A-Junioren Bundesliga (level 1)
Fortuna Düsseldorf U19 v VfL Bochum U19
Saturday, 25th May 2014, 11am
Entrance €3, No Programme
Distance 362 miles, Attendance 75
Though an almost permanent feature in the German top flight since their formation, the multi-trophied Fortuna Düsseldorf were not playing today; their season had already drawn to a close with a top-half finish, for a change below the Bundesliga. Fortunately for us their U19 side could still tick both boxes.
Founded in 1895 as the gymnastics club of Flingern – once one of Düsseldorf‘s blue collar boroughs – Turnverein Flingern merged with the outfit of Düsseldorfer Fußball-Club Fortuna – itself a combination of Düsseldorfer Fußballklub Spielverein (founded in 1908) and FK Alemania (who changed their name to Fortuna in 1911) – to, in November 1919, form Düsseldorfer Turn-und Sportverein Fortuna 1895 e.V., or was it Düsseldorfer Turn-und Sportverein Fortuna?
That being as clear as mud (not as in the clay/cinder surface played on by yesterday afternoon’s teams), my fine Deutsch friend Christian, had picked this pleasant Sunday morning game to appease his childhood aspirational ties to the visitors, VfL Bochum 1848; his “big club”. To me the home side had a much more fascinating story however – lifting their standing considerably – having been saved from ruin by Die Toten Hosen and the profits from punk.
Managed by former player Dariusz Wosz – one of the very few players to be capped by both East Germany and the united Germany at full international level – Bochum were clearly no push over, in fact they were anything but. Having won the toss, the visitors elected to swap ends (totally beyond me as no fans were behind the goals). Bochum then proceeded to dominate the first period, both in terms of skill level and athleticism. Fortuna, it has to be said weren’t far behind but, even though it was still 0-0 at the interval, der blau-weiβ looked most likely to take the lead. Seriously this first 45 was by far the best football we had seen (and would do) throughout the whole weekend, and I included the two ridiculously over-hyped fat cats finals in that.
Unlike those “important” games, ours was not being played on the biggest pitch available, but at the Paul-Janes Stadion (so named after a former player) and not even on the best pitch therein. Instead, having freely toured both the club bar and former home of the first team, we wandered round the main stand to the 3G surface behind. Whereas the main pitch had three sides of raised terrace and an impressive red-seated stand – including 32 totally unused seats, completely cut off from any kind of access when the structure was handed over to the segregation police – ours had benches and trees and sunshine and van serving refreshments by the entrance, and of course the unmissable view of a power plant across the road. Also within the complex – overlooked by the tidy club bar’s terrace – were three other full-size artificial pitches.
Though the referee and his able assistants never let the game get away from them, the players were afforded clear time and space to show their wares for their adoring parents, friends, extraordinary quantity of note-takers and the curious emotionless figure behind the “photomafia” banner (who never took a single photo). Bochum came out the brightest and made some good chances but up front, Hari Coric, Enes Küc and Metin Senel failed to make the most of them. The closest Bochum came – near the half hour – forced a good save out of Mikhail Bolvin as Senel’s fierce cross was flicked goalwards. Within ten minutes Fortuna had also wasted two good breaks; the first skied over Nico Czichi (worth keeping an eye on), the second sent wayward by Muhammet Ucar. As the first period drew to a close, Czichi for once showed poor first touch and team mate Ali Celik totally embarrassed himself, badly (more of that later).
Having clearly learnt from this early mistake, Czichi was the first on target in the second period; wriggling clear and rifling one towards into the top left corner which for once, the very young and impressive Lukas Fiedler (look out for him) wasn’t equal to. Küc then shot over from a poor cross, sub team mate Michael Madionis Mateo Maria (yes that is what it said on the team sheet) twisted and turned, made room, failed to pass and promptly lost the ball. “Scheiße!” came the inevitable loud cry from his defence.
More substitutions came and went and still there was no loss in quality; keepers were strong, defenders solid and the rest creative enough to produce openings. The only thing lacking was another breakthrough – equaliser or not – though by then, either team losing would’ve seemed unfair. Soon Düsseldorf’s Maik Ferber had broken down the right only to see his shot well saved. Joshua Forbes (another Bochum player I really hope the Pozzos are watching) fed Michael Madionis Mateo Maria but, again he went in for the twisty-turny shooting space thing instead of passing. Additionally Bochum’s captain, Phil Spillman, still had nippy Leon Fritsch in his pocket and Bolvin was still the busier keeper.
With 70 minutes behind us, the game had now gone full circle in two ways. Firstly, the visitors had started the brightest, Fortuna scored giving them the advantage and confidence to push on but being very evenly match, Bochum had soon reeled them in and started looking the stronger again. Secondly, we, the old folk were being taught a thing or two by these youngsters.
As the clock wound down, the kitchen sink was thrown, with deliberate precision, at the Fortuna goal. Lars Zeising just missed Küc’s cross at the back post, Ucar saw red after a (what appeared accidental) stray arm met Forbes face and, Spillman shot narrowly wide.
Before checking out of the hotel that morning, the BBC had been cheerfully proclaiming they had “so much sport to discuss” before promoting, with highlights, just two bloated clubs who’d bet the family silver on winning, and their preened players harangued the officials. Did they show anything else? Did they f**k. Would they have been better placed to spread the love around? Without doubt. Will they? Probably, and very sadly not.
In total contrast to the media-blinkered view of world sport, by looking outside (and away from) the box, we were blessed with two great team performances. Yes, there were a couple who rushed at chances – youthful exuberance can do that – and JUST ONE who rolled and wailed like a demented banshee when no foul was committed (twice), before miraculously recovering (twice), but on the whole, this was a fine footballing match; one which I’ve no don’t most clubs and their fans would be more than proud of. A good advert for the game; not one player bemoaned officials, not one official acted self-important, and none had tattoo blue arms/legs/head/etc… The skill level was exceptional, the ball playing fast and accurate, the sense of fair play impeccable and, even when I caused a minor multi-ball incident – in my excitement at touching a match ball – right back Forbes was incredibly polite in thanking me for returning the ball before tidying up the mess I’d caused.
The FA Commission would have us believe English stars of the future need to play at our level 5 to improve our national game; I’d say we’d be better placed sending the same youngsters out to face and interact with these well balanced U19s, where hopefully they’ll learn something good from the experience, rather than turn out like too many other over-hyped professionals.
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This is the third match in a most excellent four-game last hop of the season; the Last Weekend In Niederrhein.