Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Alemannia Aachen (Germany)

Alemannia Aachen come from the spa town of Aachen in North Rhine-Westphalia, close to the border with Holland and Belgium. The club were formed in 1900 by eighteen high school students. There was already a club in the city called 1FC Aachen, so they decided to adopt Alemannia, the old latin name of Germany.

Because of decreased membership numbers after World War One, the club merged with Aachener Turnverein 1847 in 1919 to become TSV Alemannia Aachen 1900. The new partners members were more interested in 1924, so the clubs split in 1924.

Because of the city's location, the club frequently played teams from across the borders. After spending time in local competition, Alemannia joined the Oberliga in 1929 the year after they'd moved into The Old Tivoli Stadium. In 1933 German football was re-organised with sixteen regional top flights, or Gauligen as they were called. Alemannia were placed in Gauligen Mittelrhein.

In 1938 they topped their division to reach the national finals. Around this period the club were noted for standing up to the Nazi regime after they demanded the release of a Jewish member. After the war 'Kartoffelkäfer' (The Potato Beetles) as the lub are nicknamed, played primarily in Oberliga West, reaching the DFB-Pokal Final (German FA Cup) before losing to Rot-Weiss Essen. In 1963 the leagues were once again restructured with Alemannia being placed in Regionalliga West (II), which was one of the second tiers. 

In 1965 the club once again ended as beaten finalists in the DFB-Pokal as this time they were defeated by Borussia Dortmund. Two years later, Aachen won their division and were promoted to the Bundesliga. In their second season they finished runners up in the league to Bayern Munchen.

The original Tivoli across the park
Unfortunately their run soon ended and they were relegated the following season. They remained at that level until 1990, when Aachen were demoted to the third tier. In 1999 under coach Werner Fuchs, the side were heading for promotion playing an attractive brand of football when disaster struck. Fuchs dies of a heart attack, but the team managed to maintain form to go up at the end of the season.

Once in 2 Bundesliga the club struggled on and off the pitch. Their accounts revealed that they were close to bankrupcy. A new executive committee was formed and through sensible management and the coaching skills of Dieter Hecking, the club recovered. In 2004 they reached their third DFB-Pokal Final, where they lost 3-2 to Werder Bremen.

Their performance led to a campaign in the UEFA Cup the following season. Alemannia reached the last sixteen of the competition before losing out to AZ Alkmaar. Their success bought increased finances into the club which helped to a promotion in 2006 back to the Bundesliga. However, they were relegated after just one season.

In 2009 the New Tivoli Stadium was opened near to the old stadium to give Alemannia a stunning new home. However, their new surroundings did not inspire the team or the fans. The club hit huge financial worries as crowds dropped. The club were relegated to 3. Liga at the end of the 2011-12 season. Even worse was to come as the club were declared bankrupt, but managed to continue.

There was no rest bite as no money was available for players as the team went down anopther level to fourth tier Regionalliga football. 

Alemannia Aachen will compete in Regionalliga West in the 2013-14 season.

My visit

Alemannia Aachen 0 Hansa Rostock 0 (Sunday 19th February 2012) 2 Bundesliga (att: 14,178)

I was staying for the weekend with my good Boro supporting pals Karl and Carl in Dusseldorf. We had been to the Bayer Leverkusen v Augsburg game the previous day and then had a marvellous night out in the Aldstadt of Dusseldorf where the carnival was in full swing.

The following morning we enjoyed a good breakfast at our fine digs, Hotel Furstenoff and then taken the tram to the Haubtbanhof, or main railway station. As in common with previous years, I'd bought our regional rail ticket the previous day to save queueing and any last minute panics. This fine value ticket offered travel on any non inter city trains, local buses, trams and ubahn services in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for up to five people for a total cost of 39 euros.

The train was packed as far as Cologne where people were heading for their carnival celebrations. This fine tradition in the state is known as 'The Fifth Season'. It begins each year at 11am on the 11th November, which is perhaps a more positive way of looking to the future each year? It continues until Ash Wednesday each year with each weekend having celebration. However, unbeknown to us before we arrived we had picked the final weekend of fun when everything reached its climax. Once we got past Cologne the party goers including a man who randomly played his accordian, alighted.

Karl was quick to point out that the skyline had a rather black colour in the distance. We weren't aware of a bad weather forecast, but sure enough it started to snow and got heavier as we arrived in the beautiful old city. It was around midday and kick off wasn't until 1.30, so we decided to walk towards the old town. We heard a lot of noise down the road, so we went to investigate. There was a Kinder Karnival (childrens procession) in full swing, with floats and bands filling the streets and throwing gifts to the crowds. It really was a gladenning sight, apart from having to dodge sweets being thrown at high speed from the youngsters on high who were oblivious to how hard they were coming down.

We walked to the Markt area by the Town Hall and found a bar. The landlord offered to order us a taxi to Tivoli, which suited us perfectly. We watched the German equivalent of Sky Sports News and saw the embarrasing after fight fiasco from the previous evening involving Chisora and Haye. We finished our drinks and went to where we were told the taxi would arrive. We were there for ten minutes, but nobody came. Carl asked a local if he spoke English. He said he did and he would take us to a taxi. Here started the fun!

Here I impersonate Nanook of the North
He hardly spoke a word of English, but he did rattle on in German. He led us through the streets to where he gave the impression that he knew where we would find a cab. We hit the road where the procession was passing, and after several minutes it seemed to hit home that the road was closed to traffic. Our new friend was either lacking in speed of thought, or he had also imbibed heavily to celebrate. The snow was coming down ever heavier and I was losing my composure at a rate of knots.

We were led to another bar. I did my best to get the message across that kick off was approaching and we didn't have time to stop. My travelling companions were doing their best to hide their mirth from a few steps behind me, but I knew I would pay later for it. My attractive waitress rung for a taxi, but it was immediately clear from her body language and facial expression that we were out of luck.

We trudged off again. My feet were frozen as owing to the good forecast I'd travelled it normal shoes. Ahead we saw a taxi. I cheered and our guide was jubilant. I went to open the door only to find there was no driver. I must have been doing a passable impression of Victor Meldrew as I cam out with his famous catchphrase with a few extra words thrown in for good measure. We set off again, this time without our local mate. I saw a taxi approaching and went to flag it down. It went straight by! Fortunately another cab arrived and we were on our way at last, with kick off time less than twenty minutes away.

The snow was laying on the approaches to Tivoli. I took a photo of the old stadium across the car park and we then made our way to the Bitburger Wall, where we were to stand. I collected us the free programmes from the club holders and we then got up the steps to join in with a fine rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone"

Tivoli was a magnificent new arena, with all four sides under cover. The Bitburger Wall was a large steep terrace behind the goal. To our right was the AachenMunchener Tribune, which was all seated. To our left was the Sparkassen Tribune, which again was seated and had boxes and all the corporate facilities incorporated into it. The far end was the Tabac Original Tribune, which was seated with a terrace in the Nord West corner for visiting fans, who were also allocated a couple of blocks of seats next to it. There were two video boards facing each other across from two corners and excellent facilities under the stands.

Carl and Karl with some Red Indians who I hope were dressed for the carnival!

We climbed our way up the terracing to get a better view. Karl was really impressed with being able to stand up at a decent level of football. He was even happier when a vendor came up the gangway with a tub of gluwein on his back. The teams were due out but the snow was laying all the time on the pitch. The away fans opposite us were just about visible. Hansa had taken a following nearing 1,000 which was a tremendous effort for a lunchtime kick off considering they were based on the north east coast of the country.

An announcement came over the tannoy after the officials had been on the pitch, which sounded sombre. There were boos afterwards. Fortunately a Borussia Dortmund fan on the step below spoke good English and explained that kick off was being delayed for a while to try and clear the pitch. The lines had already been painted on in red and the lines cleared, but it really was getting heavy. I had more or less given up on the game being played to be honest. The situation wasn't lost on my mates.

The officials went out again to inspect as the snowfall decreased a little. Another long announcement was met with cheers. They were going to start the game fifteen minutes later after the teams had chance to warm up. The sides were eventually led out with the young mascots not hanging around after reaching the centre of the pitch. There was none of the players shaking hands cobblers. The simply walked out together and went to the middle of the pitch to give a quick wave to the crowd before leaving the skippers and officials to get the formalities over with.

The pitch was obviously hazardous and it led to early errors, as the illuminous pink match ball skidded across the surface. The Rostock on loan number 22, Marek Janecka was having a nightmare at right back and forward Freddy Borg nearly put a corner in his own net from the edge of the box when he was attempting to clear the ball. For reasons best unknown to themselves Alemannia stopped playing the ball wide and went up the middle where they were far less productive. The game was poor, but the atmosphere decent and even the sun came out as the snow ceased. Karl was most impressed by the two home 'capos' who led the singing from their platforms while facing away from the pitch. They gave plenty of encouragement to the sections they had considered not to be giving the Aachen team enough vocal support.

With not a lot happening on the pitch, Alemannia's centre forward Benjamin Auer broke through. He pushed the ball past the Rostock keeper Kevin Muller who upended him. It was a certain penalty and red card as far as everyone around us was concerned. Elfmeter I screamed (penalty) using up one of my few German football terms. Amazingly the referee Herr Wingenbach waved the appeals aside. The crowd, including me and Karl went beserk. Someone was so fuming the dropped their beer, which soacked him from behind. Carl had his doubts whether there was deliberate contact made.

We went downstairs at the interval where fans were shaking their heads and showing general disapprovemnet to the injustice they'd thought they'd seen. We bought a Tivoli Card so we got a bockwurst and a gluwein each and returned to the terrace. Fir the second half we stood in the lower section for a quick get away and a view closer to the action. Some at the game were in their carnival fancy dress, so we watched the game next to a male and female red indian!

Hansa were much improved after the break, while Aachen most certainly weren't. The pitch caused problems, but some of the basics were sadly lacking. The visitors had a couple of opportunities from crosses, but their shooting was less than woeful. They were being aided by Aachen's Nigerian centre back Seyi Olajengbesi, who put in a catastrophic performance and yet he put in one goal saving tackle. Alemannia had a couple of efforts, but when the whistle blew it was the away fans who were the happier as their bottom of the table side grabbed a valuable point. Alemannia were hovering just above the drop zone and we agreed that they would need to improve to remain in the second tier.

We headed for the free bendy buses into town and somehow managed to squeeze on board. It was interesting when it went round corners! We got out at the bus station but then caught another to the trains. After a quick drink in a desolate bar we caught a direct train via Moenchengladback to Dusseldorf where we headed straight for Aldstadt and another tremendous night out.

It had been a great day out. It was lovely to stand at a game in a modern stadium, and even though the game was very poor, there had been some real comedy moments to cheer us up.


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