Football fans are all idiots. This is proven. In fact, let me extend that. With the exception of the late Sir Bobby Robson, everyone who has anything to do with football is an idiot. Only a sport as vapid and self important would judge James Milner to be worth (in itself already a slightly iffy concept, a person’s worth in cash) €10 million more than Mesut Özil. Fact. And we bumble along with it, like a massive amalgamous mixture of Jimi Hendrix and The Dude. “Well, hey man, fuck it.” Or in German, “Naja.”
We are as stupid as the advertisers are trying to make the people of India become. Watching the IPL cricket on their dedicated YouTube channel last year, one was accosted with an advert for Honda every three minutes with the tagline, “Thinking is such a waste of time.” Yep, the most vibrant, fast-growing and soon to be populous country on the earth, and all they want is to sell the mobile phones, fizzy drinks and motorbikes with the line “Thinking is is such a waste of time.”
Well, so long India, never mind eh, you might as well get into football now then.
As a beautiful and poignantly raging example of this was shown at the weekend, when Hertha Berlin hosted Rot Weiß Oberhausen. The first game of a new season for Hertha in the second division – that follows the third least least successful Bundesliga campaign of all time – had over 4000 more fans than the corresponding fixture last year which was, incidentally, not only the last time the Old Dame won at home, but also the first game back after a fantastic season which resulted in coming fourth!
It is always the same, false hope replaces reality. That team that came fourth were, to put it nicely, a little pragmatic. They didn’t really set the pulses flowing, but got results and were within two weeks of winning their first championship in nearly 80 years. They had the best defence in the league, with Joe Simunic and Arne Friedrich in front of Jaroslav Drobny, and a craggy-faced, charisma free coach who was the antithesis of Johan Cruyff, but he had them organised. A marauding, swashbuckling display of football to win things?. Well, good luck. That’s what Bremen try and do, and they won’t win the title this year either.
In many ways, it is seen as a better way to win – the glorious loser’s role. Florent Malouda was in the English press this week complaining that everyone still goes on about Arsenal playing the best football, even though Chelsea had just scored their twentieth goal in the last three games. It was the same when Inter beat Barca in the Champions League last year, and will be the same when Bayern win the title again this year, scoring a 130 goals: people will moan about the dourness. To admire their flair as well as their unbeatability would be to give up all hope. Fuck it, Naja.
So Markus Babbel, a man who knows a thing or two about marauding his way to titles from his time at Bayern, is leading a brand new machine in the second division. Sure, Raffael is there, as is Adrian Ramos (just about) and Raffael’s brother, Ronny, has joined from Portugal. These are the ones who are supposed to supply the balls for the 6’4″ Rob Friend to get on the end of. But, as with many fairytales, that didn’t go to plan against Oberhausen as Friend was off, within a minute injured and replaced by a man who has had a blistering pre-season, but left most scratching their heads: Marco Djuricin a 17-year-old from Vienna. As he ran on to Ronny’s lovely through ball to score his second and Hertha’s winning third goal, Djuricin was already the ninth youngest goalscorer in the second divsion, a fact that is pointless to mention other than that number 10 is Jürgen Klinsmann.
It was confidently told to me by someone who knows these things that Hertha’s support would plummet as quickly as Arjen Robben in a bomb drill this season but that has not proved to be the case. Part of it is the excellent signings (for which the maligned Michael Preetz also deserves some praise), and the way Babbel has confidently taken the reigns, but nothing is certain in the second division. I just hope these idiots are proud of themselves and their club. They should be, and if they can get over 40,000 every week, we should be too.