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

Monday, November 5, 2012

1. FC Köln (Germany)

1. FC Köln are a football club from the city of Cologne, North-Rhine Westphalia in Germany who were formed on the 13th February 1948. The club came about following the merger of three local clubs; Kölner BC, SpVgg and VfL Köln 1899.

The history of those three clubs was intriguing in themselves. Kölner BC were formed in June 1901 by a group of young men who were more interested in football than the gymnastics offered at FC Borussia Köln. The club reached the preliminary rounds of the national finals and were losing finalists in the League Cup. 

SpVgg began life as Spielvereinigung 1907 Köln-Sülz in 1907, after previously being called Sülzer Sportverein. They went on to appear in the Gauliga Mittelrhein, which was one of sixteen regional premier divisions across Germany. They merged with VfL Köln 1899 in 1943, to form Kriegspielgemeinschaft VfL 99/Sülz 07. War engulfed the area after just one season, so the club were disbanded.

The clubs were brought together to form the new 1. FC Köln who competed in Oberliga West and playing at the Mungersdorfer Stadion. They lifted the title in 1954 as well as reaching the DFB Pokal (German Cup) Final, where they were defeated by VfB Stuttgart. Die Geißböcke (The Billy Goats) won another championship in 1960, going on to the national final where SV Hamburg took the honours. 

In 1962 Köln went one better by defeating 1. FC Nuremburg and being rewarded with a place in the following seasons European Cup. This ended in a 8-5 aggregate defeat to Dundee, after losing the first leg 8-1 at Dens Park. That season ended with a runners up place to Borussia Dortmund and a place in the newly formed Bundesliga.

Köln were the first Bundesliga champions and the following season they reached the quarter finals of the European Cup, where they went out to Liverpool in the most astonishing of circumstances. Both legs ended 0-0 and a third match finished in a 2-2 draw. This was in the days before penalty kicks were used to decide matches. The contest was to be decided by the toss of a coin. he first toss ended with the coin sticking vertically in the ground. The second time Liverpool called right, or Köln wrongly, with the English side going through.

The old Mungersdorfer

In 1978 the club won the league and Pokal double at the rebuilt Mungersdorfer, with Harald Schumacher, Herbert Zimmermann, Bernhard Cullmann, Heinz Flohe, Dieter Muller and Roger Van Gool starring. The following season they reached the European Cup semi final before going down to Nottingham Forest.

To see twenty five minutes of highlights of an absolutely classic first leg of the semi final, click here, here and here.

After a relegation to 2 Bundesliga in 1998, Köln regained their place in the top flight by going up as champions after a period of two seasons. 2002 saw another relegation, but Die Geißböcke fought back once more as second division champions the following season as the Mungersdorfer began a complete rebuild to take the new stands next to the pitch and the removal of the running track.

Despite the goals of Lukas Podolski the team lasted just one season in the top flight. Christoph Daum came in as head coach, and in 2008 he took the team back up. After a decent comeback Bundesliga season, Daum departed for Fenerbahce. 

The good news was the return of Podolski from Bayern Munich. A plethora of head coaches failed to keep the team in the division, as Die Geißböcke were relegated once more at the end of the 2011-12 season, while Podolski was sold to Arsenal.  Holger Stanislawski was appointed as the new head coach in May 2012.

1. FC Köln will play in 2. Bundesliga in the 2013-14 season.

My visit

1. FC Köln 3 1. FC Kaiserslautern 3 (Friday 26th October 2012) 2. Bundesliga (att: 44,601)

I had arrived by plane at Cologne/Bonn airport early in the morning to start what I hoped to be four very enjoyable days of football, groundhopping and socialising. I had already visited the stadiums of SC Fortuna Köln, FC Viktoria Köln 1904 and TuS Köln rrh earlier in the day before heading to my budget hotel in Dusseldorf for a much needed siesta.

I headed back south to the lovely city, which I'd visited briefly on a few earlier occasions. I already had my ticket, having bought it online and delivered for a total of Euro 27.50. My mornings experiences showed me that alighting at Messe station was a good move as trams ran all the way to the RheinEnergieStadion, as the Mundersdorfer had been re-named in a sponsorship deal.

I had intended to have a couple of kolsch's on a nearby bar I'd spotted, but the time was getting on and I wanted to be in good time to soak up the atmosphere. I went downstairs in the station just as a packed tram with some very rowdy Kaiserslautern fans was trying to depart. I wasn't too upset that I'd just missed it. 

Within two minutes another tram was on the platform and I got a seat. It wasn't too busy as we set off, and it was destined to have the same numbers on board at our destination. It was a non stopping service, which didn't exactly please one young lady who was making frantic phone calls to a friend as we continued past every stop.

We had the company of police vans and motor cyclists whizzing by with their sirens booming out, obviously trying to catch up with the tram ahead. It was like a scene from the Italian Job as the bikes raced up the footpaths. It was a chaotic scene, with many workers trying to head home at the same time. The ride to the stadium took the best part of thirty minutes, meaning I had nearly an hour to kill before the 6pm kick off.

The 'Lautern fans were being held by the police, awaiting more to arrive. I walked across the large field between the tram stop on Aachener Strasse and the stadium. It was a completely different scene to the one I'd scene from a distance some twenty four years earlier while on a coach on the way down the Rhine Valley on a memorable holiday with the Gas Club. 

I cut across to walk down the side of the stadium just as the away fans escort was nearing. One or two local likely lads were being monitored by the polizei. I arrived at my entrance for the Sudtribune and got through without any dramas, picking up my free club/magazine programme and looking around. 

After popping into the supporters club hut where forthcoming coach away match trips were being booked, I purchased a card required to purchase food and drink from a helpful vendor who spoke perfect English.

My hunger was growing, so I tried a couple of the local sausages in bread, as well as a local beer. I went upstairs with a coffee to keep out the cold and very wet weather. I was a little confused as my ticket had four numbers on it. 

While I was used to having numbers for block, row and seat number, but the extra digit was baffling me. I sent a text to my brother Nick and asked him to have a look on Google Translate. Within minutes I knew that the '6' on my ticket, signified that it was the sixth home game of the season. 

As I figured a large local and a group of youngsters were where I was meant to be. However, a wonderful feature of the stadium negated any need for a seat. At the back there was an area of flat standing with a barrier to lean on, and the stewards were fine about it. I'd originally wanted a ticket for the terracing, but it had sold out, so this was really welcome. I looked down on the pitch and took in a really impressive arena.

All four stands had two tiers, mainly of seating and were linked in the corners as the floodlight blocks stuck threw and helped to keep the roofs up. The Westtribune to my left is where the players emerged from and had two levels of corporate boxes in between the tiers. 

The Nordtribune had a section of terracing in the corner for visiting fans. The Osttribune had just the one level of boxes between the tiers and finally the Sudtribune where I was places had terracing downstairs for the home fans.

Before the teams came out, fans joined in a rousing rendition of the club anthem; Ein Club. Ein Gefühl. Mein Verein (One Club, One Feeling, My Club) - which has a very close resemblance to the Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond.

To hear the fans give it their best and see 1. FC Köln convert a penalty, click here:

I was quite at home stood at the back watching a team with a wonky defence, as 'Lautern went one up as Alexander Baumjohann opened the scoring after nine minutes, to set off joyous scenes in the away section and the lighting of a flare. Köln slowly got into the match and equalised from a penalty, which was converted by Adil Chihi.

I thought the award was a bit soft as the forward pushed the ball too far in front and then conveniently went over the keeper as he'd gone to narrow the angle. I went to stand by the exit as half time approached. Some went down to the concourse, but I'm glad I remained as Christian Clemens put the home side ahead with an absolute beauty from the edge of the box.

I retired to use the cramped toilets and then purchase a large bread topped with cheese and bits of meat. This was to fill me on the train home before taking in some fine alt beer in Dusseldorf's Altstadt.

After the interval the visitors levelled through the dangerous Cameroon forward Mohammadou Idrissou. The pitch was wet and it was helping the entertainment as errors crept in. Köln were going for it as they attacked their choir. 

Daniel Royer put them ahead once again and they should have sealed the game, but the squandered a few opportunities. Despite the fans seeming confident, Kaiserslautern were not finished as Idrissou added a second with just two minutes remaining.

At full time I made a run for it, knowing full well that the trams would be packed. I was greatly impressed by the organisation as they were all lined up and the set up allowed two on the long platform at the same time and all headed into the city. 

I had to change at Neaumarkt, but within two minutes I was on board another tram to Messe. The train back north arrived ten minutes later and just over an hour after leaving the game I was enjoying a beer in Dusseldorf.

It had been a great game in a superb venue and a really promising start to my stay. Wunderbar!

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