About peterrmiles

Lifelong Southend United fan and football ground bore. Itinerant pan-European football watcher.

Stick a fork in I’m done with 2018/19

Here is a review of my itinerant football watching during the 2018/19 campaign.

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Total Matches Attended: 280

New Grounds Visited: 202

Total Goals Scored: 1,147 (Average of 4.10 goals per game, up on 3.81 last season, I saw seven 0-0 draws this season)

Biggest Win: Bestwood Miners Welfare 15 NG Vikings 0

Biggest Crowd: 59,903 West Ham United v Liverpool

Grounds Abroad: 49 (Romania 12, Serbia 12, Germany 11, Greece 3, Iceland 3, Italy 3, Bosnia 1, Bulgaria 1, Gibraltar 1, Netherlands 1, San Marino 1)

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BEST GROUNDS VISITED IN THE UK IN 2018/19

1.THE STANKS


An amateur pitch marked out on a rough piece of grass against the Elizabethan fortified walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed. If it was good enough for L.S.Lowry to draw then it’s good enough for me. An absolute bucket list footballing experience.
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2. HOPEMAN – Sea Park
The Moray Welfare League is a summer competition played on parched pitches across the Morayshire region. Hopeman play on a pitch adjacent to the sea and harbour and the view from up on the hill towards the High Street is just stunning. Sea Park should be a new entry on anyone’s iconic football venues list.
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3. FORRES MECHANICS – Mosset Park

A sturdy main stand, ample banking around the rest of the ground. One of the best grounds in a league full of decent venues.

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4.KILSYTH RANGERS– Duncansfield Park

Huge covered terrace on one side and sweeping curves of terrace around the rest of the ground. To cap it all there is player’s tunnel that goes under the terracing before rising up to pitch level. Steadfastly Junior and all power to its elbow.

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5.ELGIN CITY– Borough Briggs

A traditional old ground completing a strong Scottish bias to this season’s awards list. Magically old school and seeming untouched by the rampant need to modernise.

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BEST GROUNDS VISITED ABROAD IN 2018/19

1.BOLOGNA – Stadio Renato Dall’Ara

Just an incredible footballing amphitheatre. Built in the 1920’s with so many amazing architectural features from the Littoral, the cover walkway on the open side of the ground to Nervi’s masterpiece tower. Despite a fairly recent revamping for the 1990 World Cup, it would seem the owners, the City of Bologna, are keen to modernise it further, you would trust the traditional features are retained but who knows?

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2.RHEYDTER SV – Jahnstadion

When you get to hear that an old school stadium is to soon be “modernised” you experience two emotions. One is the pang of sadness of another lost playground and then that’s superseded by the urge to go and see it as it is before the “improvements” destroy the essential character. The Jahnstadion will have its 20,000 capacity terracing removed in its entirety and just a revamped grandstand will be left. Work is scheduled to start on this latest act of social vandalism in early 2020, be warned!

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3.ASC OLIMPIC ZARNESTI – Stadion Celuloza

Dramatic mountain setting, ancient wooden stand somehow held together for more than 80 years and a bright red pavilion. Just a stunning place to watch football.

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4.FK ŽAK KIKINDA – Stadion ŽAK

Features a big old grandstand and a perimeter wall made from about a million roof tiles stood on their ends. An indescribably good football ground.

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5.ALTONA ‘93 – Adolf Jäger Kampfbahn

One of the oldest remaining stadiums in Germany, perfect in every way. Coupled with a great fan scene, this a must do venue before their muted plans to move come to fruition.

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BEST PROGRAMMES BOUGHT IN 2018/19

(based on status, resources, effort and originality)

1. Clapton Community FC

Clapton CFC

2.Lower Breck

Lower Breck

3. St. Helens Town

St Helens

4. Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth

5. Steeton

Steeton

 

BEST FOOD IN 2018/19

  1. Curry (Queens Park Crescents)

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2. Scouse (Litherland REMYCA)

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3. Jerk Chicken (Enfield Borough)

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Notes From A Small Island 4 (Anglesey)

The Island Games are a biennial multi sport festival held to encourage sporting development among tiny islands, peninsulas and archipelagos. From the initial event in the Isle of Man where 15 islands entered the event has become increasingly popular with the most recent staging being in Gotland in 2017. There were 2,500 athletes representing 23 islands across 14 sports on Sweden’s largest island.

The 18th Island Games were awarded to Gibraltar and it meant a severe logistical problem given that the peninsula’s only major sporting facility, the Victoria Stadium, would be earmarked for track and field athletics. This meant for the first time since 1989 there would be no football tournament at the Island Games, cycling and volleyball would also miss out for the first time.

The decision to omit football was particularly controversial as its one of the major and most popular of the attractions. Into the breach stepped prospective 2025 Island Games hosts, Ynys Môn (Anglesey) who offered to stage a football tournament run on similar lines to the Island Games. In addition to the hosts a further nine islands agreed to send a mans team and six would send womens squads to what was dubbed the Inter-Islands Games. An oddity of this event is Gibraltar sending a womens team to the event but being unable to field a mens team due to their membership of UEFA.

Eleven football grounds of varying sizes and facilities were selected as host venues including some from very small communities like Aberffraw FC from the tiny village of Tŷ Croes and Bro Goronwy FC from the north east coastal village of Moelfre, home to barely 1,000 inhabitants.

Some interesting tweaks on the normal rules were announced for this event. Drawn group games would be settled on penalties as a means to separate teams in the eventuality of two having identical records. Entrants were allowed to make five substitutions but in an attempt to speed up potentially ten changes per game, teams had to make them in batches up to five (eg a triple substitution then two single substitutions).

Having already enjoy games at six of the eleven host grounds I decided to baulk on the crazy early start needed to make the 11am Jersey v Orkney opener at Llangefni Town’s excellent Cae Bob Parry. Instead my first action of this tournament would be a special one as it marked the international debut of a representative team from the south Atlantic island nation of St.Helena. It’s a British Overseas Territory and incorporates the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha as well. The population of 4,500 people is one of the remotest in the world and only got a commercial airport as recently as 2017!

Cae Cynlas is a fairly basic ground with a railed off pitch and a spare dugout pressed into service as a small area of cover but it’s not needed as pre-match rain drifts off in the opposite direction. With around 50 St Helena fans present there is a good, colourful vibe to the place but the Shetlands, Island Games veterans and winners of the tournament at their own games in 2005, are in no mood to roll over for the far flung debutants. The Shetland side are limited in numbers due to injuries but are no match for St Helena, the Atlantic islanders struggling to deal with the physicality and the strong buffeting wind. The Scots win 6-1 although Ronan Legg has the honour of scoring St. Helena’s first ever international goal from the penalty spot. There are nearly 500 people watching and there is mayhem outside with cars parked everywhere, Tŷ Groes will have never seen the like before!

Sunday June 16th 2019 2pm – Inter-Island Games Group C

Shetland 6 (Leask 12,17, Bradley 25, Arthur 27,85, Smith 45)
St.Helena 1 (Legg pen 36)

Att:462 (at Aberffraw FC)

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The next game is at the main stadium in the island capital of Holyhead. Intriguingly the old Holyhead Hotspur is still in decent condition despite being vacated in 2007 for the New Oval next door. Evidently the old ground is still used for local matches. The place is busy with the hosts, Ynys Môn, making their entry into the tournament with a game against another Scottish entrant, the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides). It’s a much tighter game with the hosts enjoying a larger portion of the possession but it’s the Western Islanders that silence the crowd with the opening goal on the stroke of halftime. The forecast rain duly arrives and it’s standing room only in the main stand and the covered stand, repurposed from a Stena Line gangway, it also full as over a 1,000 people try in vain to stay dry. Ynys Môn come good in the second half and while some speed off to make the tight kick off time at Cemaes Bay, the majority of the crowd at Holyhead go home happy.

Sunday June 16th 2019 5pm – Inter-Island Games Group A

Ynys Mon 2 (McGinness 60, Morris 67)
Western Isles 1 (L.Mackay 45)

Att: 1,025 (at Holyhead Hotspur FC)

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Most of the arrivals from Holyhead just about make kick off thanks to Cemaes Bay prudently opening a field adjacent to the School Lane ground for parking. The rain has now reached monsoon proportions as Channel Islanders take on Hitra, an island archipelago off the west coast of Norway.

Few Welsh clubs can have fallen as far as Cemaes Bay. Although football started in the north coast town in 1870, the current club started life in 1976 and played at a ground on the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station for much of the time, except for a short period in 1980, at a ground next to the Gadlys Hotel. The move to School Lane in 1988 coincided with a period of heavy investment as the club moved from the Anglesey League to winning the Welsh Alliance in 1993 and the Cymru Alliance in 1995. The latter resulted in an historic promotion to the Welsh Premier League. After two seasons the finance was pulled and by 2005 the club had been relegated to the Gwynedd League. After a short period in abeyance the club went full circle and rejoined the Anglesey League for the 2018/19 season.

Despite the appalling weather Alderney and Hitra put on a highly entertaining match in front of a doubtless weather effected crowd of slightly over 200. It’s a fine, if a little soggy end, to an excellent days entertainment.

Sunday June 16th 2019 7.30pm – Inter-Island Games Group B

Alderney 2 (Benfield 26, J. Concanen 67)
Hitra 4 (Kvakland 24, Jorgensen 27, Hansen 45, Johansen 74)

Att:206 (at Cemaes Bay FC)

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With the first game of day two not scheduled to 3.30pm there is plenty of time to see some of the beguiling sights of this stunning little island. From Beaumaris Castle in the east to South Stack lighthouse there really is something for everyone here. Thankfully the rain had relented but it was still very windy.

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IMG_5859Cliff side church at Llanbadrig

IMG_5855Headland at Bull Bay

IMG_5856Benllech

IMG_5857Benllech beach

IMG_0115Beaumaris Castle

IMG_0122Menai Bridge

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The afternoon game is a Bodedern Athletic’s compact Cae Tŷ Cristion ground. This club took over from the old disbanded CPD Bodedern in 2007, initially playing at Cae’r Ysgol until securing a return to Bodedern’s traditional ground at Tŷ Cristion. The new Bodedern club have risen quickly to the Welsh Alliance Division One and finished runners up to Llangefni Town this season.

It’s another tight game as Guernsey take on an injury depleted Shetland team. Guernsey take a 2-0 lead before halftime, bizarrely the fourth game running where a goal was scored in the 45th minute. Shetland pulled one back with a rebound from a saved penalty kick but it wasn’t to be for the North Sea team.

Monday June 17th 2019 3.30 pm – Inter-Island Games Group C

Guernsey 2 (Marsh 21, Hall 45)
Shetland 1 (Leask 52)

Att:208 (at Bodedern Athletic FC)

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So with just a two day taste of the tournament it was a massive thumbs up to the organisers. Everything ran like clockwork and there was enough volunteers to cater for the crowds. The tournament programme was excellent and informative at £3. Only wished I could have stayed a little longer. Roll on Guernsey 2021, Orkneys 2023 and, all being well, Anglesey in 2025, they would deserve it on this showing.

Island Games Programme

Late December Back In ’59 (ETB Schwarz-Weiß Essen)

Essener Turnerbund (ETB) was a gymnastics club formed in 1881 although the football wing, ETB Schwarz-Weiß Essen, wasn’t formalised until 1900. As with many embryonic German clubs finding a suitable place to stage games wasn’t easy and initially the members fashioned a playable surface from a disused brick field at the Ernestine colliery in Essen-Stoppenberg.

In 1903 the club moved to a field in Kruppstraße and ten years later to an existing site in Meisenburgstraße which was home to Fortuna Bredeney. Schwarz-Weiß invested 50,000 Deutschmarks in the facility, capital raised from a share issue and generous donations. By 1914 Meisenburgstraße was good enough to host an international match between Germany and the Netherlands.

The club grew rapidly and had great success in the Ruhrgau championship. In 1922 the club made a momentous decision to construct its own stadium as Meisenburgstraße would only ever be leased to them. Despite the City of Essen failing to deliver money promised to the club for the new stadium, the 3,500 members at the time raised an astonishing 750,000 DM in order to purchase a large area of land which became the Uhlenkrugstadion. In a time when wood was king grandstand construction Schwarz-Weiß lavishly invested in a large stand built from iron. It was the most modern stadium in all of Germany and the club became a household name, attracting a visit from MTK Budapest in 1925 and competing in a high profile tournament in Paris in 1932 that featured Red Star and Kispest Budapest (Honvéd).

Schwarz-Weiß were assigned to the Gauliga Niederrhein when German football was reorganised by the Third Reich and were unlucky to finish runners up to Fortuna Düsseldorf for three consecutive seasons from 1938 to 1940. The stadium capacity was expanded further in the war years and in 1951 held 45,000 people as Germany took on Luxembourg.

The 1950’s were a purple patch for the club which culminated in the greatest achievement to date, winning the DFB Pokal in 1959. ETB beat Westfalia Herne, Hertha BSC and Hamburger SV before beating Borussia Neunkirchen 5-2 in the final, staged in front of 20,000 people at the Auestadion in Kassel. With neighbours Rot-Weiß Essen having won the DFB Pokal six years early it meant that Essen became only the second German city to provide two Pokal winners, Munich being the other (Bayern 19 wins and 1860 twice)

The advent of the Bundesliga in 1963 saw ETB excluded from the new set up and consigned to the Regionalliga West. It was the period which saw city rivals Rot-Weiß Essen overtook them as the city’s senior club. ETB would run into serious financial problems in the early 1970’s and were forced to sell the stadium to the City of Essen to survive. The stadium had deteriorated so badly the the DFB decreed it wasn’t fit for second tier games and for a while ETB played home games at the Essen Grugastadion.

Fortunately the City of Essen funded renovations and the Uhlenkrugstadion was soon hosting football again. ETB were last in the 2.Bundesliga in 1978 and nowadays lurk in the fifth tier Oberliga Niederrhein. The Uhlenkrugstadion still has delicious swathes of open terracing but the City have once again announced plans to upgrade the stadium with a new grandstand. In many ways it will be a shame as the old stand is not in bad condition and is rather unusual. It also has a secret under stand drinking den at the far end.

Today’s game has a rather end of season feel to it with the hosts rarely getting out of first gear. Visitors, TuRU Düsseldorf, canter to an easy win including a quite sumptuous free kick towards the end.

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Sunday May 19th 2019 – Oberliga Niederrhein

ETB Schwarz-Weiß Essen 0
TuRU Düsseldorf 2 (Ucar 76, Munoz-Bonilla 84)

Att:258 (at Uhlenkrugstadion)

Entry €8, no programme

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Rheydt On Time (Rheydter SV)

Rheydter Spielverein (pronounced Ride-ter) were formed in 1905 by members of the Rheydter Turnverein, a gymnastics club formed in 1847. The gymnastics club refused to diverge into football so a separate club was formed which nowadays not only maintains a football club it has handball, tennis, table tennis and hockey sections. Within three years of forming the club had won the Rheinisch-Westfälische district league.

The club are based in the outskirts of Mönchengladbach and have played at the incredible Jahnstadion since September 1922. During its heyday, following expansion in 1947, the stadium could accommodate 40,000 spectators. In 1950 Rheydter had reached the top level of German football, the Oberliga West, and enjoyed a further season at that level in 1954.

The club steadily declined from this heady zenith and the Jahnstadion grew older in the way only football stadiums can. The terraces began crumbling and became overgrown with moss and other vegetation. At one end of the ground the war memorial with the names of fifty odd lost sons grew a little more faded. The only cosmetic change to it came in the mid 1990’s when RSV acquired the scoreboard from Borussia’s old Bökelberg Stadion and it was sited on the opposite end to the memorial. Times grew tougher for RSV and they eventually sold the scoreboard back to Borussia so it could be used by their second team whose home games are played in the Grenzlandstadion, an athletics stadium next to the Jahnstadion. It still has vintage floodlights which emit a strangely ethereal greeny/orange glow and look like it they would fry anything that happens to fly too close to them.

RSV last played at level five of German football in season 2002/03 when a sixteen season stay in the now obsolete Oberliga Nordrhein ended in a bottom place finish. More recently the club has been toling away in the murky depths of the Bezirksliga, the seventh level of German football. With home games rarely in three figures these days the local authorities have decided there is no longer a need for such a vast stadium in Rheydt, albeit these days with a reduced capacity of 20,000. The plan is to renovate the main stand and effectively have a one sided ground with all the terracing removed. This will make space for two full size artificial pitches for the club which will see new revenue streams open up.

While it was initially stated the work would begin at the end of the 2018/19 season the club have been told they will be staying put at least until the end of 2019. So if you want to see this magnificent relic before it’s substantial reduced in size and appeal make sure you visit before Christmas. For an old stadium romantic like me the planned downsizing will be an act of social vandalism, terracing is as elemental to a grandstand as the sun is to rain.

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Friday May 17th 2019 – Bezirksliga Niederrhein Gruppe 3

Rheydter SV 2 (Berberoglu 24, Haklaj 58)
SV Schwafheim 3 (Boyacilar 40, Derikx pen 70, Hilla 71)

Att:138 (at RSV-Stadion)

Entry €5, free programme

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Rheydter prog

Clocks (Hamburger SV)

Hamburger Sport-Verein were a 1919 amalgamation of three existing clubs, Sport Club Germania, FC Falke 06 and Hamburger SV von 1888. From here the club took the blue and black colours of their badge from Germania and the Hanseatic red and white representing Hamburg for their kit.

Germania trace their roots back to September 1887 and initially rented a farmer’s field in Wandsbek for their home games. This was vacated in 1892 following the horrific outbreak of cholera in Hamburg which killed 8,000 inhabitants. Germania regrouped using home grounds at Heiligengeistfeld and the Exerzierweide (parade ground) in Altona . Their nomadic existence took them to their first enclosed ground within the Rennbahn Mühlenkamp in 1903. Yet again their stay was short-lived vacating in 1907 when the racecourse was earmarked for expansion. They relocated back to Wandsbek at a ground called Forsthof.

Falke were the most junior of the amalgamating clubs having formed in 1906. Their first ground at Voßberg proved far from suitable and in 1908 they found a pitch in Grindelberg which after having signed a lease, the young squad of players were shocked to be told it did not meet the requirements of North German Football Association (the NFV) and Falke found themselves excluded from matches under the NFV’s auspices. The young players lobbied their parents and relatives for financial backing and soon had a kitty to build a new facility in Stellingen.

Similarly to the other two clubs Hamburger SV 1888 had problems finding a suitable home ground for their matches, it really was a nascent period for football in Germany. Initially HSV played at Moorweide but four years after forming moved to a field in Sternschanze which was also frozen over for use as an ice rink! The pitch was awful and HSV played home games at all sorts of often hastily borrowed pitches including the field at the Wandsbek horse market, a meadow on Sierichstraße, the Borgfelde Eispark, a pasture called Hansaweide as well as the Altona Exerzierweide. In 1897 they found a more regular base at Rothenbaumchaussee but by 1904 they had moved again to a rebuilt velodrome at Helmhuderstraße.

The turning point for football in Hamburg came in 1910 when HSV acquired a bigger piece of land and a year later the new Rothenbaum sports field was opened with a game against Holstein Kiel which drew 1,500 people. Sadly the new ground was severely damaged during World War I and with all clubs struggling for young players, such was the horrific loss of life in the conflict, the sensible option was to merge all three clubs and rebuild the Rothenbaum. By 1922 the stadium had a capacity of 30,000 and was officially re-inaugurated two years later when over 27,000 people watched HSV draw 1-1 with German champions 1.FC Nürnberg. In 1937 two new grandstands were built and the Rothenbaum became the largest club owned ground in Germany. Occasionally though, due to public demand, championship matches would be held at the much larger Altona Volksparkstadion. For example the championship match against Hertha BSC attracted 42,000 to the Volksparkstadion.

The advent of the Bundesliga in 1963 saw the DFB ban HSV from using the Rothenbaum, it still witnessed occasional cup matches, the last being played in 1989. It was demolished amid public outcry in 1994 having never really recovered from losing its’ south stand during a hurricane in 1980.

The old Altona Volksparkstadion was severely damaged during World War II and the city authority vowed to replace it in 1951 and by 1953 the new Volksparkstadion with a huge capacity of 75,000, was opened, having been largely built from rubble from bomb damaged buildings. It became HSV’s home stadium from the advent of the Bundesliga.

Since the merger of 1919 HSV, of course, have enjoyed huge success become a household name all over Europe, not least for the signing of Kevin Keegan in the summer of 1977 and losing to a John Robertson goal in the 1980 European Cup Final against Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. In the pre Bundesliga days the club won an astonishing 31 regional titles although would only take three overall crowns in the championship play offs. Somewhat surprisingly they have only won three Bundesliga titles including one in 1978-79 when Keegan top scored with 17 league goals for them.

The current Volksparkstadion was built in 1998, well ahead of time for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It is an incredible arena with additional top class training facilities for almost as far as the eye can see. With Hamburger SV having suffered their first ever Bundesliga relegation at the end of the 2017/18 season it’s 1.FC Magdeburg who make their first ever competitive visit to the Volksparkstadion. There are nearly 50,000 people inside for this Monday night, including a hugely impressive 8,000 from Magdeburg. The visiting fans make a hell of racket all night and inspire their team to a shock win with virtually the last kick of the game. It proved to be a fatal blow for second placed HSV, their season promptly fell apart and they even failed to make the promotion play offs.

To the annoyance of many the Volksparkstadion had displayed a clock that stated “In der Bundesliga seit” and counted up every second of their unbroken membership of the top flight, unrivalled even by Bayern Munich. Interestingly since relegation they have changed the clock to count up the seconds since that historic meeting which resulted in the formation of Sport Club Germania.

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Monday April 8th 2019 – 2.Bundesliga

Hamburger SV 1 (Jatta 31)

1.FC Magdeburg 2 (Bülter 60, Türpitz 90+4)

Att:49,823 (at Volksparkstadion)

Entry €26, free programme

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HSV Ticket

 

Hunter Of The Lost Pennies (Altona ’93)

The Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn was opened in Griegstraße in August 1908, just three years after Germany’s oldest stadium, the Waldau-Stadion home of Stuttgarter Kickers. The club were formed in 1893 as Altonaer Cricket Club and were Northern German champions in 1909 and 1914. They played continuously in Germany’s top level from 1918 to the end of the Second World War. The Third Reich then reorganised German football into 16 regional Gauligas.

The 50’s and 60’s were something of a heyday for the club, playing in the then top tier Oberliga Nord. They would finish third in the league in 1953/4 and 1957/8 as well as being DFB Pokal semi-finalists in 1954/55 and 1963/64 losing to Karlsrüher and TSV 1860 München. 1860 needed extra time to defeat Altona, in a match that drew 15,000 to the AJK. These days the Kampfbahn can still accommodate 8,000 people, even with one end partitioned off with new fencing. In more recent years Altona have been coming and going between the fourth and firth tiers. Currently the first team compete in the fifth tier, Oberliga Hamburg.

Once inside, the stadium is just glorious. Massive open terracing which extends well past the goal line attesting to the running track that once surrounded the pitch. The grandstand is huge and looks better for the seating acquired from the old Volksparkstadion in 2001. The players’ tunnel has a floral tribute to Adolf Jäger, Altona’s most famous player. He played for them between 1907 and 1927 and was reputed to have scored over 2,000 goals in his career, which saw him win 16 international caps for Germany. He was 55 when he was killed in Hamburg in 1944 working for bomb sweeping in the city.

The AJK is about a ten minute walk from Bahrenfeld S-Bahn station which itself is bedecked in images from Altona ‘93’s long history. In the well known fan bar adjacent was Jan Stöver, a key mover in Altona’s link up with Dulwich Hamlet, who were also formed in 1893, and editor of their excellent fanzine, “All to Nah”, some editions of which are solely in English. Jan has also done a historical fanzine, which is in German, called “Jäger der verlorenen pfennigs“. This is a clever play on words for the fact that the designer of the iconic German coin, the pfennig, was also called Adolf Jäger.

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Tonight’s game is Altona’s second team in seventh level Bezirksliga Süd action against SV Wilhelmsburg, and costs just €2 for entry. The game is quite remarkable as Altona II, resplendent in their iconic white, black and red kit, race into a 5-2 lead and look totally dominant when the visitors are reduced to ten men. They then start playing considerably better and promptly rattle in three goals to share the spoils in a remarkable 5-5 draw! The open terrace has a veranda for Altona’s ultras group the “Maniacs” even though they are small in number as it’s a reserve game they still create a decent atmosphere. As expected the sausages are top notch.

In 2016 Altona announced plans for a new stadium in nearby Diebsteich, but while this has yet to get off the drawing board, a visit to the AJK is highly recommended for any groundhopper worth their salt!

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Friday April 5th 2019 – Bezirksliga Süd

Altona ‘93 II 5 (Sachs 13,20, Lipke 39, pen 69, Demiral 43)
SV Wilhelmsburg 5 (Kirchner 48, Greff 63, Rejmanowski 85, Pohlmann 89,90+2)

Att: 85 (at Adolf- Jäger- Kampfbahn)

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Fang Tales of Tran Sylvania (Football In Heaven 3)

After two highly successful organised “Football In Heaven” trips to his home province of Bucovina, Romanian journalist Emanuel Roșu decided to branch out a little further into central Romania for his third expedition. The destination captured the imagination of even more attendees this time, as a total of 37 people from serious photographers, to serious groundhoppers to serious beer drinkers all descended on Sibiu for the first ever organised groundhop in Transylvania!

To access the impact the previous trips have had you only have to take a look at the different nationalities turning up for this tour. As well as the usual healthy contingent of Brits, there were seven Norwegians, two Frenchmen, a Dane, a Belgian and a Pole, a united nations of enthusiasts in search of a healthy balance of football, culture and Dracula!

After arriving late the previous night what immediately strikes you about Sibiu, as dawn escapes through shutters and blinds, is that it really is an extremely pleasant city. Straddling the River Cibin, it has an obvious Germanic influence and is still referred to as Hermannstadt on occasion. Originally a Roman settlement, it was refounded in the 13th Century by Saxon settlers. Subsequently Sibiu fell into the hands of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires. A tempestuous history has given way to a peaceful, clean and architecturally important cultural city.

Sibiu

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Normally there would be no games on a Thursday but with Emi’s negotiating skills the Sibiu County FA president, Traian Marcu, had a game moved to an early evening slot just for us.

AS Bradu play at the named Stadionul Central, a pretty basic venue in a glorious location surrounded by rolling pastures and bounded to the south by the Olt River and the glorious Făgăraș Mountains of the Southern Carpathians with their peaks still sporting their white winter caps. This evenings opponents are Interstar Sibiu primarily an under 21 team but with a veteran utility player, Vasile Armenean, who plays the full 90 minutes in a variety of positions at the incredible age of 59! It’s the younger team who beat the hosts comfortably by four unanswered goals.

Thursday March 21st 2019 – Romania IV Liga (Sibiu County)

AS Bradu 0

FC Interstar Sibiu 4 (Oprișor 33, Standima 65, Dancu 76,90)

Attendance: 48 (at Stadionul Central)

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The schedule for Friday was looking particularly memorable and was to conclude with another early evening game this time in neighbouring Braşov county, again moved for our convenience by the local FA man, Octavian Goga. Emi had already teased the group with pictures of a wonderfully decrepit looking old wooden stand so anticipation for the visit to ASC Olimpic Zărneşti was palpable.

But first we had a morning to fill and when you are in Transylvania it is almost unthinkable not to visit Bran Castle, legendary “home” of Vlad III Dracula, better known as Vlad the Impaler, who was the ruler of Wallachia, and said to be the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s world famous novel Dracula. It is a stunning castle in its own right, overlooking the Bran Gorge. For a few additional Lei you can gain access to Vlad’s torture chamber including replicas of his favoured method of sending a message to invading Ottoman forces, the impaling pole.

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We headed to Zărneşti which was primarily an industrial town with the Celuloza paper manufacturing plant opening in the mid 1850’s and a weapons plant “6 Martie” in 1936. In 1939 the paper factory had a leak of chlorine gas which killed 60 inhabitants. The heavy industry closed down after the downfall of Nicolae Ceaușescu and left mass unemployment until tourism kicked in. However, Celuloza left the town a really magnificent football ground, photogenic from all parts. A bright red dressing room building, the crumbling 80 odd year old wooden stand and rickety bleacher style seating on the opposite side make for a classic ground in a stunning mountain setting. There is a very decent gathering of locals for this game against ACSM Codlea, and there is even merchandise for sale in the form of scarves and pennants. Our Norwegian contingent clear the local bar of bottled beer as we watch the game in early evening sunshine. The home side rise to the occasion and win 4-0, and we all feel a sense of immense privilege of being able to have seen a match in this quite breathtaking place.

Friday March 22nd 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Braşov County)

ASC Olimpic Zărneşti 4 (Berloiu 26, Dascâlu 39, Mielusolu 51, Simon 56)

ACSM Codlea 0

Attendance: 256 (at Stadionul Celuloza Zărneşti)

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Saturday morning arrived and we have a trip south west of Sibiu to FC Cisnădie. I was aware the stadium in Cisnădie was a lot bigger than the little village grounds we had been to so far but was taken aback by the sheer beauty of their Stadionul Textila. Sited next to a carpet factory, the ground has a large concrete stand with a wooden pitched roof. On the opposite side there is a raised bank of uncovered seating with approximately 2,500 seats. Throw in the obligatory mountain back drop, church spires and a cemetery and we have another photographic bobby dazzler on our hands. Today’s opponents are the army reservists of AS Armata Sibiu. They lack fitness and skill and hold out for barely four minutes before they concede the first of 13 goals to a rampant host team. To their credit Armata score two cracking goals themselves before the referee puts them out of their misery by not playing any additional time at all. Cisnădie are wonderful hosts and supply us all with free half time beer, most welcome on a warm day.

Saturday March 23rd 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Sibiu County)

FC Cisnădie 13 (Cotofan 4,72, Dragomir 23, Cocos 33, Coman 36,42, Bratima pen 48,87, Andrei 66, Rodean 76,86,89, Anghel 80)

AS Armata Sibiu 2 (Trasca 12, Raulea 45)

Attendance: 84 (at Stadionul Textila)

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We then travelled north west to the incredible mountain ground of AS Cindrelul Gura Râului who were hosting a Romanian Cup third round game against the team from the neighbouring village, AS Silvatex Orlat. Once again the ground itself is nothing special, a caged 3G pitch with one stand of wooden bleacher style seating. Behind the stand was an almost vertical cliff face, which of course didn’t some some scallywags (and Norwegians) climbing up for a loftier vantage point. The rest of the ground is surrounded by a lunar looking mountain landscape. I have never been to a place quite like Gura Râului. On the field the two fifth level sides bludgeon each other and all three goals came in a crazy three minute spell early in the first half. The winner for the hosts coming from a comical own goal, a Silvertex defender completing an fantastic goal line clearance only for the ball to hit a team mate on the backside and cannon into the corner of the net.

Saturday March 23rd 2019 – Cupa Romaniei (Faza 3)

AS Cindrelul Gura Râului 2 (Ruse 16, Damaschin og 19)

AS Silvatex Orlat 1 (Topîrcean 17)

Attendance: 198 (at Stadionul Comunal)

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We had the option of basketball at the Sala Transylvania on Saturday night as local side CSM Sibiu had a game against CSM Oradea, a team from near the Hungarian border. Some of the party are keen to go especially as its only 15 lei (£3) to get in. It turned out to be a really thrilling game with the home side come from a sizeable deficit to almost snatching victory with one second on the clock remaining.

For the Sunday we had two games planned and the first was at Unirea Miercurea-Sibiului with attractive opposition in the shape of LSS Voința Sibiu. This is a fan owned club arisen from the ashes of the bankrupt Liga I side CSU Voința Sibiu. Unirea have decent ground just off the main square, with a stand with uncovered seating and around 30 away fans who sung, waved flags and let off firecrackers throughout the 90 minutes. Unfortunately for Voința, the home side didn’t read the script and eased to a 3-0 win. The away fans were exceedingly friendly and explained that want to perpetuate the legend of Sibiu’s historic club, Șoimii Sibiu, who folded in 2001.

Sunday March 24th 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Sibiu County)

ACS Unirea Miercurea-Sibiului 3 (Roman 36,71, Albean 62)

AS LSS Voința Sibiu 0

Attendance: 155 (at Stadionul Orăşenesc-Miercurea)

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Our sixth and final game of the tour promised to be really interesting and a total antithesis of the scenic mountain and sleepy village grounds we had visited so far. We were heading to the tragic town of Copșa Mică. Before Chernobyl this town was the most polluted town in all of Europe, thanks to years of unregulated industrial emissions. Most guilty of polluting Copșa Mică were Carbosin, who produced a black powder dye used in the rubber industry and Sometra who processed non-ferrous metals in huge smelters. To this day a nasty black sludge can be seen on the terracotta roof tiles of the towns’ houses. Lead emissions were 1,000 times over agreed international limits, and the factories belched 10 tons of carbon soot into the air on a daily basis.

The ground is surrounded by old industrial chimneys and the pitch is more like straw than grass. The visitors are ACS Păltiniş Raşinari who are riding high in the table but it’s the hosts that take a shock second minute lead. It doesn’t last though and the visitors score four times leaving this sorry, dirty old town with all three points.

Sunday March 24th 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Sibiu County)

AS Copșa Mică 1 (Getner 2)

ACS Paltinis Răşinari 4 (Nasta 37,45, Chirila 40, Ganea 73)

Att:Attendance: 116 (at Stadionul Orăşenesc)

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We had left our base in Sibiu on Sunday morning with our bags ready to spend the night in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Sighişoara. En route we have a pit stop at the delightful town of Biertan and its famous Lutherian fortified church. It’s dark when we get to the superb Mercure Hotel in Sighişoara but you can see this is a really special place.

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We have the morning to mooch about the cobbled streets. The 13th century clock tower is just stunning and the old citadel is dominated by the Church on the Hill. It’s a fitting end to a superb tour and we are whisked off on the fifty mile trip back to Sibiu airport for our flights back to normality. I have said it before and I will say it again, Romania is a vast untouched beauty. Do yourself a favour and visit Romania at least once in your lifetime.

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A greatly expanded version of this review can be found in the June 2019 edition of Football Weekends magazine