The Jumper Has Landed

“Winterpause”. Hmmm, let’s dwell on that for a while.
Until 2022 – when Blatter’s cronies’ crass decision making process, smashes a hole through traditional football league seasons – many football supporters will remain blissfully unaware of scheduled winter breaks. In Germany however, they appear to have a bloody huge one AND with it, miss out on all the fun of the Boxing Day to New Year period… with half an eye and worrying mind on the forth-coming festive period, I’m really trying to get my head round both it and where to go instead.
On the weekend before Christmas, the big Bundesliga teams have one final kick-about before Sankt Nikolaus (in any of his various guises) breaks into houses and leaves the gifts that most school playgrounds have already deemed unfashionable. Afterwards – whilst supporters twiddle their thumbs – you won’t see those top level professional athletes again, in any serious competition, for another six weeks.
Proving maybe that they cannot either afford the same quantities of gorging, or that they are just well er, more professional, this season 3.Liga only needed five weeks to recover from the excesses of glühwein and Weinachtsessen. Try not to get too buoyed up as, if one follows a team lower down – yes SKY this does exist – the break in play could be eight weeks or even longer.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch Eerste (2nd) Divisie, this season the break was just 3 weeks… just saying.
Given some of the Bundesrepublik’s regional weather extremes, some lower leagues/clubs can be forgiven for taking a long “Winterpause” however; any such Weinachten grace period for the Bundesliga’s top sportsmen seems generous at best. Any suggestion that their clubs need the time to get their perfectly protected and under-soil heated, very playable pitches in working order, seems foolhardy.
With the propensity of German fans to demonstrate their feelings – wonderfully choreographed en masse – I’m surprised none has tackled this lay off. Maybe they have?
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With a scheduled arrival in Der Vaterland of early February, such tardy fixture conduct could have put a spanner in the groundhopping works. Thankfully, I did my homework; I hatched a plan. After a week’s unpacking and nesting grace period – without appearing bullish – there was a chance to catch two games in quick succession, both at local sides.
The first, a “Testspiele” (think pre-season friendly) at what, very importantly, just may be our local club; the latter – in their third game back after Winterpause – for the nearest “big” club, in Bundesliga 2.
Sitting back – all sated with satisfaction – I announced my plans to the world (a handful of people I thought might be sympathetic). Smiling lovely wife attempted to feign approval, probably without even listening. The children hardly lifted their gaze from their modern gizmos. Thankfully, friendly Amateurfußball aficionado Christian was more considered in his response, “I don’t think a lot of people will visit a friendly match of Kalkum-Wittlaer, but you’ll surely get access without paying 😉 If you pick this one as your first match, you set a sign.”

150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (47)b

Game 1
Winterpause, Testspiele
TV Kalkum Wittlaer e.V. v CfR Links Düsseldorf
Thursday, 19th February 2015, 7.30pm
Grenzweg
Entrance €frei, Programme €keine
Distance 5 miles, Attendance 18 (at kick-off)
In the preceding days to the big Testspiele game; one of our “getting to know the area” drives conveniently took us up Grenzweg. “Ooo, look at that” I exclaimed, trying to appear nonchalant “That must be the local team”. Rumbled almost instantly by everyone in the car, even the dog glanced wearily in my general direction.
A typical rural-ish German residential street, it gets narrower towards the field at the end, before turning sharp right along the field edge. To the far end, Grenzweg has a primary school on right and a sports club on the left. With no meters or their Lovely Ritas, the parking is probably adequate for the current size of the club but, there is a big local demand for expansion.
The club already has two types of pitches – one artificial, one red cinder – a five-a-side surface, boule courts with their own covered spectator areas, both long and triple jump, and some additional sporting disciplines that probably missed in the dark. Sitting between the main pitch and the road, there’s also a natty little bar, which of course looked like its covered terrace should be home to an alpine horn or Grandpa Walton. Like the Walton’s, it was a warm and welcoming log-cabin-come-sports-club bar, with the obligatory rubbish champions’ league match on TV. Pleasant as it was, sadly it wasn’t big enough for more than about thirty people hemmed inside. What they need, AND most definitely want, is improved facilities including a new sports hall.
Currently the players and officials change in what appears to be the primary school opposite, which demonstrates great community cooperation but is hardly appropriate for a progressing football club. Franz-Vaahsen-Grundschule – the primary school opposite – is the second biggest in Düsseldorf. Being such a popular and successful establishment, they too would also love to have access to such a new gymnasium. The club, school and local residents are united… unhappily, the council are not.
Whilst my German is yet somewhere between rusty and rubbish – in an article about said issues – even I can pick out the words “ill-informed” and “the devil”, along with a counter-proposal to site the new sports hall on Einbrunger Straβe, a thirty minute (adult) walk away. Apart from the massive irritation such a location would be to the club; as a parent this seems a ridiculous waste of educational time, moving students far away for physical education. Anyhow, before getting back to the football, the club have very kindly printed the Mayor’s email address – in what I would suggest is a very fair summary of events – so one can voice their displeasure.
Aside this bureaucratic tragedy, the TV Kalkum Wittlaer 1st team have wonderfully just been promoted to Landesliga Gruppe 1 (pyramid level 6). At the midway point of the season, they’re sitting pretty at the top of the table and, are also through to the Quarter Final of the local Kreispokal. The 2nd April, kick-off 7.45pm, home to SC Düsseldorf-West… nice highlighted, in case you’re wondering about joining me there.
In fact, (sounding more like a US radio station) TVKW are having a pretty good season all round; on the playing only their B Junioren team appears to have struggled so far this term.

150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (5) 150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (49) 150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (46)

Pulling up in Grenzweg, a short distance from the ground, I could see the floodlights and the obligatory log cabin bar. Through the trees to my left, the shouts of a coach’s team talk could unmistakably be heard in the thin cold night air. Clearly the warm up would be needed for all of us.
Rather than what had been, to that point, a regular evening clammy and intensely cold mist; tonight was just plain-old cold and dark. I’d like to be more descriptive but, having mislaid my gloves, my fingers were already too numb to type at length.
Out on the pitch one of the coaches donned a yellow blanket in skirt-like fashion to beat out the impending arctic conditions. At the opposite end, the Links of Local Düsseldorf seemed about a foot taller and, their captain Patrick Barbier another head above that. With desperately little knowledge of either sets of players one could’ve been forgiven for thinking this might be a close encounter but it only took TVKW three minutes to hit the woodwork at the beginning of an all-action twenty minute period when the ball hardly left Links’ half.
In the tenth minute Kalkum’s Christian Schuh teed up Afkir Aziz, whose fierce shot cannoned off the upright. Two minutes late the home side were finally ahead; Shota Meguro hammering home the spot kick after Aziz was tripped in the box. Absolute sitters – to increase the lead – were soon missed by both Kai Topatz and Schuh; in return the visitors offered little more than an occasional foray to keep keeper, Kai Gröger, warm.
150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (140)So little did he have to do that – just prior to the interval – when one sub was strolling back towards the club house early; he called out to Gröger, asking what he wanted. “Tee, bitte” came the feeble response. Had he said ‘Tea, it’s bloody bitter’ I’d hardly have been surprised. Still, whilst Kai and I were dreaming of hot beverages (no, they didn’t have any Bovril) Meguro stole inside the far box and rifled home a second.
In the bar – clearly making TVKW look a far better side – Martens was busy missing a penalty for Napoli, as I was desperately trying to purchase another woolly hat to accompany the already selected “FUPA Düsseldorf” top trump like cards, featuring the “32 most interesting clubs”.

150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (106) 150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (120) 150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (39)

Confirming all the reasons TVKW were one of the 32, in the second period Kalkum gave a load of subs a run-out and three hit a goal-a-piece past their opponents. Nuh Demir struck first, then came Pascal Grambow with a sweat strike with the outside of his right, and Daniel Müller completed the rout. Links use just three subs and in return only one bagged a single late consolation; Patrick Fabelje.
It was freezing and bitter but, by the end both mine and the teams cobwebs had been blown away. Now we could all focus on the important matter of the league and pokal double, and hopefully some new sports facilities.
On the footballing side, is it too early to start singing, WIR GEHEN HINAUF???
Final score: TV Kalkum Wittlaer 5-1 CfR Links Düsseldorf  
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Game 2                    
Bundesliga 2
Fortuna Düsseldorf v 1.FC Nürnberg
Sunday, 22nd February 2015, 1.30pm
Esprit Arena
Entrance €13/9, Programme €keine (at least I didn’t see one)
Distance 377 miles, Attendance 30210
Fifth in the table…. Fifth. Maybe the aspirations (or greed) of modern football describe such standards differently but to me, fifth is not failure; fifth in Bundesliga 2, is the 23rd best side in the entire massive footballing country.
OK last season, Arsenal celebrated finishing fourth as if a favourite grandparent had returned from the grave, with a winning lottery ticket as a gift on their wedding day, to their childhood sweetheart however, this is neither normal nor rational. This is more a reflection of modern media brainwashing. What is more real, and important, is the values of any one club – of your club – and their fans.
Whilst Fortuna Düsseldorf’s day ended a little flat, our boys day out had started perfectly. The sun was shining and happy fans were milling about the tram station, clad in the colours of both sides.
Thirty minutes in a very amiable atmosphere on public transport and we’d be there. Just nine stops, and one change, separated us from the Esprit Arena.
We’d been there before, twice by mistake having taking wrong turnings. Once at night, in a crappy Ford Focus hire car with a rubbish satnav, we couldn’t find our way out. Despite the availability of parking at the stadium, the tram it must be said was infinitely better. Many fans – looking to finish their beer – opted to walk the final twenty minutes from Freiligrathplatz but, just as many boarded the trams to replace them.
At the final stop we were greeted by a plush new station beneath the soaring grey blocks, of what appears to be based on either the set of Metropolis, or an enormous sculpture depicting local boys Kraftwerk’s “It’s More Fun To Compute”. In comparison, the Paul Janes Stadion – whilst much smaller – oozes character. One of course mustn’t let any such meanderings detract from either the warmth of this city or the facilities inside the stadium.
Anyone coming through the main flughafen may have noticed – in arrivals – a fine model of this new arena. That and Die Toten Hosen connection probably give more of a flavour of this club than said grey block which is the outside view. With some importance, outside the Esprit Tribüne sits a mighty fine looking club-owned (?) pitch with running track, and small stand on its far side. Of even more value, inside the stadium, supporters can freely walk the entire length of the home concourse which circumnavigates three-quarters of the ground. In there one finds all manner of food outlets and friendly stewards happy enough for us to take photo opportunities at any of the doorways leading to the stands.
Being searched again, and given yellow wrist bands we eventually took our place on the corner of the home terrace, in time for both kick-off and the flag waving to begin. The chap in the ticket office had been quite certain this area was good for children and he couldn’t have been more right, with nearly 40% of the crowd therein made up of women and children.

150222 Fortuna Dusseldorf v FC Nurnberg (1)b???????????????????????????????

In fairness what happened off – in the (SAFE STANDING) terrace – was more entertaining than the entire first half on the pitch. Forty-five minutes later all we had to show for our money, was some half-hearted end-to-end action and some great singing to our left. In contrast, the second half gave us four goals, some more biting tackles and a couple of yellow cards.
On the hour, Joel Pohjanpalo struck first for Düsseldorf. Queue celebrated relief all about us. A few minutes later Niklas Stark had levelled the game. Five minutes after that Danny Blum put the visitors ahead and sent many fans about us back to discussing tomorrow’s carnival. HELAU!!!! Despite the arrival of substitutions, Fortuna’s fans total resignation, and mass departure for the tram queue and home, arrived just moments from time.
So Nürnberg had won. A fine goal from Sebastian Kerk yes but, the 3-1 score line wasn’t really deserved. And try as I might I cannot see why Coach Oliver Reck was fired shortly thereafter; he’d seemingly done his job (please remember I am new to these parts).

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????150222 Fortuna Dusseldorf v FC Nurnberg (18)b????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????150222 Fortuna Dusseldorf v FC Nurnberg (3)b?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Maybe a recent testspiele draw again Dortmund had given all a false perspective but, looking across the season Fortuna haven’t been that poor. Up to this match they’d only lost five of their twenty one league games. The defensive line however was anything but defensive. During this match, they were at times, an utter shambles and certainly at fault for each of the three opposing goals.
Firing the coach – in hindsight; considering they haven’t improve since – seems a little hasty. Dropping the entire back line so they can take a long hard look inside themselves would’ve been more appropriate.
All in all it’s obvious my son and I will be back. There was enough to show, both on and certainly off the pitch, that this club – like my own – has the potential to occasionally play above their current level even if they are not destined to win any great quantities of trophies. I was confident of this much when we arrived and bought club hats on the concourse. Well it was sunny on the way to football, how could I not have known?
Adding a little perspective; Düsseldorfer Turn-und Sportverein Fortuna 1895 e.V. are out of both local and national pokals this season but, they were still fifth (7th at the time of writing) in the second tier of German football, in a huge new(ish) stadium, with a large enough fan base to draw in huge support from their city. It doesn’t seem that bad does it?
There are literally thousands of clubs who’d happily swap places with this… Despite having aspirations of their own, TV Kalkum Wittlaer are probably one.
A reasonable season with a good cup run; that’s all I usually want in August… between my two new local clubs, I think Düsseldorf can deliver that much, even if the sides in question don’t play in the right colours.
Final score: Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-3 FC Nürnberg

150222 Fortuna Dusseldorf v FC Nurnberg (26)b150219 TV Kalkum Wittlaer v CfR Links (17)b

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