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!

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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Fallen Kings of the Castle (SC Westfalia Herne)

Sportclub Westfalia 04 e.V. Herne was formed in June 1904 by local factory worker Willi Stens who had been playing for the BV Steele club. He was elected as president and looked to friends from the area around the well to do neighbourhood of Schloss Strünkede to become the first team. The original Strünkede Castle was built in 1243 by the Lords of Strünkede who had been nobility since 1142. The current castle was completed in 1664 and provides a serene and stately backdrop to the huge open terrace opposite the grandstand. Westfalia Herne originally chose red and white stripes as their kit although this would be replaced by today’s strip of blue and white stripes in 1914. The industrial city of Herne soon became well served with competitive teams with Germania Herne being formed in 1909 and SV Sodingen some three years after that. This led to a number of well attended local derbies in the first few decades of the twentieth century. However disaster struck in 1923 with much of the Ruhr still being occupied buy the French, Westfalia Herne were officially dissolved. However, unknown to the occupying authorities the club carried on playing and in 1925 merged with Fortuna Herne and began “officially” competing again. The merger made the club very powerful and two straight promotions in 1929 and 1930 saw Herne rise to the top flight.

In 1933 the club were placed in the Gauliga Westfalia as German football fell under the administration of the Third Reich. It soon became apparent that the meadow rented by Willi Stens had served its purpose and Westfalia Herne needed a home more suitable to their burgeoning support and status. The club opened their new stadium next to the Schloss Strünkede in 1934. Built on an audacious scale boasting a 40,000 capacity the new ground would welcome the likes of Schalke 04, Borussia Dortmund and VfB Bochum on a regular basis. The Second World War became problematic for Westfalia Herne as the British commander in the Ruhr locked the club out of the stadium. Club President Hermann Kracht held conservative views and after negotiations with the military a friendly between Westfalia Herne and the British troops saw the club allowed back into the stadium for good.

The 1940’s and 1950’s were a golden era for football in Herne with both Westfalia and SV Sodingen competing in the top flight for many seasons, unheard of outside of the major metropolises like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg. To celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in 1954 Westfalia Herne opened the newly built grandstand increasing the seated capacity at the Schloss Strünkede. In 1958 three Westfalia Herne players, Hans Tilkowski, Helmut Benthaus and Alfred Pyka played together in the same German national team. A year later under the guidance of Fritz Langner, Westfalia Herne became champions of the top flight Oberliga West. In May 1960 a crucial match against Hamburger SV saw an all time record 35,000 pack into the Herne stadium. Westfalia were runners up in the league the following season and despite consistent league performances the club missed out on election to the new Bundesliga in 1963.

The advent of the new national league really spelt the end of the glory years for Herne football, Westfalia were relegated to the third tier and SV Sodingen slumped even further and currently play in the seventh tier Landesliga. The 1970’s saw the club sponsored by the petroleum company Goldin, the stadium was renovated and Westfalia competed in the 2.Bundesliga-Nord. Four great years followed with well known players like Lutz Gerresheim, Jochen Abel or Sören Busk played for Herne. A famous 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund was witnessed by 27,000 at the Schloss Strünkede.  However disaster struck the club once again when the sponsor went bust and Herne pulled out of the league after just one game of the 1979/80 campaign. The club handed their professional licence back to the DFB and regrouped in the Amateur Westfalen Oberliga.

Also in 1980 the club played a central part of the film “Theo Gegen den Rest Der Welt” where the lead character has a ticket for the (fictitious) DFB Pokal match between SC Westfalia Herne against Schalke 04 but has to miss the big game when his truck is stolen.

This season has been a real struggle for this once mighty club. Competing in the fifth tier Oberliga Westfalia Herne have won just one of their fifteen league games and sit rock bottom of the table with just six points. Today’s visitors VfB Hüls are thirteenth in the 18 team division and Herne’s hopes of victory take a dramatic early blow. In just the third minute defender Yusuf Kilic handled a goal bound shot and despite him protesting his innocence he was shown a red card and Marko Onucka clinically despatched the penalty kick. Hüls doubled their lead before the break and despite Herne pulling one back after the restart with a penalty of their own in truth Herne were second best from start to finish. Today the magnificent Stadion am Schloss Strünkede echoed eerily with a crowd of around 400 (officially stated as 250) and the sixth tier trapdoor is well and truly open for this great club.

Despite their on field woes Herne still have their truly incredible ground, for me it’s a set of floodlights away from being the best ground I have ever visited. Just go there, they really do need the support.

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Sunday February 22nd 2015 – Oberliga Westfalen

Westfalia Herne (0) 1 (Mützel pen 49)

VfB Hüls (2) 2 (Onucka pen 4, Schröter  37)

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The Plate Collection (VfR Mannheim)

At the turn of the 20th century the German Football Association was founded and in its initial membership were no less than three clubs from Mannheim. These clubs were Mannheimer FG 1896, Mannheimer FG 1897 Union, and FC Viktoria 1897 Mannheim. In 1907 SV Waldhof Mannheim were formed and quickly became the leading side in the city. In order to compete with Waldhof the three original clubs merged in 1911 and became VfR Mannheim.

VfR would become very much the contempories of Waldhof in the Nazi instigated Gauliga-Baden. Waldhof won the title in 1934, 1936, 1937, 1940, and 1942. While VfR took the title in 1935, 1938, 1939, 1943, 1944. VfL Neckarau’s (a Mannheim suburb) 1941 success meant Mannheim based clubs won the Gauliga for eleven straight seasons.

The fierce Gauliga rivalry was a prelude to VfR’s finest hour when in 1949 by defeating Borussia Dortmund 3-2 they won the National German Championship. The match held in front of 90,000 people saw the first awarding of the now iconic Meisterschale, the giant studded plate somewhat churlishly referred to as the salad bowl. While 1.FC Nuremberg had won the first post war championship in 1948 the new trophy was first presented to VfR Mannheim. The new trophy had become necessary after the old German National Championship, the Viktoria trophy, which had been awarded since 1903, had disappeared during the war whilst in the care of the last pre-War champions, Dresdener SC. Post German reunification the old trophy was unearthed having been buried in a pile of coal for 45 years. The 1949 title win would become the zenith of VfR’s existence.

When German football was reorganised and the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, VfR were placed in the second tier Regionalliga- Süd. Ten years later VfR dropped to the third tier and began to struggle financially and rebuffed two attempts at a merger with SV Waldhof in 1998 and 2003. Having maintained their independence the club were denied a license and were demoted to the Verbandesliga Nordbaden. That league was won at the first attempt and VfR gained promotion to the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg where they play today despite another relegation in 2009.

The present home of VfR is the Rhein-Neckar Stadion, not to be confused with Hoffenheim’s similarly named modern arena. The current ground was built in 1971 next to the original Stadium Mannheim. The original stadium was opened in 1927 but was cleared in 1992 to make way for the opening of the Carl-Benz Stadion, the home of long time nemesis Waldhof. The grounds back directly onto each other.

Today’s game is a real “six-pointer” the hosts lie next to bottom with 24 points while there are a clutch of clubs, including visitors 1.FC Bruchsal, have two points more, a win is vital if VfR are to stay up. The club are truly convivial hosts, offering us a very welcome beer and telling us of their fundraising attempt to buy a replica of the Meisterschale to celebrate 65 years since their finest hour. I wish them well, it was an amazing title success and sadly one they will not be able to repeat. Even in the fifth tier the club need an annual budget of 450,000 euros to field a reasonably competitive team.

The hosts have a dream start when the referee awards them a penalty after just three minutes which captain Erdogdu gleefully dispatches into the net. Speaking of nets the VfR goalposts are a talking point, a sandy beige colour, like some sort of relic from Operation Desert Storm. The explanation for the colouring is due to the heavy mineral and chalk content of the local water and while the goalposts are cleaned and painted every close season, pitch irrigation sees them colourise during the campaign. While the hosts maintain the ascendancy their lead remains a fragile one until they bring on leader scorer Hans Kyei. A player of some quality he looks a threat every time he goes forward. It is no little surprise when he taps in the decisive second goal five minutes from time. The relief in the small but partisan crowd is palpable. They needed this. And we need clubs like VfR, fiercely independent, belligerent and respectful of their heritage. Wonderful stuff.


Sunday April 16th 2014 – Oberliga Baden-Württemberg

VfR Mannheim (1) 2 (Erdogdu pen 3, Kyei 85)

1.FC Bruchsal (0)0

Attendance: 550 (at the Rhein-Neckar Stadion)


1. Levent Cetin, 2. Marvin Pelzl, 4. Norbert Kirschner, 5. Oliver Malchow, 8. Daniel Herm, 9. Kaan Erdogdu (c), 13. Manuel Morilla-Morito, 14. Eric Schaaf, 16. Marko Terzic, 20. Enis Sen, 21. Piero Adragno.

Subs: 22. Robin Albrecht, 3. Dragan Peric, 7. Sven Beier (for 7,89 mins), 11. Hans Kyei (for 14,70 mins), 12. Camilo Dos Santos, 15. Peter Prokop (for 16,79 mins).


1. Sascha Rausch, 4. Isa Kaykun, 5. Jan Kahle, 6. Pavlos Osipidis, 7. Denis Schwager, 8. Marco Mayer, 9. Erich Strabel, 10. Sandio Inguanta, 16. Francisco Rodriguez Carmona, 19. Mike Weindel, 23. Georg Dis (c).

Subs: 30. Nikolai Gogol, 2. Advan Halili, 11. Valencia Rivada (for 10,62 mins), 13. Burak Güner, 15. Oliver Kraut, 17. Sinan Telle (for 23,82 mins), 22. Mattia Trianni (for 8,46 mins)

Yellow cards: Kaykun, Osipidis (Bruchsal)


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Mannheim prog

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