It was at Tempelhof, that gaping hole where the wind whips around like a fart in an air conditioner, that football really took root in Germany. For many years, indeed, it was the only place in the city where the game was allowed at all. Clubs that still exist to this day with throwback names such as Preussen and Germania and Viktoria were founded there as an antidote to the relentless marching and the organised pointing that was Turnen: the big sport of the day. The British and Prussians were kicking English imported balls through the parts of the parade grounds that they were allowed to use well over 100 years ago. They had great hair slapped back with motor oil and egg whites and they smoked pipes. And these men started football here.
Tempelhof is at the very heart of German football, so in that spirit please allow the Sportsdesk an indulgence as I wade into the increasingly ugly debate over the use of the former airfield like a kid with a jack-hammer looming, malignantly, over an ants nest. Here’s the Sportsdesk’s simple plan to make everything better.
It’s gotten complicated because, on the one hand, people want to leave Tempelhof green and windy, a haven for lonely carrier bags and feral looking dogs, a park whose expanses are so unsuitable for a nice day’s barbecuing you might as well do it on the frozen surface of Titan. They say it should be given to the kite flyers, that huge majority of Berliners. It should become a living memorial to silk and wheels on shoes. Oh, them and the softball players and all of those thousands who use one of the world’s premier Jugger pitches. They will then use any spare space to organise hunts of the poor whose dreams of affordable housing there have been scrapped entirely.
On the other hand, the argument runs that a library – the one that Klaus Wowereit has promised to get finished by the time of his 1000th birthday – would be perfect in this spot to unite Berlin’s scattered collections of Das Kapital that have all the complicated words and concepts underlined until page six whereupon it turns out that all of the readers decided to do something else instead. And surrounding this in never-ending opulent waves of marble will be a selection of luxury homes fit only for the super-rich with helipads and a harbour and whose ivory carved lifts will be powered by the burning corpses of the poor whose dreams of affordable housing there have again been scrapped entirely.
So the time is to be honest with ourselves. Whoever is allowed to take control of Tempelhof will screw it up somehow. The internecine battle for control of an enormous plot of empty land sums up the battles raging throughout the city. The architectural, bog standard and gold leafed revisionism of the new Schloss will be enough to push the vomit to the top of the biggest cherub’s throat; and the new KaterHolzig’s door policy will simply remain a paean to the über hip making a pissing mockery of the idea of a Spreeufer für alle.
So the Sportsdesk says sod it. Get the tarmac out and let’s go back to Tempelhof’s roots. Tear up the few trees and burn their lonely, limp, carrier bag strewn limbs, and concrete the lot. Drive the rollerbladers into the Südring and the barbecues and the Jugger players down the Schillerpromenade, forcing them right along the Miltonic nightmare that is the road work of Hermannstraße. That should keep them busy for a couple of months.
And give Tempelhof to Hertha BSC to build a proper 65,000 football stadium there on the only bit of land in the city that gets colder and windier than the upper echelons of the Olympiastadion, and let them call it the Deutsche Bahn Arena or something to make up the shortfall. It’ll be better in the long run for the club and hence, for the city. Space can be found then around it for the decent clubs of Berlin to have training lands becoming to them and belonging to them. Clubs like Türkiyemspor who can’t afford the flies that jag around the school gym that they borrow, but who are possibly, still, one of the worthiest social organisations in the entire city. We’ll then build the library out on Hertha’s current training grounds, and build a ton of real, affordable, housing instead of the Schloss.
No one will like it, but hey, fuck it. Those shiny haired gentlemen who were the first to play football in Berlin would be happy. And as a concession to the delightful art of compromise – as it seems that the one thing on which everyone agrees on now in Berlin is that the pallid faces and drawn cheeks of the smugly malnourished is the look to have for 2014 – we can even find space for a little vegan concession stand somewhere round the back.
Sod the lot of them. Put the concrete down and let the games begin.