64 Seats

Bezirksliga Niederrhein
FC Kray II v TuS Essen-West 1881
Sunday, 9th March 2014, 11am
Kray Arena
Entrance €free, No Programme
Distance 386 miles, Attendance 114 headcount
In deepest Essen – the European Capital of Cultural wondrousness for 2010 – sixty four plastic seats are causing an ergonomic meltdown. Naturally they weren’t the ones we were perched on but, across the pitch from our bar terrace stood rows of them in a brand spanking new and very empty, er… stand. As tidy cement and steel constructions go – with all its colour-coded “FCK” seats – this stand actually appears fairly easy on the eye.
Doing the tourist guide bit; ninety minutes earlier, Christian and I had set off by train from Düsseldorf Flughafen, changing for the 146 bus towards “Leithe Wackenberg” at Essen Hauptbahnhoff. Upon leaving the station, I’ve no recollection of where the bus ventured, nor even if the driver went the right way. Whether we arrived, passed or went up the wacken mountain I’ll never know but, having taken an unfeasibly sharp left in a very residential central Kray, we alighted at the next stop, beside a children’s playground.
Situated to the east of the city, the settlement was once agricultural before industrialisation took its hold. With little other knowledge of its history, the stadium now demonstrates a perfect hybrid of both those eras. Though the “away entrance” (for this unsegregated ground) was closer, we walked through the wooded playground and headed for the “main entrance”, via the straβes of Marlen and Buderuss, past public gardens, arriving at the corner beside the clubhouse.

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Out on the 3G pitch a youth game was about to start. If the players looked about “Under 16”; the ref was probably at school with their younger brothers. Rather than pay them too much heed (it ended 4-4 in case you’re wondering), we went in search of the much discussed architectural highlights of this fine stadium then made for the bar… well it was almost 10.30.
Whilst club members and supporters hurried about in pre-match unison, before us parents and friends lined the sun-kissed playing surface to watch their offspring. Like any arena, some were organising themselves for the main match, whilst others were establishing “their” spot on the inviting terrace. This however was no ordinary terrace; it had no crash barriers behind a goal but instead, sat beside the pitch attached to a spacious bar with all its chilled beer.

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The main reason for choosing this venue this morning, inside the clubhouse was filled by all manner of footballing bric-a-brac, and some extraordinary posters that would no longer see the light of day in Britain (yes I did photograph them).
140309 FC Kray (46)wGiven all the running around of the previous day; that first beer, on that terrace, in that sunshine, was truly wonderful. The game wasn’t bad either. In a division littered with B and U23 teams, FC Kray’s first team were trying to maintain a very good first half to the season away to (fellow yellows outfit) VfB Homberg that afternoon. At home this lunchtime, Kray’s second string were entertaining (a recently found 1881 side) TuS Essen West 1881 who were themselves having a bloody good level seven season.
After a huddle, the visitors kicked off and immediately demonstrated both sides of their game. The hoof forward (or “Scottish Flat Pass” as it’s known to some in these parts) was quickly reeled in by speedy forwards before their excellent precision passing was halted by a clattering tackle; a collision which left both Jerome Hopp and his assailant (K17) prone in midfield.

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The next twenty minutes would see the visitors impressing all over the park; Sam Moosariparambil and Björn Matzel increasingly dominated the middle, Peter Bastian (who had clearly washed his white match socks with his red shirt) making a fine goal line clearance after Justin Kaiser flicked on a Ersin Canseven cross. In attack, Matzel was intercepted before making contact in the box and, the safe hands of Marcel Bolte prevented Kray (K15) from scoring low down.
With only paid refs at this level, you’d forgive them for failing to keep up with play, especially today as the respective coaches – who are only allowed to a signal ball out without offering direction – had opted to share duties in just one half of the pitch. Thankfully this wasn’t necessary; like the 15 year old before he coped ably and, our attention turned to lunch, another cold one and, the impending goals.
The floodgates eventually opened as Kevin Zamkiewicz struck from the edge of the box. A minute later – whilst Christian was at the bar – it was 0-2 as Mohammed El Said, 35 yards out, incredibly found space before driving a bullet-like shot  in off the cross bar. In response, Ahmet Ciplak rolled up his short sleeves and the green’n’blue (without any childhood rhymes springing to mind) pushed forward.

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The trouble is, when your two down to a confident, high-flying side, only two things are certain; desperation will see yellow cards appear and, you will get caught on the break. Losing track of the former, a TuS corner, five minutes from the break was a carefully crafted, work of art. Julian Fischer floated the ball over and El Said flicked it on. At the back of the area, Hopp trapped the ball and teed it up for the onrushing Matzel who rifled the ball home.
A Kray free-kick hitting the wall and, Fischer failing to see wide open Matzel on the break, maintained the score line at the other break. While TuS were tucking into their celebratory oranges, up on the terrace we were half way through curry wurst and a second beer. It wasn’t all one way once we finished our respective meals but from then on in, whilst we strolled off our lunch, the game moved to a very predictable outcome.
A TuS’ low cross-shot sped through a crowded Kray box served as warning. Soon Matzel hit the bar and, El Said had another effort blocked. Up the other end, Kray had a promising corner clear and five minutes later won a penalty. Hauling himself off the floor, Canseven grabbed the ball, counted his run-up and promptly placed the ball far too close to Bolte. Victims taking own penalties was a topic Christian had warned against just yesterday, twice, but still his countrymen paid no heed.

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The immediate punt up field found El Said whose shot was saved, sparking a spate of substitutions. A (K8) shot was tipped onto the post by Bolte. Picking out the very even last minutes, sub Philip Hollweg won and missed a penalty, Bastian cleared of his line (again) and sub Patrizio Benvenuti rounded his marker and swept the ball in from a tight angle.
We’d seen some interesting challenges and a home keeper – Marvin Angenendt – without much protection but, much like the offside rulings today without the aid of linos, there were few complaints of the final 0-4 score line. Whilst in Essen West, the better team had won, for FC Kray there are bigger battles to fight.
This local side, with all its fine facilities and good youth structure is facing issues with the neighbours. Yes, I have heard the chairman hasn’t exactly ingratiated himself with the local council but, when one’s sees the Kray Arena it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for the club.
Progression up the pyramid and increased attendances from “bigger” clubs – compounded by a lack of segregation at the Kray Arena – has forced the first team to play home games away, in the Uhlenkrug Stadion (home of Schwarz Weiβ Essen). Bizarrely – given they moved next door to a football stadium – neighbours are also now complaining of the noise… speaking to the local music club, Krayer Krähen Essen 1950, they’ve hardly noticed an increase in volume but, seemed just as impressed at the quality walls being built to withhold the so called problem.

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In a scene not dissimilar to Eli Wallach pointing out all the new walls to Yul Brynner, the Kray Arena is putting up the defences and truly a magnificent design they are too. A steel frame filled with totally organic materials to enable flora and fauna to take hold, these high walls are typical of Germany wonderful enthusiasm for all things green. The trouble is, they’re a tad pricey which I would guess is draining club finances somewhat. Still with the South-West corner is finished, and the North-West almost complete to the new stand; most of the surrounding houses do now have the buffer they so desired. The club have even left the Northern end open giving the extended parkland, pitches and music club, more space and better sight lines. And then we come to the seats…
The new walls, like the (yet to open) new stand, are only of truly modest height. All are environmentally well made; all seem to act as a buffer for the local inhabitants and, all are sufficiently low to prevent them being a blot on the horizon. From what I can ascertain there is now quarrel over the size of the stand, only that the club have fitted 64 more seats than the planning permission permitted. Why this is an issue is truly beyond me. It feels more like petty clipboard bureaucracy – like school children’s playground squabbles – aimed at upsetting the kid who said he didn’t like your trainers.
Looking at it another way; in my experience when clubs leave their grounds and move elsewhere, more houses get built on the remaining brownfield. Is this really what the residents want; a reduction of local sporting facilities replaced an increase in social housing? People of Kray – pronounced “cry” rather than like the East End twins – you have a fantastic and beautiful local stadium, with wonderful architecture and glorious 3G pitch, which can provide you with daily sporting amenities. The club is modest and unlikely to ever outgrow it’s space; it’s unlikely to be filled with kutte, nor will it ever reach the Bundesliga. It is and will always be – whether you agree with the owner or not – a local community side with a wonderful bar terrace. Most importantly IT’S SIXTY FOUR SEATS, not thirty pieces of silver.

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Most communities would die for such facilities…Just enjoy it.
(If I find a full team sheet I will happily fill in the blanks)
This entry was posted in 2013-2014, Bezirksliga Niederrhein, Groundhop 1881 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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