• Berlin
  • Jacob Sweetman: Footie love


Jacob Sweetman: Footie love

Maybe it was poignant - or at least not totally irrelevant - that the week the great Alex Chilton died started off with a letter, though not necessarily quite the same sort he had in mind when he wrote his great hit at the age of 16.

Maybe it was poignant – or at least not totally irrelevant – that the week the great Alex Chilton died started off with a letter, though not necessarily quite the same sort he had in mind when he wrote his great hit at the age of 16.

It’s not a matter of public record whether the Box Tops and Big Star star was a football fan and, being from Memphis, he was probably blissfully unaware that Bayern Munich WAS  top of the Bundesliga after nigh on two years. Still, none of this is important. What is important is that I engineer a preposterously tenuous introduction to this, my first EXBERLINER blog – and sweet Jesus I think I’ve done it.

Ah yes, The Letter. The German football fans union because the behaviour on the terraces has come under renewed scrutiny these past few weeks, after nine people were injured by a magnesium flare at Nürnberg vs Bochum on February 27. It was specifically aimed at, though not entirely, the reappearance of flares and smoke bombs in the kurve and implored fans not to take them into the grounds, an example of which cost FC Union Berlin a few thousand euros in fines earlier on this season.

It didn’t seem to make much difference at the Olympiastadion last week when the pyrotechnics were provided at the end of the game as 150 Hertha fans stormed the pitch, chasing the players and officials off, before taking their frustrations out on the subs bench. I mean, the bench? What had it done to them? Other than spending a season warming the arses of the players and management who have turned last seasons 4th placed team into a jibbering mess, a club completely bereft of spirit and one that the 2nd division is already pulling up a chair for at the bottom of their particular table.

Those on the Hertha forums were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the actions and to use the word “fans“ is to tar everybody with the same shitty brush, but it has sparked a media driven, moral outrage and brought the earnest hand wringing of officials back to the front pages. What is 150 idiots (though they were agile idiots to be fair, they had a moat to leap across before they could get to the pitch) out of 60,000 suckers? There has been talk of Hertha having to play a game behind closed doors in punishment, but that seems unlikely. What is more likely is that Hertha will go down, the team will be decimated and Berlin won’t have a team in the top flight next year, though it does open the doors for a tasty derby in the 2nd division next year. Hertha certainly won’t relish the idea of going to the Alte Försterei next season, but will be even more worried about the prospect of Union taking over the Olympiastadion in the return fixture, and this time it wll be a hell of a lot more than the few who mae it into the stadium for the Bochum fixture a few weeks ago to hold up a huge banner, effectively pronouncing that „you’re going down boys“.

The Old Lady are certainly playing like their nickname, and have started bitching like it too. Goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny, one of the only players to have come out of this inglorious season with any credit whatsoever, was earlier this week muttering about certain cliques, and implying that the Brazillian members of the squad need to stop passing the ball only to each other. It’s not that regularly that they have even managed to do that successfully.

So what next for Hertha BSC? President Werner Gegenbauer is going to face a very testy members meeting next time around, and the talk is that he might be fighting for his position in a way that his team have summarily failed to do this year. Craggy faced Friedhelm Funkel, a man who makes Thom Yorke look like the kind of guy you want at your parties, will certainly go at the end of the year, and has frankly only lasted this long because of his relationship with general manger, and the man who hired him, Michael Preetz. Now, Preetz himself, is the interesting one. As a successor to the easily dislikeable but very good at his job Dieter Hoeness, he has failed miserably in his transfer dealings, but is a hero of the club who „bleeds blue and white“ (actually, he might want to get that looked at) and just about deserves a fresh crack of the whip. In one of the marvellous twists of fate- which make wrapping up all this crap a lot easier- on Sunday night Hertha travel to Wolfsburg, who are freshly rejuvinated under, yes you guessed it, Herr Hoeness to have some more nails banged into their Bundesliga coffin, and heres hoping that the only minority of morons who spoil it for everybody else are the players.