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Jacob Sweetman: The new race for space

BFC Viktoria 1889 have won the Oberliga, but will only play one more game as the club. They are merging with the side they beat on the weekend to wrap up the title LFC. A new power struggle is set to begin.

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BFC Viktoria, Berlin, circa 1910-1915

Nobody cared about the friendly between the USA and Germany on the weekend outside of the opportunity for the coaches to catch up on old times and exchange moisturising tips. Yeah, Jogi and Jürgen had a nice time, but the whole exercise was so pointless that it was practically Eurovision-esque, just with smarter knitwear. It another case of friendlies going too far, another 90 minutes of life wasted when catastrophic understudy goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen could have been reflecting on the delicate beauty of morning dew on a spiders web. The slightly less good Bender brother, Lars could have been walking barefoot on a beach, contemplating the enormity of the ocean. But no, they had to go and play in a game that nobody cared about or cares about. Nope, nobody will talk about the 4-3 win for the USA in a few years’ time. It didn’t matter, and it might as well have not happened.

I was watching a BBC documentary from the early 1990s the other day about the Russian space programme, which ended with a plaintive note that was remarkably prescient. It said that once the space race ends then the manned exploration of the universe will slow to a crawl. It said that the race was needed to push people onwards, to convince them to spend the mental amounts of cash needed to fling people to Mars or Europa or wherever else looks like it could possibly be shoehorned into being a replacement for the planet that we are currently ripping the arse out of so spectacularly and comprehensively.

We need the race, we need the competition otherwise things just stall. That’s why nobody cared about the USA vs. Germany game, but unfortunately it doesn’t necessarily follow that all eyes were instead focussed on the biggest game of the weekend in Berlin – and no, I’m not talking about the DFB Pokal final either. This weekend BFC Viktoria 1889 won the Regionalliga, having beaten Lichterfelder FC, 4-1. Whoop-de-fucking-doo, I hear you cry, but bear with me on this one. This was massive.

Viktoria had lost on penalties last week in the semi-finals of the Berlin Cup against BFC Dynamo, and they were grimly determined not to let this opportunity get away from them. But things were already getting complicated. The week before the cup game the votes were counted from the members of both LFC and Viktoria to decide whether or not their planned merger “to become Berlin’s third footballing power”. It was Berlin’s second oldest club, and the club with Germany’s largest youth section, they both needed something from the other one: LFC had a stadium and an infrastructure, Viktoria had a name and a couple of dusty old trophies in the back that said underneath the cobwebs “Deutscher Meister”.

If Viktoria won the league then the new club, the catchily titled, FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin Lichterfelde-Tempelhof e.V., would find themselves in the Regionalliga for next season, facing the current third highest team in the city, BAK, but also the third biggest team from within the confines of the S-Bahn, relegated from the 3. Bundesliga, SV Babeslberg 03, as well as the under-23s from both Hertha BSC and 1. FC Union. The players of LFC had a dilemma. They were playing for their places in the new club, but whilst all the time knowing that a victory for them could endanger the whole project from the start. That, apparently, mattered little in the end, and just as they have been for most of the season Viktoria were simply the better side.

They will play their last ever game at the Friedrich Ebert Sportanlage next week, the last game in a history going back to the very beginnings of German football, before they become the unweildily monikered new Verein. They will hoist up the trophy and they will dream about the future and the race, but the sceptics won’t be mollified, they will just see another Frankenstein side with too much ambition and too few fans to support it.

As always, the truth will, probably, be somewhere in the middle, but for now, at the very least, as a new club dreams of grandeur and a new power struggle, we can be happy that the race is still on.