What a win against Chelsea, eh?
How many times in recent years could you say that we were the better team than Chelsea? Not often, but I heard it a lot in the wake of the game last weekend. I didn’t say it myself though. The game I watched, they looked better than us.
Mind, I had to leave after 35 minutes.
Sod’s law, I had to sit through that gutless display against the unwashed, but miss us tearing Mourinho’s lot a new one.
As the missus’ sister’s fella had his birthday recently, we gave him a ticket for Hertha Berlin against Schalke at the Olympiastadion, as he’d not been to any games since moving to Berlin about 18 months ago (at least I think it was that long ago. My memory is a bit all-over the place at the minute). Anyway, I kindly volunteered to go with him as an excuse to see Schalke, as did the father in law.
Which, unfortunately meant missing us beat Chelsea. Mind, I couldn’t hardly have predicted that happening.
Most German games in the top division (except for the three TV matches per weekend – one Saturday evening, and two on Sunday afternoons) have a three-thirty kick-off, meaning I had to leave a lot earlier than I liked.
All public transport to and from the game is free with your ticket, so I hopped on the S-bahn to the Olympic stadium, which was full of people, most of who were having a cheeky beer (or more). The U-bahn has recently banned drinking alcohol in its trains (although many still do it), and bus drivers are sometimes a bit tetchy about people drinking on their buses, but the S-bahn still allows it. In fact, there was a recent quote from one of the top bosses who said he had no right to stop people enjoying a beer after a day at work. Enlightened or what?
Admittedly, this can have a negative effect, which was seen as we got close to the stadium when a lass next to where we were stood started bowking some kind of pink muck. She managed to catch some of it in the jacket she was holding in her hand, some of it went on the floor of the carriage, and the rest found its way into her fella’s backpack. He tried to act all understanding, but we could tell he was raging inside.
The walk from the station to the stadium is also different in Germany. Alcohol drinking is allowed in all public places, so you walk past a mixture of beer vans, sausage vans, merchandise vans and people selling beer from crates or cars. Much more relaxed, with crowds gathering outside the stadium to enjoy a quick livener or three before the game, while the smell of grilled sausage wafts through the air. This is what football is all about! There’s even people walking around collecting empty bottles from people (mind, they get money back for them so it’s hardly selfless).
I’d been to the Olympic stadium several times – did I mention I don’t like Hertha? – but had always sat somewhere between the home ultras and the away fans. This probably contributed, along with the running track and moat around the pitch, to my underestimation of how loud they were. Mind, the last game I was there, there were 12,000 Dynamo Dresden fans going crazy, so that helped drown them out.
This time, though, we were in the very top row of the stadium, in the Ostkurve. The Ostkurve is where the Hertha ultras stand and sing and chant all through the game, and I have to admit they were a lot louder than I thought they would be. It possibly helped that they were against Schalke, who not many people seem to like, but they really were a lot more impressive than I had ever given them credit for. Fair enough, there are strategically placed amplifiers and speakers to make the noise seem a lot more imposing than it actually is, but the whole thing was chereographed admirably by two guys stood on a raised platform – taking turns to lead songs by bellowing into a megaphone – and another guy pounding a drum next to them.
The game itself was not a great one, but I was sober and cold, so that possibly played some part in my assessment. Well, that and spending the first 20 minutes checking my phone for Toon updates. Hertha are a surprise package this season, and set themselves out in a very organised fashion immediately, looking to contain Schalke and then hit them on the break.
Schalke, on the other hand, seemed to play without any discernable tactics, as if hoping the quality of their players would see them through.
And it worked.
Hertha huffed and puffed but could not take advantage of the chances they made, whereas Schalke stood firm at the back, marshalled by the young centre back Benedikt Höwedes. I do like him, like. Plays like a proper centre back (so, Stevie Taylor without dumb fouls, handballs and other histrionics). Going forwards, Szalai (filling in for the injured Klaas-Jan Huntelaar) got the goal his workrate deserved, while the very young Max Meyer and Kevin Prince Boateng (es-Hertha, Spurs, and Portsmouth) were livewires behind him.
It was good to finally see Schalke, and run the rule over some of their young players, but I would have been much rather watching us beat Chelsea, obviously.
Anyhow, this is my signing off for the month now. I’m off on honeymoon tomorrow, and, providing I play my cards right with the missus (so, no unwanted advances, public drunkenness or other amusement), I’ll be able to enjoy a day at the first Ashes test in Brisbane.
I’ll miss the Spurs match with my flight, but, based on last week, that’s probably a good omen. See what I do to ensure our success!?
I’ll catch you on the other side. Provided she doesn’t try and drown me in the meantime.
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