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

London

September 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

SV Lichtenberg 47 (Germany)



SV Lichtenberg 47 is a semi-professional football club who were formed in 1945 as Sportgruppe Lichtenberg-Nord in Russian-occupied East Berlin, along with several other sports clubs from the area to form Sportgemeinschaft Lichtenberg 47 in 1947. The new club also providing sections for bowling, boxing, fitness and aerobics, gymnastics, line dancing, table tennis and volleyball.



In 1949 the club changed its name to Sport Club Lichtenberg. The side reached the top level DDR-Oberliga for the 1950-51 season, following championship wins in the third tier 1. Klasse Berlin in 1948 and then the Kreisliga Berlin in 1950, but were relegated after just one campaign at the top.



In 1951 SV Lichtenberg 47 moved into the Hans-Zoschke-Stadion, which was built on the site of the larger Sportplatz Normannenstraße. The new stadium was named in honour of a local metalworker, sailor, athlete and resistance fighter against Nazism who was executed in 1944.

The club lifted Bezirksliga Berlin titles in 1955 and 1964, before a further merger took place with the club of the workers; Betriebssportgemeinschaft Elektroproject und Anlagebau Berlin, to form BSG EAB Lichtenberg in 1969.

Consecutive Bezirksliga Berlin championships were won in 1970 and 1971, before the decade ended with another name change in 1979; this time to BSG EAB Berlin 47. Several relegations had also littered the clubs history, but their final honours in the old East Germany came with two more Bezirksliga Berlin titles in 1981 and 1983.



During this era the headquarters of the DDR Stasi, the secret police, were directly over the road from the Hans-Zoschke-Stadion. The team defeated Berliner FC Dynamo, the favourite side of Stasi leader Erich Meilke one year as he watched on from his office window. He ordered that the stadium be torn down, but it was saved as Zosche’s widow Elfried appealed to Communist party boss Erich Honecker.

Following German re-unification in 1990, the club took up the moniker of Sportverein Lichtenberg and were placed in the NOFV-Oberliga Mitte, which was one of many third tier divisions of the time.



They were relegated to Verbandsliga Berlin after just one season and then went down twice again to find themselves in the sixth tier Landesliga Berlin by the mid 90s. In 1990 finances were raised by selling the naming rights to the stadium as it became the HOWOGE-Arena for commercial purposes.

SV Lichtenberg 47 fought back to win what had become the fifth tier Verbandsliga Berlin in 2001 to reach the NOFV-Oberliga Nord. After four seasons Lichtenberg went back down to the Berlin-Liga.



In 2012, the team won promotion to NOFV-Oberliga Nord, which was now the fifth level since the addition of the newly formed national 3. Liga. In 2013 Lichtenberg reached the final of the Berliner Landespokal where they were defeated 1-0 by Berliner FC Dynamo at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark in front of 6,381 fans.

The 2014-15 season saw the club finish in fourth place.



SV Lichtenberg 47 will play in the NOFV-Oberliga Nord in the 2015-16 season.


My visit

SV Lichtenberg 47 15 (fifteen!) VfB Sperber Neukölln 0 (Saturday 10th October 2015) Berliner Landespokal Round Two (paying att: 94)



My main reason for visiting Germany was to attend the Euro Qualifier the following evening against Georgia in Leipzig. Hotels in Leipzig were limited, and my return cheap flights were to and from Berlin.

Having managed to take the Saturday off work I then set about the task of trying to find a game as it was during the international break. None of the top six divisions in the area were in action, but I continually checked out the Berlin FA website. It came up trumps as the second round of the Berlin Cup for sides lower down the pecking order was scheduled over the weekend.



Despite time being tight, I managed to call in to the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark to take some photos before taking a couple of trains to alight at Magdalenenstraße. A short walk up the road brought me to the pretty Roedeliusplatz with the twin steeple church. A young local put me right towards the stadium entrance and I was soon outside the old Stasi building, which was now a museum.

The entrance was just a short walk up Ruschestraße, and with the tannoy still playing music, I knew I would only miss a few seconds at worse. I was liberated of €5 admission fee. There were no programmes on evidence.



The Hans-Zoschke-Stadion really was a cracker, for those who love old school grounds. The evidence of an old communist state arena was there for all to see. Fifteen rows of terracing went all the way around the playing area, save for a large gap behind the entrance goal where there was a large gap, not unlike at Lord’s Nursery End. Much of the terracing had grass growing on it, but plentiful crush barriers made it safe. An English ground grader would have had kittens, but thankfully common sense seems to be used elsewhere. A section of 1,000 open bucket seating straddled the middle third of the pitch down one side, with the dug outs in front.



I repelled the allure of the food stall at the top near the seats so I could take in a lap of the arena to take my photos. It was a stunning day, but cold in the shade. I received some looks when I adorned my Scarborough Athletic beanie. A nice touch around the ground were plentiful litter bins, all painted in red with the clubs crest on the side. The game started at 2pm as the stadium had no floodlights.



Teams of Lichtenberg’s level in Germany aren’t asked to play the same ridiculous amount of games as their peers in England, so there’s no need for them. Consequently clubs save on expenses and players don’t have to take time off work to play and the regional cup competition is treated properly. When will we ever learn in England?

However, I digress. It was obvious from a very early stage that Neukölln were in for an arduous afternoon. Lichtenberg were camped inside their half, with the defence being put under more pressure than one of Herr Mielke’s suspects.



Eventually the seal was broken on fourteen minutes as Daniel Wahl netted. It was three nil eight minutes later thanks to further goals from Emre Yildirim and Christopher Lichtnow. By now I’d done my lap, going past the scattering of ’47 Ultras, and was tucking into a fine bratfwurst and a beer for the princely sum of €5. 




Neukölln, with a team full of expat Turks, from a few levels down in Kreisliga B were really being put to the sword. Their task was not helped as they had turned up with just one sub. When Güven Akpolat went off injured with a facial wound, he went off and got fixed up before returning. It was probably as well, as he was their only outlet up front.



Further goals were added by Domenique Runge on his return from a scholarship in college football in Fort Lauderdale, while a brace from Yildirim completed his hat-trick to send the home send in with a 6-0 lead at the break. The gent on the manual scoreboard at the far end was certainly getting a good workout climbing up and down his step ladder.

At the interval I decided to sample a glass of the local Berliner Pilsner, which was rather apt as they sponsored the competition. It seemed a popular choice looking around the locals. I was directed to the club portacabin to try and purchase a copy of the Echo, the club magazine. Unfortunately it looked like they hadn’t published.



Neukölln made their only swap for the second half, but sadly it made not one iota of difference. If anything their predicament got worse. Within five minutes the score had hit double figures.

Thomas Brechler, Wahl, Moritz Künne and Lichtnow all got into the act, as the Neukölln players either forgot or totally ignored their coach’s instructions back in the dressing room. The loyal home fans shook their heads and smiled at what they were watching, though not in a nasty way. To be frank, VfB Sperber Neukölln were the worst football team I’d ever paid to watch; and believe me there had been plenty of contenders.



The tenth goal caused a problem all of its own making for the scoreboard operator. He only had a single peg to hang the numbers. Help was at hand by a fan that was for some reason carrying white masking tape. Perhaps he’d had a premonition? Whatever, the tape came to the rescue as an improvised continental ‘1’ was put on the board to laughter and cheers.

At this point I must pay homage to the visitor’s number nine; Nazif Cocaj if the ’47 website listed the players correctly.  Anyway, whoever wore that shirt hobbled and plodded around in slow motion for ninety minutes. Obviously past his best in ability, pace and physique, he did his utmost to retain the ball but mainly failing.



After a ten minute lull, the score became 11-0 just past the hour when Kunne added his second. Lichnow completed his hat-trick a minute later to make it a round dozen. The visiting keeper Kayhan Eraslan drew laughter from the Ultras when one of his team mates had to tie his laces for him. Some very unhelpful comments were passed on from the terracing.

Following a quiet period of twenty one minutes without a goal where chances were spurned and the home players tried to be a little too individual, Lichtenberg stepped on the gas for the final six minutes as Brechler added three more to take his tally to four on the afternoon.



Fair play to Neukölln. Despite being hopelessly outclassed, they didn’t resort to foul play or dissent. Only in the last few minutes when the final goal avalanche cascaded, did the left back start moaning at his mates. 

Once referee Christian Large had blown his whistle for full time, a lone Neukölln official stood by the player’s gate and shook all of his players warmly by the hand; apart from the full back who was still sulking and being ignored by all and sundry.



It was nice to see the home side post a good luck message on their website to the visitors for the remainder of the season. Lichtenberg could relax and await the third round draw the following Thursday.

I took the pleasant ten minute walk down to Frankfurter Allee where I caught the U Bahn to Alexanderplatz. The weather was still stunning so I walked all the way to the Reichstag past some stunning famous landmarks, and the old communist buildings on the east side of the Spree. 



15-0 was the largest victory I’d ever paid to watch. It was an afternoon that neither I nor the Neukölln team, would forget in a hurry!





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