Watching the World Cup last summer in bars and pubs and cafes all over the Hauptstadt, one often had the feeling that the HD screens that held our attention so effortlessly might suddenly start showering us in splatters of sweat and shorn blades of grass, so clear and beautifully-defined were their images. Every pained grimace was replayed countless times, every hotly-contested header repeated on loop, especially if the players involved had nice long hair that flapped and flicked in glorious HD wonderment.
TV has always been anxious to replicate the blood-and-sweat passion of football in our living rooms, upgrading from black-and-white to colour to HD and now to 3D. The sportsdesk hasn’t yet had the privilege of Dirk Kuyt’s preposterous face far too close for comfort in all its glorious 3D contours, and, to be perfectly honest, isn’t entirely enthused about the idea at all.
Especially when there are still stadia like the Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion an hour’s pleasant bike ride away from the centre of town. It’s a tremendous little spot, home to Babelsberg 03 and European champions Turbine Potsdam, and the 1,893 present for the former’s 3.Bundesliga game against Unterhaching on Saturday created a wonderful atmosphere despite the ruthless 4-0 whomping meted out by the visitors. The Tribüne there is so close to the pitch that it almost feels like it juts out over the grass, and one is treated to real-life football in all of its finest colour HD/3D glory.
Unterhaching’s Danish striker Marc Nygaard’s 165cm frame is petrifying that close up. Time after time, he stood his ground as Babelsberg defenders jumped into and bounced off him in the vainest of attempts to come to terms with his enormous physical presence. Still, he wasn’t the reason that Unterhaching won so handsomely, and neither were the twinkly toes of attacking midfielder Tim Jerat pulling the strings in the centre of the park. No, the reason why Babelsberg took such a dreadful beating was the disorganised mess of chaos that descended for no less than three set-pieces on three separate occasions.
The first, a straightforward thump into the box after thirteen minutes – that wasn’t dealt with by any of the seven white Babelsberg shirts – was conclusively dealt with by one of the three red Unterhaching shirts, the one containing defender Christian Hain. Five minutes later, there were eight Babelsbergers reinforcing the box, but Robert Zillner still nipped in front of them all to squeeze home at the front post.
Babelsberg were running out of feet to shoot, but like Ashley Cole with an airgun: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Trainer Dietmar Demuth was brave in making a double substitution after only 25 minutes, but 10 minutes later, the game was over.
Tom Schütz picked up the ball on the edge of his box and had plenty of time to stick his big toe behind the ball and wallop it to safety, but instead decided upon a slaloming run of the sort that never, ever ends well for central defenders. In his defence, if it is possible to defend such foolishness, Nygaard was rumbling towards him like a boulder towards a cheeky wartime archaeologist with a nice hat. Most folk would have needed new underpants at that point, but instead Schütz just weakly conceded possession and allowed Zillner to square for Amachaibou for another pathetically simple goal.
The Unterhaching fans were dancing happily around their mostly empty terrace behind the far goal, forming a wobbly train in the sunshine that your granny would definitely have participated in had it been at a booze-filled family wedding. The beats for their moves were coming from the Babelsberg fans, now focussed on getting a tan and making some noise in the warm spring sunshine. It was the sort of atmosphere that would have made me a Babelsberg fan had I been there as a kid, and their whimpering acceptance of their beating would have only made me love them all the more.
The final mess came after Ronny Surma’s deserved gelb-rot, and, of course, from a set piece. Nygaard’s towering header was parried brilliantly by Unger, but Amachaibou, unmarked, nodded home. Babelberg’s season has slumped from mid-table pleasantness into serious relegation danger, thanks to a single solitary win since November. This means that you need to switch off your TV and get down to Karli on April 2nd for some real, proper, beautiful, rubbish football against Stuttgart, and lend 03 some support.