pay. You realize there IS something of higher class to this team. They are paid in a month what your team invests in one year, they are evil, they are nouveau-riches, but they do play a fucking good football.
You're not yet a supporter, by no means. You just took the opportunity to make up your own mind from watching them play yourself instead of listening to Twitter comments. You're being objevtive. You still hate them. At least when asked.
Then comes the day you first realise a small drooping of spirit when you hear they lost. When you first encounter difficulties joining the others in joyful ranting. Ha,ha, the plastic club has lost! There's still justice under the crossbar. And you find yourself worrying whose fault it was.
Take an aspirin. It will get worse.

The day you're on your way seeing them play life for the first time is the day you are lost. 

You will realise that the plastic club is all the evil things you know it to be, but it's also a very real football club.

 Its players run and sweat and swear and celebrate like yours at home. 

And the plastic fans are more different than they look from afar waving their sponsored flags. There are gnarled old fans who were there before the sponsors came, and kids just shy of toddler-age who blurt out the names of the players in alphabetical order, shiny eyed and in an obscenely expensive shirt, but the shine in the eyes is priceless and genuine. And you remember the fair-weather fans at home who leave the stands at a comfortable 3:0, who don't even sing when the team is winning, and realize that sometimes the plastic is not in the clubs but in the people.

One day you will catch yourself saying „we“ when you speak of the plastic club. 

You nervously touch your arm. It's no more plastic than before. You're still a football fan made of flesh and blood, and you just found yourself supporting a plastic club.

Allez Paris Saint-Germain!