My friend Tony hates friendlies. His point being that he doesn't watch football for it to be friendly. He watches football for guts and determination. Or in the words of the great Niney the Observer, for blood and fire.
There are times I agree with him, but one doesn't become an addict without needing a fix. On Saturday there was still the best part of two days to go until the Women's World Cup kicked off, and the shakes that wracked my body were only partially due to the last night’s alcohol intake. I needed football, and a friendly would still provide that. The shot of a goal being scored, the visceral rush from a neat one-two, or a beautiful, algebraic pass that you couldn't have conceived of before it was played.
But there's also the joy in preseason of seeing new grounds, new people and new places. Germania Schöneiche has been on my radar for a long while in the Oberliga, but I hadn't seen them at home – at the forested, un-terraced, Jahn Sportpark – another dedication to the man that brought organisation to Prussian sport.
The journey itself was worth the effort, after the relentless grind of the S-Bahn a beautiful old tram awaits to take you back in time, and through the forests of the former GDR.
"Shit," I thought to myself. "Wasn't this place supposed to be grey and oppressive?" No chance, the sun was shining and it was glorious.
But therein lay the problem. 1.FC Union was as soporific at times as most of the fans. In a press conference that as much resembled the afterhours of a kid’s party as much as anything else, Uwe Neuhaus had pointed out that his players were tired. They were only just back into the preseason, and that we can't expect too much yet. There were paper tablecloths out and though I may have imagined them, it felt like balloons were there.
I've been at more stressful spas.
The Union boss was as relaxed as his walnut tan suggested. Union had won 4-3, but had even found themselves 3-1 down against a team that had much, much more to prove than the professionals getting ready for a long season in the second division.
As has happened so many times, the captain Torsten Mattuschka had made the difference. He brought the lacking dynamism, and in front of him Halil Savran had scored the winner. It is always hard to say if the players were taken in by the beautiful surroundings, or the traditional preseason lack of heavy tackles. The lack of blood and fire. But Schöneiche were industrious and organised.
After a dominating first 10 minutes for Union they pressed the game continuously, and in the first half barely gave Chinedu Ede time to think in his newish position, sat behind Santi Kolk and the double scoring new striker Simon Terodde. Their number 10, Christian Siemund, at times bossed the midfield playing as a classic box to box player and set up Michael Dolezal's goal all too easily.
But it's best not read too much into these games. The mistakes that found Ahmed Madouni and Christian Stuff missing for Schöneiche's second goal will surely not be repeated on bigger stages, but Christian Gawe's third was glorious, surrounded by Union's defenders he picked up a loose clearance and hammered it from 23 metres into the far, top right hand corner. Germania's 'keeper Daniel Klose was also outstanding, with excellent saves from Hoffman as well as one at the feet of Santi Kolk when he looked like he was just getting the bit between his teeth.
Terodde got his second, and Zoundi's shot should probably have been held by Klose for Union's third but they had squeezed well back into the game by then. Schöneiche had given an excellent account of themselves, and have much that they can take away from the game, but the point wasn't about the theoretical points. It was a day out. It was a run around.
The best bit was seeing the kids being able to get close to their heroes. Christoph Menz was happily signing autographs just as I was marvelling at the youthfulness of Union's Hofman and Fritsche.
Christ, they look young.
But in a couple of weeks the fun will be over and the long afternoons kicking a ball about in front of 1700 happily drunk people and their kids will be over it. It will be time for the blood and for the fire.