Groundhop 1881 – TSG Sprockhövel

Oberliga Westfalen
TSG Sprockhövel v SC Roland Beckum
Sunday, 2nd September 2012, 3pm
Im Baumhof
Entrance €7, Programme free
Distance 380 miles, Attendance 300
As the punk-loving Michael Solbach approached us I was beginning to regret not keeping up with my German. His tone was open and amiable as he spoke with Christian, but looking me up and down you could tell he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You came from London to watch Sprockhövel?” he repeated incredulously. “Crazy!” He shook his head and chuckled, before welcoming us both warmly to the club where he is the “fans’ representative”.
I first met Christian at Schwarz Weiss Essen and he’d been keen enough to accompany me here. We lunched in the sunny and beautiful ancient town of Hattingen – where the portions were huge and the beer cold – before heading by bus into the countryside and on to the game.

Sprockhövel is a calm little rural town in the Ruhr whose industries centre on agriculture, cloth weaving, and until the late sixties coal mining. Strolling down the leafy Im Baumhof – past well-tendered gardens and the swimming pool – it was hard to tell the latter had ever existed and even harder to image a football ground was ahead of us.
The local sports club – Turnverein Sprockhövel – was founded in 1881, then renamed TSG (Turn und Sportgemeinschaft) Sprockhövel in 1938, two years after they moved into their current stadium. Without winning any major trophies TSG had once graced the top division alongside Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund, but now the club reside in regional Level 5.
Snow falls in the area prohibit the club from having a grass pitch, though they are trying to raise the money needed to renew the artificial surface currently in place. Situated to the south of the pool, it’s surrounded by a three lane running track with dugouts and scoreboard opposite the nice club house, turnstiles, and a popular beer garden in one corner.
Having been assured by Michael that “the best place is by the bar” – after finishing our photographic lap of honour – Christian and I located ourselves amongst the home support in the covered area by the turnstiles, and waited for the teams to take the field accompanied by ACDC’s Hell’s Bells. Below their feet sand covered the perfectly flat Astroturf pitch which would induce a fast passing game – and jokes of beach volleyball – but precious little tackling of the kind Willi Schulz mastered.
TSG Sprockhövel started brightly with good fluent movement both on and off the ball, and opened the scoring when a schoolboy error let in Emre Yesilova. He easily rounded the keeper and then slotted home from a tight angle. In a half they dominated Serkan Aydin also shot over, Philipp Schulz blocked superbly to deny the visitors, Filip Pejic skipped through the offside trap but shot wide, and Man of the Match Patrick Knieps produced a magnificent double save.
Though the supporters were tiring of the officiating the second half opened with much of the same, as their heroes dominated the play but, on the hour the game changed. Beckum took a free kick quickly affording Florian Gehrmann an open shot at goal which turned the game into a very end-to-end affair. Sprockhövel worked hard to get back ahead and restored some optimism to the fans but when Knieps saved well from a low shot Suri Ucar reacted first, and Beckum went ahead. The final ten minutes were – with Sprockhövel’s resolve broken and Beckum intent on time-wasting – a quite desperate conclusion to what had been an entertaining game.
Groundhopping 1881 had led me to the sun-kissed picturesque home of Equestrian Gold medallist, Dirk Schrade, where their club has truly welcoming support, a good team, a fantastic pitch side barbeque, and beer served in chilled glasses throughout the game. It was well worth the trip and, in the sunshine, a great way to spend an afternoon.

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Initially appearing in this season’s Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently Groundhop 1881 reports will appear late on here. At the end of the journey, a book will be published telling the full story.
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