Reporting from The Kurve

DURING my first month here in Heidelberg as part of my year abroad I have tried to completely take on everything that the Germans do, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the way in which they live. As a visitor to their country, it is not your job description to complain that we do it like this in Manchester or London or a small seaside town on the Welsh Coast.

The same thing goes for football. I have tried to completely disregard any football that does not take place inside German-speaking Europe. I have been to see Hoffenheim vs. Schalke 04, Vfb Stuttgart vs. Bayer Leverkusen 04 and yesterday (October the 26th) I was standing on the Sudkurve at the WIRSOL Arena to see Hoffenheim beat Paderborn by a solitary goal to nil. In that short time span I have seen Huntelaar score, Draxler dazzle with his great touch and poise and Steffan Kiessling prove that he is a pivotal part of whatever the Werkself from Leverkusen do. I have witnessed fan-culture at its finest and from now consider the German match day experience as the blueprint that all other leagues should follow.

Fussball Article As a fan you are valued in Germany. You are the most important element of the day. Just look at the CSKA Moscow Champions League games. The 22 players can turn up and play, but the absence of the fans starves the game of its colour, its vibrancy, its noise and vitality. You are not priced out of the game by greedy owners and sponsors wanting their pound of flesh. The individual is king, the fan is king of his or her own realm. The ticket for Hoffenheim vs. Paderborn cost me €12; at the current exchange rate that is £9.45. To get that sort of price for a British football match you would have to go to Annan Athletic not Augsburg.

What I think that Britain needs to change perspective of those in power at the FA is to host a major tournament. After Germany 2006, ampitheatres not stadiums were built up and down the country. Every club has a stadium of at least 20,000 which can be reached by reliable public transport. Every club offers free travel to the game up to a point (to travel from Heidelberg to the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion in Stuttgart I have to buy a train ticket but once I am in Stuttgart the travel to the ground is free). I bought my tickets on the off chance that there would be any left and actually buying the tickets was painless. The only team it may be a struggle to see is Bayern, but we’ll wait and see on that one because they do not travel to Sinsheim until April.

In Germany they do it right. The national team is still the pinnacle of a player’s career, regardless if it is in the age-groups all the way up to the current Champions of The World. No tired players here valuing club football over the Weltmeister. The fan is a valued piece of the puzzle, the tickets are affordable, the fans are knowledgeable, the reporting on the game is learned and a pleasure to read in the twice-weekly Kicker or 11Freunde, which is a monthly magazine focussing entirely upon Fussballkultur. You can follow the league like a child with a sticker book if you buy the preview copy of Kicker in which there is a “Stecktabelle”, a table you fill week on week by moving the tabs around from Bundesliga 1. all the way down to the 3. Liga.

It’s like my Dad talks fondly of going to United in the 60s and 70s. You would be in the ground an hour before kick off to make sure you had a place to stand on the old Stretford End. You can stand safely and take it all in with the best view in the house knowing that you will be able to pay the mortgage at the end of each month if you treat yourself to a season ticket.

Next up is Vfb vs. Wolfsburg next Saturday at 15.30 CET. Football is my release and I am seeing Germany from the view of its people. As Matt Busby said in the mid-fifties as he took the ‘Babes’ into what is now Piccadilly Gardens in the heart of Manchester: “These people work all week so that they can come and see you on a Saturday and be entertained”. The Germans have realised that the most valuable commodity in football is not money, but more importantly the way you feel when you go to a game. I feel like a kid in a sweet shop, the Million Dollar Man, because I know that I am going to be entertained and see some ‘top top’ talent by spending pocket