ELF

Berlin Pilsner Pokal, 1 Hauptrunde
SV Lichtenberg 47 v Brandenburg 03
Saturday, 6th September 2014, 2pm
HOWOGE-Arena “Hans Zoschke”
Entrance €8, Programme €frei
Distance 694 miles, Attendance 101
After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the West London community – due to his allegedly unapparent immaturity – an accountant raised as an elf in South Bucks sets off for Berlin in search of his former identity…
Having abused IMBD – albeit briefly – normally I’d start on editing Wikipedia and other sites of limited accuracy, however; the tale of the match that broke up said accountant’s 50th weekend is really far more noteworthy.
Whatever the other hangers-on (and I mean guests) had planned, being blessed with far nobler employment, two of us arrived late into the Friday evening before pulling a rather hasty taxi-hotel-taxi-bar manoeuvre. Swift as you like, we glided effortlessly through the capital’s traffic; heading deeper in Eastern Berlin in search of the Pfefferberg Biergarten and an almost certain seventeen drunken friends. A truly glorious setting for any couply evening out, our companions had of course ignored the food menu and any Deutsch the wonderfully named Miss Battle might have taught us at school and somewhat recklessly, piled into the Carlsberg whilst encouraging the musical accompaniment for a light rendition of Motörhead’s Bomber.
Yes, you heard right. In spite of ein Deutsch UND ein Alevel Deutsch in their midst, any opportunity for Berliner tipples had been woefully neglected. To me Python’s Theory of Watney’s Red Barrel had become reality, whilst their benefactors would “probably” build a tag line around the setting. Swiftly steering the waiter from the rash er Danish fluid (see what I did there), we blended in seamlessly through a couple more rounds of something more local before, “go to a club” was muted.
Given such words have scared even the most moderate of goer-outers, citing something middle-aged about a heavy week at work without properly pressed trousers; following some takeaway curry wurst I took the opportunity to head back to the hotel with both the other less adventurous and already shamelessly drunk, for a cup of tea, a chat and, a smidgen of liberal-minded televisual programming
Naturally by the time the pints of crème-de-menthe & cranial-thumping -unst-unst-unst swingers awoke, Saturday was almost over. In the meantime, the more prudent had been out on a haphazard Garsty Tour (once said guide had eaten his way through the entire left side of the breakfast buffet).
Check Point Charlie, tick
Discuss wall design, tick
Photo taken with Germans dressed American border control, no tick.
Trabants, tick.
Brandenburg Gate, tick.
Discuss wall erection, tick
Stroll into the park, er…
Slope off and go to football, BIG TICK.
Happily I could (and have) spent a lifetime with most of these chaps but, the pace of the semi-hungover decision making was at best leisurely and, my mind was always one step ahead… in Lichtenberg.
Friends are like family, they can pull rank on almost any commitments – even when it’s as crucial as Non League Day – but I wasn’t about to let them drag me away from grassroots sport on this day of all days. In the run-up to Elf’s 50th, hours had been literally devoted to match research with the assistance of all manner of Gelehrten Männer. Sadly the initial responses weren’t encouraging however, somewhere between “Looks like you’ve picked the worst weekend for a trip to Berlin.” and “A very bad weekend; Germany v Scotland but no club matches…” a glimmer of hope appeared in the shape of Der Berlin Pokal.
With the first round scheduled for Elf’s big weekend, the only thing I could do was stick pins in Berliner AK 07, Lichtenberg 47 and Tennis Borussia – “the best of the rest” in the absence of Hertha, Union and Dynamo – and pray to the almighty Graham for the right home draws whilst pondering whether Pokals would have “Proper” Rounds like the FA Cup,…
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A short stroll north out the massive Tiergarten, past a protest outside the Bundeskanzleramt, Big Col and I were comfortably both on time and en route for the west side’s U-Bahn station of Bundestag. One stop to change at the multi-storey Hauptbahnhof, then three to do likewise at the thankfully smaller and easier to navigate Alexanderplatz, before, finally catching the U5 seven stops eastwards to Magdalenen Straβe; a somewhat stereotypical concrete-coloured East Berlin nieghbourhood.
140906 Lichtenberg 47 v Brandenburg 03 (100)In the nearest shop, the amiable girl behind clearly didn’t know either Hans Zoschke or the way to his ground but she was more than happy to both sell us some refreshment and detour us three blocks west (when in fact heading north one block up would’ve taken us straight to the ground). Clearly lost, the next recipient of my pigeon German inquiry was a “just visiting” chap but sure enough “just round the next corner”, the huge monolithic edifice that was the Stasi headquarters came into view.
It’s not the size that grabs you first, but the utter blandness of the almost windowless structure, which towers over SV Lichtenberg 47’s Hans Zoschke Stadion. Folklore would have it that, from within those walls Erich Mielke – the notorious longest serving police chief in the Soviet bloc – once demanded the stadium be torn down after Lichtenberg defeated “his” Berliner Dynamo side.
Now a museum – that we sadly hadn’t the time to visit – the Stasi are (maybe) long since gone; the spectre of their presence isn’t. Even though newer architecture has been erected to the north, from inside the friendly entrance of the Hans Zoschke, the Stasi’s concrete tower is almost impossible to omit from photographic view. Circumnavigating the ground – barring a few hundred open seats bolted to the terrace – one finds the tree lined perimeter almost entirely encasing a very pleasant concrete and fauna terrace (you need to see it), with children’s play area to the west and local footpaths to the east. Atop the terrace a wide grassy walkway provides ample space for the freunde of the 47, a small bar and the announcer’s hut (which for some reason had a huge open umbrella inside).

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With manual scoreboard standing before the Stasi Museum, facing it – at the opposite end – a wide pitch entrance gives way to a comfortable bar with terrace, to the left of which a man sold fantastically uncomplicated brot und wurst, with lashings of senf. Lunch sorted, it took literally seconds for the not-wanting-to-start-too-early-Big-Col to concede to “just one” bier.
Standing in the sunshine in the most popular area, atop the terrace, near the bar and play area, we took in what seemed like a fairly innocuous cup match.
From our walkabout earlier, it was clear the visitors were at least one, if not two, divisions lower than the hosts. They seemed keen but the laid back manner of the coaching staff suggested only one possible outcome. Whilst I was wondering if this was their cup final – not that anyone was singing that, or anything else, though their were some nice banners – it wasn’t long before Brandenburg lost possession. Taking kick-off, they passed the ball neatly for about fifteen seconds; not fifteen minutes later they were a goal down.
Good play from Christian Gawe gave Kiminu Mayoungou the opening to score, and the announcer to play Football’s Coming Home. Seven minutes later Gawe made it 2-0 and, Baddiel & Skinner were crooning once more. Ten minutes on, a good run down the left afforded Philipp Grüneberg the opportunity for a third to more polite cheers to our left. Surprisingly – having conceded three – visiting captain and keeper, Rene Kofler, was actually in faultless form; his defence however was well, elsewhere.
Wondering how long he’d keep this up whilst desperately wanting the locals beside us to chant “this is your Wembley” (or its Deutsch equivalent), it would be sometime before the net rippled again. In between, shots flew over, children played on the terrace, half time came and went, and a dog tried to order at the bar behind us.

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Second beer in hand, families and dogs compared, and world put to right, Lichtenberg took five minutes to start scoring again. Thomas Brechler dummied and fired home from an Emre Yildirim free kick. A minute later, Grüneberg headed the fifth, the announcer quit playing the adopted football song and talk turned to double figures. The floodgates were well and truly opened.
56th minute – Brechler chested down and sub Philip Januschowski fired home; 6-0. On the hour – Brandenburg had only their second shot, saved. 62 minutes – made by a fantastic Nico Englert never-say-die cut back off the goal line, Brechler shot true; 7-0. 63 minutes – Grüneberg with another; 8-0. 65th minute – brilliant double save by the still faultless Kofler. 70th minute – though it doesn’t lead to another goal, commanding defender Mayoungou plays the pass of the game. 74th minute – Brandenburg actually score… its rightly disallowed. 75th minute – wonderful Yildirim cross and Englert head down for Brechler hat trick: 9-0. 78th minute – Januschowski cross, Grüneberg scores; 10-0, or “(TEN)” as Ceefax once reported. Man runs from behind us to use gaffer tape to mark the double digit as the scoreboard only hangs one number normally. 82nd minute – first legitimate Brandenburg shot on target…saved. Injury time starts; Lichtenberg score, again… this time Januschowski hits the net; 11 (ELF) – 0 (NULL).

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As the self-congratulations started, I genuinely felt sorry for both the helpless Kofler and, the hardest working scoreboard operator in Germany. As for those who’d poo-pooed my plans..? Nothing. They’d chosen sleep and park walks and sight-seeing and techi-shows and phoning home and Carlsberg “possibly”, all in preference to watching live sport. They were possibly idiots and unworthy of my attention, at least until we reconvened.
Meeting up again riverside – at the equally wonderful Brauhaus Georgbraeu – of course no-one believed the score so, the topic was quickly dropped in favour of home brew and schnitzel, before heading for the Turkish quarter, or eighth, or some other fraction. Whatever it was it was home to both the best and worst bars in Berlin. The latter we hit first (by mistake), it had a bamboo palace sweat box with ambient tunes out back and was, despite the affable waitresses, utter shit. The former we found last (no mistake) and didn’t leave until nearly 4am.
Franken is a bar, like a compact Iron Horse (those from Amersham will understand), with loud music ranging from Bowie to Black Sabbath, where the no nonsense bar maid had a tattoo of Darth Vader’s helmet on her chest, and the toilets were at best… er, unique, and I loved it.
The next morning as I stared motionless at the breakfast buffet – naturally whilst Garst tucked into its remaining right side – I felt sure of many things. Unfortunately if I opened my mouth I couldn’t be sure what would come out. Still, in better nick than the Elfen one, a few of us strolled north to the Ramones Museum via the stop-start man shop (no I can’t remember it’s name but I like a football therein), absorbed the fine musicianship of Forest Hill’s finest, ate lunch across the road and hastily made a bid for our flights home.

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After just one trip I know there is clearly much to enjoy in Berlin, and many more incentives to return – though maybe not to the bar the Westys heard of – if one just orders the right bier in the right place. Leaving for home – absolutely knackered, with the last of my companions – I’d found two, neither of which my wife would much enjoy but, elf goals, Sepp Maier’s signature and broken toilets really are an acquired taste.
Final score: Lichtenberg 47 11(ELF) -0 Brandenburg 03
This was the side story about Santa’s only heavy metal elf, who learns of his true identity as a human and travels to the edge of the western world, to avoid his biological father seeing him drunk, again. Tragically downing Carlsberg beer in a world of cynics as he goes………………………………………………….. Take that Wikipedia.
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