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DangerousSausage

Postcard from Germany

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We're also underway in Germany now - we've had the first round of the German Cup (DFB Pokal) and the Bundesliga started at the weekend, while the lower divisions have already been in action for a few weeks. Summer football feels strange, but this season feels a bit special to me.

The Bundesliga has long since turned into the dullest division in my opinion. Despite the lack of top-class transfers up to last week's capture of Philip Cotinho, Bayern Munich are the overwhelming favourites to win the league yet again. Only Dortmund have a serious chance of overtaking them. Eintracht Frankfurt just missed out on the Champions League last season, have been hit by the departures of Jovic and Sebastian Haller and Rebic and Gacinovic are also trying to engineer a move away. I doubt they'll trouble the top of the table due to the burden of a Europa League campaign, but they're good for a cup run (see below). Unfortunately the Bundesliga is blighted by a number of plastic clubs no-one really cares about (RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg) and which are likely to be in or around the European spots again. At least Cologne are back to bring a bit of colour and noise to the league.

Bundesliga 2 - with Hamburg, St. Pauli, Stuttgart, Hanover and Nuremberg, the second division has a number of real heavyweights more used to life at the top level. Will they monopolise the promotion spots or will Holstein Kiel or Heidenheim make a bid? Last year's promotion race was an incredibly tight race, with Paderborn ultimately winning a second successive promotion, so I'm not making any bets here. "Interesting" stadium experiences can be found at Darmstadt, with one stand under construction, Karlsruhe, whose ground currently consists of a pile of rubble and some temporary stands, and SV Wehen, who are likely to be outnumbered by away fans most weeks.

The 3. Liga is the one I'm really into as my favourites SV Waldhof Mannheim have finally won promotion into it after 16 years in "amateur" leagues. The season here is already a month old and Waldhof sit in fifth, unbeaten and with an average crowd in five figures - happy days! For the first time in 19 years, Waldhof have also moved above their rivals, the six-time German champions Kaiserslautern, who could be in for another difficult season. The league also boasts names such as 1860 Munich, Eintracht Braunschweig and European Cup Winners' Cup winners Magdeburg. Almost every opponent is an interesting one, even lesser supported ones such as Bayern Munich II (sigh) and KFC Uerdingen (an obnoxious little club back by a highly wealthy but highly volatile Russian owner who sacked their manager when they were third in the league, then sacked his successor as they slid towards the bottom of the table. Also employers of Kevin Großkreuz).

And of course there was the German Cup the weekend before last. This is seeded so that teams from the third division and below get a higher club at home. The first round passed without any major shocks, with the exception of fourth division side SC Verl's win over Augsburg As a reward for their efforts, they'll play the decidedly unglamorous Kiel in the next round. And Waldhof Mannheim played Eintracht Frankfurt in front of a sell-out crowd of 24,000, who brought their first team and very nearly got knocked out! Below I've shamelessly posted a couple of videos - the first shows the general atmosphere (whoever filmed it must have been standing close to me), the second the goals (plus loads of replays - it was the only one I found that enabled embedding). Enjoy!

 

 

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I'm looking forward to seeing how Union Berlin do in the Bundesliga. They got off to a bad start. They were beaten 4-0 at home by Leipzig. Their derby against Hertha will be some occasion. 

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I'm hoping to catch some games from overseas, I generally don't rate German football because since they won the World Cup - most of their best players have left Germany or are overrated.

Hopefully some of the underdogs can perform well, as these are what I tend to look out for.

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4 hours ago, Dripsey3 said:

I'm looking forward to seeing how Union Berlin do in the Bundesliga. They got off to a bad start. They were beaten 4-0 at home by Leipzig. Their derby against Hertha will be some occasion. 

I had my fingers crossed for them but it was always going to be a baptism of fire. It's good to see an old Eastern team up there again (I don't count RB) and I hope they stay up, but they're definitely underdogs. On the plus side only the bottom two go down automatically, so there's always a chance. 

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i dont really watch much football from other countrys, the german league does not really interest me either but i do think their fans really make the atmosphere before and during games. 

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What did I get up to this weekend? Only watching Waldhof Mannheim beat promotion favourites MSV Duisburg 4-3 (video here - can't embed it sadly). An absolutely crazy rollercoaster of a match that leaves Waldhof in fourth place (and unfortunately also an injured keeper).

Before the match the Duisburg manager likened Waldhof to a prisoner who's been waiting years for their freedom and is finally out. He's not wrong there. I've got to say I'm really enjoying the third division. The football is very different to watch - the pace of the game is quite slow in the regional leagues, but in the third division it's a lot faster and more physical, quite a bit closer to English football. The standard is about the same as League One too.

BTW, Waldhof made it back after 16 years in the amateur leagues because their fans stood behind them. When Notts are back (hopefully a bit quicker) it'll feel every bit as good :D

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Dont watch international football but it is interesting to see how they are doing now and then.

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It's shaping up to be an interesting season in the Bundesliga - eight matches in and there are just two points between the top nine(!) teams. Borussia Mönchengladbach currently lead the way. It remains to be seen who will stay the course, but obviously you have to fancy Bayern as they've got the title-winning experience the others lack. David Wagner's Schalke are also in the mix, and play Borussia Dortmund at the week in what's one of Germany's biggest derbies. At the other end of the table, Union Berlin are fourth from bottom and just about keeping their heads above water.

My own team, Waldhof Mannheim, got off to a great start before a combination of injuries and a thin squad started to take its toll. Waldhof got spanked 4-0 at home by Halle last weekend (who went top) and slipped down to ninth. To put it into perspective, though, that's Waldhof's second league defeat in a year. The focus is still on staying clear of the bottom four, which should be possible with a stylish and exciting team, but this league tends to be very tight. The next two games will be difficult though.

All in all the third division is better than I expected. It seems a stronger division than League One, and the crowds are bigger too - 9000 on average, with Waldhof one of seven clubs averaging 10,000-plus. 36,000 turned up at the first derby at Kaiserslautern for 20 years, a report of which you can find below!

 

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Hi @CliftonMagpie, I'm a season ticket holder at Waldhof Mannheim so I've been to loads of games. The last two were 3-0 and 4-0 home defeats, followed by the Notts match on Saturday. I'm starting to think that I'm unlucky! Waldhof won their last away match though and sit sixth in the league.

I paid in the region of €180 for my season tickets, which includes all 19 home league games and travel there and back on public transport (the transport ticket alone saves me €12 per home match). If you pay on the day I think it's €11, so if you're an adult who stands it's loads cheaper. However, these are standing tickets. Seated tickets start from €19 for adults, but the prices vary depending on who the opposition is and where in the stand you are, so there's a fair chance that it'll be more expensive than at Notts. Plus concessions and children's tickets are quite a bit more expensive than at Notts (€8 (seated) as opposed to 1 pound), so if you're a family it adds up. It's swings and roundabouts really.

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Borussia Mönchengladbach came from behind to beat Bayern 2-1 at the weekend, keeping them at the top of the league. They never seem to play well but always win anyhow. I wonder if they can keep it up? Bayern are down in seventh in a very close table. Hansi Flick has taken over there as interim manager, but the latest defeat has reignited discussions as to whether a permanent replacement should be installed during the winter break. Meanwhile, marketing gimmick RB Leipzig beat Hoffenheim in front of a half-full stadium and remain second. Hopefully they won't get anywhere near the title, but they're looking like serious contenders right now. Union Berlin are everyone's favourite underdogs and have established themselves in mid-table, but the two other promoted clubs, Cologne and Paderborn, are in the bottom two and adrift.

My own team, Waldhof Mannheim, sit in sixth in the third division and would be in the running for a promotion place if only they could win a home game. Yesterday they hosted supposed promotion candidates Eintracht Braunschweig, played them to death and somehow managed not to beat them. As their best striker, Valimir Sulemanji, is injured, a bloke called Kevin Koffi plays up front, a journeyman who has been a bit of a goal machine in his career to date. Koffi is well liked. He lacks Sulemaji's quality but constantly creates problems for the opposition. The problem is that he's played almost every match (the season started in July), it's now December and he's scored 0 goals in the league. He's really, really desperate to score. The fans are really, really desperate for him to score. When he gets the ball in the area, such a buzz goes around you'd think Messi was in possession. Could this be the day that Koffi scores?

Yesterday, he SCORED. He chested the ball past the keeper and put it in the net. Pandemonium. Strangers were hugging. Bits of paper were being thrown through the air. The entire coaching team was on the pitch. The heavens opened and angels appeared offering gifts of gold, frankincense and the other stuff (I might have just imagined the last one). Then the whistle. Handball. Disbelief. Later analysis on TV confirmed that it was handball, but that wasn't the point. Koffi simply cannot score. Like Tom Crawford getting a game for Notts, it's against the laws of nature. I'll keep you posted.

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Yesterday was the last home game of the year for Waldhof yesterday against Chemnitz. Waldhof have been unbeaten away for a year and a half(!) but haven't won at home since August. Hence the decision to wear the white away shirts yesterday. The opponents were Chemnitz, who are in the relegation zone but have had an upturn in form of late. Some of you might remember that Chemnitz was the scene of far-right demonstrations recently, and the city (and, sadly, the club) have a pronounced neo-nazi scene. Inevitably, their best player was a black bloke called Bonga.

After missing another sitter a week ago, Kevin Koffi, who has been playing regularly since July, started from the bench. Everyone has really been hoping for him to finally score a goal, but I'd written him off after that. Reinforcements will surely be coming during the winter.

I've embedded the video (hope it works) but will give away one thing - yesterday, Koffi finally scored!!! And the late winning goal at that. You can't see much of it on the video, but that celebration was wilder than anything I experienced during the promotion campaign. It was completely loopy. Koffi removed his shirt to reveal a T-shirt emblazoned with "DANKE JESUS" and celebrated with the fans after the match. Not bad for a five-minute sub. On top of that, the win means that Waldhof spend the winter break in third place. Pure Hollywood.

@Piethagoram VfR Mannheim never exactly drew the crowds at the best of times (with the possible exception of their title win in front of 90,000). Many years ago they had to move grounds and moved the whole club lock, stock and barrel to an out-of-town site. Their support withered on the vine since then and today the club is mainly followed by pensioners. Now they're just another German club knocking about the amateur leagues with a glorious history. With crowds in the low hundreds they're never likely to make it back up either. The lesson is - if you want to get back into the big leagues, stand by your club! As long as the football world is never allowed to forget Notts County, we'll be back.

 

 

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@AmericanPie Hiya, not really anything football-related as it's the winter break now - the Chemnitz match was the last one, and it all kicks off again in two weeks. Most teams take a break for a couple of weeks, then have a mini pre-season to prepare again.

Christmas here was quite mild this year (I didn't go back to England this time), but football over Christmas isn't really a thing in Germany, unfortunately. That's one thing I do miss. For me personally my first game of 2020 will be against Magdeburg at the beginning of February, and Kaiserslautern will be visiting at the end of the month. I'm hoping to see a Eintracht Frankfurt home game in the spring too.

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On 11/01/2020 at 14:42, BromPie said:

The German leagues have a winter break? I would hope it doesn't happen over here.

Indeed they do. I'm not a fan of it, but at least it's fairly short in the professional leagues (from about a week before Christmas to the end of January). On top of that, there aren't as many midweek fixtures as in England (a week in which you play on the Saturday and in midweek is known as an "englische Woche", or "English week"), so the third division starts in July to accommodate it.

Still, it's worse for the semi-pro and amateur teams - in the fourth division in the south-west, the winter break goes right up to the last week of February - that's two and a half months with no football!

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It must be awful having a winter break, I don't watch much football here in the states but one thing I do miss is the run up the Christmas games.

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The winter break finished in the Bundesliga last weekend. The curtain came up with Schalke (managed by David Wagner) beating a lacklustre Mönchengladbach on national TV. On Sunday, Hertha Berlin, where Jürgen Klinsmann took over a few weeks before the winter break on the back of all kinds of grandiose promises, were spanked 4-0 at home by Bayern and are now just two points clear of the relegation zone.

The really big story was at Augsburg, though, where Erling Håland (who had also been in the sights of Juve and Manchester United) made his debut for Dortmund as a second-half substitute. And what a debut it was - he scored a hat trick to turn the game on its head and claim a 5-3 win for his new team (click for video). As well as power, pace and a sublime first touch, he also had the kind of confident body language that tells us that he knows full well that he's the best player on the pitch. Exactly the sort of player Man United used to sign, in other words. He followed this up last night by coming on as a sub against Cologne and scoring twice. Five goals in one hour of football - not too bad, really.

In other news, Waldhof Mannheim travel to SV Meppen tomorrow (Saturday) and the match will be broadcast live on TV at 1pm UK time (you might need a VPN to see it). Waldhof are playing very attractive football this season, Meppen are on form and both teams have an eye on third spot. Meppen played in Bundeliga 2 in the nineties and were the obligatory unglamorous team - the kind of club whose name is prefixed with "the likes of" in England. I like them though - when they beat Waldhof on penalties to win promotion to the third division a couple of years ago, they showed a lot of class. Good luck to them, but not tomorrow!

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