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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Hertha BSC (Germany)

Hertha Berliner Sport-Club von 1892 is a professional football club from the German capital of Berlin, more commonly known as Hertha BSC or Hertha Berlin, who were formed on the 25th July 1892.

Originally the club was called BFC Hertha 92, and was named after a steamship with a blue and white funnel on which one of the four founders had taken a ride on with his father. Hertha’s club colours and nickname, Die Blau-Weißen (The Blue-Whites) came from this experience.

Hertha moved into their new home ground in 1904 of Die Plumpe in the city's Gesundbrunnen district, before going on to win the first ever Oberliga Berlin-Brandenburg championship in 1906 as the club quickly became popular and successful.

In 1910 they won a friendly against touring side Southend United. Further Oberliga Berlin-Brandenburg league titles followed in 1915, 1917 and 1918 but the club struggled financially.

The working class Hertha merged with the well off Berliner Sport-Club to form Hertha Berliner Sport-Club to solve the problem in 1920. The move paid off with almost immediate effect. In 1923 Stadion am Gesundbrunnen, as Die Plumpe became known, was developed into a 35,000 capacity stadium, in a prophetic move ahead of upcoming successes.

Between 1925 and 1933 the club lifted eight consecutive Oberliga Berlin-Brandenburg titles. From those successes Hertha progressed in the rounds of the German football championship.

In 1925 Hertha were defeated in the final 4-1 by SpVgg Fürth in Frankfurt. 1926 brought a 2-0 loss to 1.FC Nuremberg in Berlin. Further disappointment came the following year as once again Hertha fell at the final hurdle, this time 5-2 to Hamburger SV in Hamburg. In 1929 it would be SpVgg Fürth to break Berliner hearts once again as they won the final 3-2 in Nuremberg.

The hoodoo was finally broken in 1930 when Hertha defeated Holstein Kiel 5-4 in Düsseldorf to become champions of Germany. They retained the title in 1931 by virtue of a 3-2 victory over TSV 1860 München in Cologne.

In 1933 with the Third Reich in command, football was split into sixteen regional top-flight divisions. Hertha were placed in Gauliga Berlin-Brandenburg, which they went on to win in 1935, 1937 and 1944, without going much further in the championship rounds.

The Allied authorities banned most associations in the country following World War Two. Hertha were re-formed as SG Gesundbrunnen to play in the Oberliga Berlin. The club dropped to the Amateur League for a short while, before they reclaimed their Hertha BSC Berlin identity in 1949.

The developing Cold War led to tension in the city, and Hertha were banned from playing against East German teams after several players and the coach of SG Friedrichstadt of Dresden fled to join Hertha. Several clubs based in the east of Berlin were forced to move from Oberliga Berlin to play in the DDR-Liga from 1950.

A rivalry with Tennis Borussia Berlin began around this time. Following Hertha’s Oberliga Berlin title win of 1956-57, a proposed merger between the clubs was put to members. Apart from three in favour, the other 226 voted against.

The home of Berlin Cricket Club on the Maifeld

The Oberliga Berlin title was lifted again in 1960-61, around the same time that the Berlin Wall was erected. The wall caused huge problems for Hertha fans who were spread around the city, including East Berlin. They were no longer able to go to games. Stadion am Gesundbrunnen was close enough to the wall to hear the fans cheers. Fans from the east would gather at the other side of the wall and cheer when the fans did, much to the annoyance of the Stasi East German secret police. 

The league title was won again in 1962-63 just as the professional Bundesliga was formed. Hertha became founder members and moved to the Olympiastadion.

In 1964-65 Hertha were relegated despite finishing clear in the table. It was found that the club had bribed players to sign for them. Berlin was not an attractive place to live at the time owing to the erection of the Wall, so Hertha tried to improve their lot.

The DFB badly needed a Bundesliga presence in the city, so the league manufactured the promotion of SC Tasmania 1900 Berlin, who promptly finished with the worst ever top flight performance and were immediately relegated.

Hertha reclaimed their top flight place in 1968-69 as the club became popular throughout the city. However, they were caught up in the Bundesliga match fixing scandal of 1971, which also revealed that they were 6 million DM in debt. Hertha sold their old Stadion am Gesundbrunnen site to save themselves from bankruptcy.

In 1974-75 Hertha finished as Bundesliga runners-up to Borussia Mönchengladbach. In 1977 the club reached the final of the DFB-Pokal (German Cup). Hertha lost out 1-0 in a replay to 1. FC Köln in Hannover.

The 1978-79 campaign saw the team embark on a fine UEFA Cup run. Hertha found themselves in the final following wins over PFC Botev Plovdiv, Dinamo Tbilisi, Esbjerg fB, Dukla Prague before going out to Red Star Belgrade on away goals at the semi-final stage. The same season saw another defeat in the DFB-Pokal final in Hannover, this time 1-0 after extra time to Fortuna Düsseldorf.

However, the good run came to an end with relegation to 2. Bundesliga at the end of the 1979-80 season. A suggested merger with Tennis Borussia Berlin, SpVgg Blau-Weiß 1890 Berlin and SCC Berlin to form a major Berlin club never came to fruition. In 1986 the club slipped down to Amateur Oberliga Berlin before regaining their second tier status after a gap of two seasons.

Crowds were so poor around the period that Hertha moved their home games to Poststadion until 1989. Remarkably the clubs second string performed better for a while as they reached the DFB-Pokal final of 1993, where they were defeated 1-0 by Bayer Leverkusen in front of 76,000 fans at the Olympiastadion.

The demolition of the Berlin Wall assisted Hertha’s popularity. 11,000 fans from the East attended the first match since the gates were pulled down for the game against SG Wattenscheid. Hertha and 1. FC Union Berlin fans became good friends, with a friendly between the clubs attracting a crowd of over 50,000.

In 1994 the sale of real estate once again saved the club, as they were 10 million DM in debt. A new management team was installed and by 1997 Hertha found their way back to the top flight. 

The club invested in its own youth academy as well as signing quality players such as Sebastian Deisler and Brazilian international Marcelinho. The investment was repaid with some UEFA Cup and Champions League qualifications, despite the side coming close to relegation in 2003-04.

For the 2007-08 season Hertha employed the Swiss coach Lucien Favre to try and bring success. After two reasonable campaigns, the team were relegated to the second tier in 2009-10 after finishing bottom of the table. 

Former international star Markus Babbel led the side to promotion back to the Bundesliga at the first attempt. However, he departed half way through the following season. Including interim appointments, Hertha would use five managers in the 2011-12 season. Otto Rehhagel was at the helm when the team lost their controversial relegation play-off game to Fortuna Düsseldorf as crowd disturbances marred the second leg at Esprit Arena.

Jos Luhukay took over team affairs and took the side up once again in 2012-13, this time as 2. Bundesliga champions. Hertha finished in the lower half of the table before new team boss Pál Dárdai was appointed in February 2015 to lead the side to a fifteenth place finish.

Hertha BSC will play in the Bundesliga in the 2015-16 season.

My visits

Monday 23rd October 2000

During my three week Eurorail tour I spent a day and night in Berlin. The Monday morning offered me the opportunity to visit the Olympiastadion. It was in the days before I knew how to use the internet, so I relied on reference books for guidance. I knew nothing on how to reach other Berlin clubs.

I took the train out to the stadium, but I was denied any access, and no tours were running as it was being refurbished in readiness for the World Cup of 2006. I wandered around outside but got back to the city for a walking tour in the afternoon.

In hindsight I wish I had more knowledge and taken a greater look at the surrounding parks to take in the full history of the place.

Hertha BSC 1 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 0 (Sunday 22nd November 2015) Bundesliga (att: 37,045)

My second visit to Berlin within a few weeks came a couple of days after my fiftieth birthday. To celebrate my brothers Paul and Nick came along for what seemed an apt way to celebrate. I certainly knew that our parents would have been delighted.

Nick and I met Paul at Schönefeld Airport after he arrived a little earlier from Stansted. We had flown with Norwegian Airlines after spending the night at the Premier Inn at Gatwick to try and arrive in the best possible condition.

We changed trains at Bundesplatz on a S45 service before taking the U9 line a few stops to Kurfürstendamm, from where it was just a short walk to our rooms for the evening at the Hostel City Bed am Kurfürstendamm. After throwing our bags in, we walked to the Zoologischer Garten stop for the fifteen minute S5 ride to the Olympia Stadion. 

Dark clouds were gathering overhead as we emerged on the walk up to the arena. Paul got stuck in to the sausage and beer, and I wasn’t far behind. Nick managed to grab some fries. We continued along Gutsmuthweg to the main East Gates with the tall columns and Olympic rings.

Security was extremely tight to enter the stadium, in light of the Paris atrocities just nine days earlier. Stewards gave heavy frisking and everyone had to remove headwear. Once past that we arrived at the automated turnstiles. Our print at home tickets were taking some scanning, but after a few efforts we were in after a few anxious moments!

Once inside the grounds, fans were free to wander around. Free programmes were picked up at the several club merchandising stalls. Concessions were plentiful and offering a wide range of snacks to suit all tastes. Prices were slightly more expensive than outside, but nothing compared to some of the rip off's favoured at British stadia.

As there was around forty minutes before kick off we wandered around and saw the old Olympic bell, which once stood in the top of a tower which was destroyed during World War Two. We continued to the far end where we were in awe at the Maifeld.

This large open space with banking all around held many displays and celebrations over the years, some with political leanings in the 30’s. It now hosted home games for Berlin Cricket Club!

The view from the Marathon Arch of the rest of the stadium and its roof was breath taking. We took time out to read the honours boards from the 1936 Olympics, which had been held at the stadium. Pride of place was the name of Jesse Owens.

Our seats were in the upper tier to the left of the east goal in Block 40.2. As usual I’d booked seats on the end of the row near to the entrance. Our view was fantastic, with both Paul and Nick over the moon with the whole experience. Tickets were €21, which included local travel on the day until 4am. It was getting chilly so the stadium punch, which was like a weaker version of gluhwein did a fine job.

The stadium comprised of two steep tiers of seating with a fantastic roof all the way around apart from the gap for the Marathon Arch. It was good that even after reconstruction for the 2006 World Cup, the gap had remained. History like that should never be lost.

As both teams came out, the Hertha fans below us made a real noise to welcome their heroes. As usual at overseas games, the crowd were led by a fan on the megaphone and a couple of drummers. Although it was choreographed to a degree, it was still very impressive.

Everyone stood in silence to remember the unfortunate people who lost their lives in Paris, with the French flag draped on the pitch. It was very touching and impeccably observed.

Hoffenheim came into the game bottom of the league, with Hertha in fourth place. The visitors support reflected the size of the town they represented and their league position. There was maybe 200 of them in total.

Their keeper Oliver Baumann looked a little on the dodgy side to me and far too eager to leave his box. Hertha were keen to get forward as the snow began to fall. The fans gave referee Guido Winkmann real abuse for some reason, when he sensibly swapped the white ball for an orange one.

Salomon Kalou had a half chance had a made a little bit of effort to connect at the back post. The former Chelsea striker was putting in as lazy and lacklustre performance as any of the three of us could remember. He was a disgrace.

The deadlock was broken after thirty minutes as Marvin Plattenhardt sent in a free kick. Visiting midfielder Eugen Polanski deflected the ball over the line off the post from the back of his head. The goal line technology confirmed that the ball was well over the line, despite Baumann’s best efforts.

Our warm drinks continued. We were pretty sure that the game would be abandoned at one point, but the snow eventually eased up. The ground staff cleared the vital areas of the pitch during the break by dragging an old goal net along, with a colleague sweeping up the remains. I’d never seen that approach before, but it certainly worked.

After the interval Hertha seemed to have settled for just one goal, where our consensus was that Hoffenheim were there for the taking. Kalou was a major problem. His unwillingness to run or hold up the ball, meant it was coming straight back.

The visitors could sence that they had a chance. The game was very scrappy, which wasn’t helped by the pitch following the earlier snow, but at times the quality was low.

Both Kevin Volland and then Eduardo Vargas came close to levelling, but it wasn’t to be. When the fourth official raised the board to indicate two minutes of added time, we made our move.

Paul grabbed a souvenir duck from a stall before we entered the S Bahn station from the south of the stadium. We just missed a S5 train, but jumped aboard a special shuttle to Charlottenberg, where we caught a connecting service back to Zoologischer Garten.

Once we’d had a quick change, we visited Checkpoint Charlie before taking a couple of trains to Hackescher Markt where we visited the excellent Brauhaus Lemke for some nice beers and excellent food. My brothers kindly treated me to my meal.

The night finished off in another nearby bar before we headed back near to base and late beers and whisky in the very decent Irish Bar in the Europa Center, as a band played covers at far too fast a pace while we caught up with the sports news.

It had been a wonderful day out.

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