Photo by Ian Stenhouse
Footballers always say too little nowadays. It’s not really their fault, admittedly. They live out their lives in the brooding presence of the camera, casting its constant eerie light into the eyes of the poor young pups. The wall to wall media training drums everything of interest they might ever have to say straight out of their heads, only to be replaced with “Well, the first half was good, the second half wasn’t so good” banalities. Marco Reus last night was a case in point. He was disappointed after Man City’s lucky draw with Dortmund in the Champions League, but they had shown what a good side they were...
But it is not as if we have to watch it. Last night’s was a stirring game, but in terms of human emotion then it couldn't come within a country mile of the clash between Türkiyemspor and 1. FC Wilmersdorf in the BFV Pokal – the Berlin Cup. This is where footballers emotions are never tempered, never half-arsed. It is all real.
There were screams of joy and the sight of young men skipping over the pitch like war had ended forever. Türkiyemspor had made it through to the fourth round, the last 32, after a 3-2 win and still had their chance of a big day out at the Jahn-Sportpark that could help drag them back out of insolvency. It can be that big a deal. Last year’s finalists, SC Gatow said that had they won, then the prize money could have kept them going for 10 years.
In the nether regions of Berlin's football scene there are few sheiks or oligarchs subsidising a plaything for the hell of it. A few quid here or there can make the difference. As the Türkiyem' players danced around and the partisan home crowd milled around in the glorious October sunshine – revelling in the fact that they still had most of a day off to go, and they’d already been to the football – the Wilmersdorf left-back was incandescent with rage. He was boiling, burning, firing and he wanted to take someone with him. It took three players to hold him back in the end. Something had been said, there was a bit of shoving, but his reaction was merely born of the frustration that his side had done so much to keep themselves in this game before it was whipped away from them.
Türkiyem’ took the lead in the first half against the run of play, but they can’t defend free kicks. Wilmersdorf whipped a long one in to the back post and it was headed across goal for the equaliser. Türkiyem’ then took the lead again, but they can’t defend free kicks. Wilmersdorf whipped a long one into the back post and… you can see where this is going, yeah?
It was 2-2, and Wilmersdorf were making all the pressure, the Kreuzberg fans starting to get agitated. It was going to take either a horrible slice of luck to settle this one, or it was going to need to be a work of art. Such is the way of the Cup. Somehow from one came the other. Fatih Aslan, the Türkiyemspor midfielder is a little larger than his teammates, but he is a man who knows how to play the game with an insouciant ease. When others rush and harry around the pitch, he strokes the ball with a delicate grace, he anticipates others' moves so he doesn't need to chase too much. He is just there at the right time. Fatih Aslan has also got a fucking rocket in his boots when he needs it.
He lined up a free kick – five minutes to go, now. It’s 2-2 – which he blasted 25 yards, curling into the far post. It cannoned away, but the elbows had been out in this game for a little while now, it was getting niggly. The rebound drew another free kick on the opposite side of the area. The referee pulled the wall back, but it looked too close to goal for Aslan to be able to get it up and under in time. He went for deception, sending it to the left of the wall, into no man’s land, where it bounced around nastily until pounced on by a Türkiyem’ player for the winner.
They screamed with joy. Aslan kept his cool, but all around him his teammates knew that they would be in the next round of the cup.
For young guys, sometimes it doesn't matter how big the stage is, as long as one gets a chance, however briefly, to shine. Sod the muted and bloated Champions League because this, my friends, this is the magic of the cup.