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, September 7, 2015

Karlsruher SC (Germany)

Karlsruher Sport-Club (SC as they’re more commonly known) is a German sports club whose football team are the most prominent feature. The club was formed originally as Karlsruher Fussball Club Phönix, formed on 6 June 1894 by dissatisfied members of the gymnastics club Karlsruher Turngemeinde.

They soon became a prominent club playing in Südkreis-Liga, where they won the title in 1909, going on to become national champions by defeating Viktoria 89 Berlin 4–2 in the championship final.

In 1912, Phönix merged with KFC Alemannia to form KFC Phönix (Phönix Alemannia). As Phönix Karlsruhe the club became members of Gauliga Baden, which was one of sixteen top flight divisions created by the ruling Third Reich.

The club had a moderate record, with a relegation and then an immediate return over the war years before Phönix joined the newly formed Oberliga Süd once the conflict was over. In the second season, Phönix were demoted.

Throughout this early period a couple of other clubs had appeared on the local scene that would eventually come together. 1. FV Sport Mühlburg and Viktoria Mühlburg had merged to form FC Mühlburg in 1905. Meanwhile FC Germania and FC Weststadt joined together to form VfB Karlsruhe in 1911. FC Mühlburg and VfB Karlsruhe would in turn merge to form VfB Mühlburg in 1933.

The clubs that had merged to form VfB Mühlburg hadn’t really achieved a great deal but as one they were awarded a place in Gauliga Baden. After the war they slipped, but then won the Oberliga Süd in 1947. In 1951 they came third in the national championships.

On the 16th October 1952 VfB Mühlburg merged with KFC Phönix to form Karlsruher Sport-Club Mühlburg-Phönix e. V.

The newly united club was an immediate success. In 1955 they lifted the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) with a 3-2 win over FC Schalke 04 in front of 25,000 fans in Braunschweig. At the same time the club moved into the newly built Wildparkstadion. In 1956 Karlsruher retained the cup. This time they defeated Hamburger SV 3-1 as 25,000 cheered them on at Wildparkstadion.

Oberliga Süd championships were won in 1956, 1958 and 1960. The last celebration was nearly converted into a double, but KSC went down 3-2 to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Pokal final. The clubs’ fine record led to a place in the newly formed Bundesliga in 1963.

Following a few seasons of struggle, Karlsruher were relegated to Regionalliga Süd in 1968. After a couple of title wins they progressed to 2. Bundesliga Süd, leading to another league title to return to the top flight for the 1975–76 season. By 1987 the club had been relegated twice but fought back on both occasions to find themselves once more in the Bundesliga.

New coach Winfried Schäfer KSC progressed. A fine 1992-93 campaign led to a place in the UEFA Cup. Karlsruher defeated PSV Eindhoven, Valencia CF, Girondins Bordeaux and Boavista before going out at the semi-final stage to Austria Salzburg on away goals.

To see the action from the amazing 7-0 victory over Valencia during the run, go to:

Karlsruher continued to put in strong Bundesliga performances, which led to two more UEFA Cup runs, reaching the third round both in the 1996–97 and 1997–98 seasons. They also reached the DFB-Pokal Final in 1996, but lost the showpiece in Berlin 1-0 to 1. FC Kaiserslautern.

Schäfer was fired in March 1998 after a fine run at the club. Sadly they were relegated at the end of that season. A terrible 1999–2000 season played under dire financial circumstances dropped them down to the Regionalliga Süd, from where they bounced back at the first attempt.

In 2006-07 KSC won 2.Bundesliga with three games remaining to return to the highest echelon of the German game. They lasted just two seasons before being relegated to the second tier once again. A further demotion down to Regionalliga Süd came at the end of the 2011-12 season, but once more KSC fought straight back.

The 2014-15 season ended in agony for Karlsruher. They ended the season in third place in 2. Bundesliga. This awarded them a play-off match for a place at the top table against Hamburger SV who had finished third from bottom in the top division. In the first leg at Volksparkstadion, KSC scored a vital away goal in a 1-1 draw. In the return game a goal from Reinhold Yabo in the second half looked to have sealed promotion for Markus Kauczinski’s side. However HSV equalised in stoppage time before winning the game in extra time.

Karsruher SC will play in 2. Bundesliga in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Saturday 15th August 2015

When I turned up at Gatwick Airport for a night’s sleep before a weekend jaunt to Stuttgart on the Thursday night, I had absolutely no thoughts of visiting the Wildparkstadion. Indeed, the most I expected to see of the city of Karlsruhe was a quick drink between drinks on the journey to Freiburg and back. How little I knew!

Having missed the flight to my intended destination, which was entirely my fault. I now had to resolve the situation. There were no available seats to Stuttgart until the Sunday. I used my geographical knowledge plus Easyjet and DB Bahn (german Railways) Apps on my IPhone to dig myself out of what would be an expensive hole.

Having managed to secure a seat on an afternoon flight just over the border in Strasbourg, I phoned my hotel to defer my booking until the Saturday night. I then booked a room in Karlsruhe for the evening to cut down on the train journey on both days. This would give me an evening and a couple of hours the next morning in a new city to me.

Ironically the train that would require a change in Offenburg, went straight past the Stade de la Meinau home of RC Strasbourg Alsace, who had a home fixture later in the evening. I could have got a game in to replace the fixture I was missing between 1.FC Heidenheim and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Strasbourg was duly added to my must do list.

The taxi driver at Karlsruhe station seemed intent on giving me a city tour, though to be fair much of the centre was hampered by road works as an underground tram system is installed to free up the traffic. Eventually I found the City Hotel, where my room was clean and basic but the welcome very cordial.

The city had a beautiful castle in front of fine old buildings and I found a superb light show accompanied by music on the Schloss walls. Plenty of locals were also taking in the spectacle. To round off a long but fascinating day I came across the Badisch Brauhaus on Stephanienstraße. I tried their dark (dunkel) beer and did my puzzles before retiring for the evening.

I was up and about at 8am the following morning. The welcome at breakfast was just as welcoming. The hotel really did employ helpful and polite staff. I left my bag on reception before heading off on a walk in the sunshine.

The Schloss looked just as pretty in daylight with its golden walls. It was set around lots of lawns and parks. With museums and the city’s university bordering the land. I continued using the map from the hotel and cutting through the campus to where I presumed I’d find the Wildparkstadion.

I was pretty sure I was heading in the right direction and was about to continue, when I saw the magnificent sloping floodlight pylons to my left though the trees of the forestry. Needing no second invitation I was soon on the right path. Regular signposts were a help.

It turned out that the gates to the stadium’s outside perimeter were open with workmen carrying out tasks in various outbuildings. I walked up the steps to the back of the curve behind one of the goals. The wire gate to get down into the spectator areas was closed but I had a perfect view of the arena.

Widparkstadion was like so many stadiums I grew up watching on TV as British clubs went overseas to try and secure results in the European competitions. The four corner floodlight pylons leant over open covered ends curved behind the 400m running track. Each end had centre sections for seating with terracing at either side. The Main Stand was two tiered seating, while opposite the cover was the same height as the terrace with seating behind the terracing. A huge scoreboard was behind the goal at my end. It was a proper old school continental ground.

Part of my plan was to also get some photos of the reserve team arena as well as the other pitch that Google Maps picked out. They l;ooked to belong to a local club. As it was I decided to head back along the correct path and thank my blessings that I’d had an unexpected bonus.

After picking up my bag I was soon on the tram down to the station to jump on board for a ride down to my lunchtime game at Freiburg.

Karlsruher SC 3 Arminia Bielefeld 2 (Sunday 29th January 2017) 2. Bundesliga (att: 13,145)

With my appetite being wetted after my earlier visit to Karlsruhe, I didn’t hesitate to head south from Bonn, where I’d stayed the previous the night, to take in a match.

I had two travel options. I could either go by train, which was quicker but expensive, or use FlixBus. Having used this company quite happily in France, I had no problems with them. Sure enough my service picked me up on time and gave me a comfortable ride down the Autobahn and through the Black Forest, arriving at my destination around fifteen minutes behind schedule.

I could have just about made it to the Wildparkstadion for the 1.30pm kick off by tram and a very brisk walk; but I decided to take a taxi, which probably proved to be a sensible move as the stadium was further than I thought.

The ring road around the park had cars parked up either side. My driver dropped me a couple of hundred yards short of the turnstiles where the police had set up a pedestrian zone. I grabbed a programme for €xx and soon found my correct entrance.

I’d booked my €xx ticket and printed it online with my choice being made with the knowledge of my previous look, knowing I’d be in the stand nearest the road. It really was an old school venue which reminded me of entering the old Long Side at Burnley’s Turf Moor in my younger days.

Facilities were just inside the gates with entrance to the stand being up steep steps on a grass bank. Once inside it wasn’t any more modern. There was a wide concourse at the back before the seats and then a terrace led down to the track. There was another smaller tier on top of my location. Although each ticket had a seat number, it was possible to move along into any untaken places.

The teams came out to a fantastic reception from the home fans in front of me, who had choreographed a fantastic show with ticket tape and banners, which were removed before kick off. The few hundred hardy visitors from Bielefeld were in the corner to my left.

To take a look of my view of proceedings, click here.

It was the first game in charge for new KSC coach Mirko Slomka. What he made of the first half goodness knows, but it wasn’t the best. Proceedings weren’t helped by the shortage of beer in the kiosks.

Whether there’d been some sort of delivery issue I’m not sure, but I ended up going back downstairs and halfway round the back of the far goal before I found anywhere. Many fans were not best pleased and gave up. I didn’t miss too much on the pitch.

Both sides were at the wrong end of the table, and this was reflected in the standard of the play. I’d seen Arminia ship four goals at Dusseldorf earlier in the season, and they seemed to have done some work with their defence, but goal mouth action was sparse.

Six minutes after the break it was the visitors who went ahead when Reinhold Yabo set up his skipper Fabian Klos to score. Jordi Figueras made it 1-1 just after the hour mark when he headed home a corner from Moritz Stoppelkamp.

Three minutes later the game was lit up by a brilliant goal from Dennis Kempe as he pulled off an outrageous piece of skill to go past Julian Börner and fire a tremendous shot into the top corner of the net which left the Arminia custodian Wolfgang Hesl without a chance.

The home fans were naturally delighted, but they were put in check as Bielefeld fought back to level when Tom Schütz scored with a direct free kick to make it 2-2 and complete a frenetic period which had spurned three goals in five minutes.

Hiroki Yamada was pulling the strings for Karlsruher in midfield as they searched for a valuable winner. He sent through Boubacar Barry but keeper Hesl forced him wide and the chance was gone.

Arminia had a good shout for a penalty turned down before Stoppelkamp fired in a low cross that defender Tomasz Holota scuffed to the feet of Erwin Hoffer who fired home to make it 3-2 with just eight minutes of normal time remaining.

Both sides had opportunities in the final few minutes, but KSC hung on for a valuable three points. Although the second half was not too high on quality, it had provided plenty of excitement and entertainment.

At full time I put on a steady pace to walk around Adenauerring to Durlacher Tor from where I took a tram back to Karlsruhe Hauptbanhof where I had time to grab some refreshments before my train to Mainz to watch the match between Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund.

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