Alemannia Aachen 2 TSV 1860 Munich 0 (5/12/2008)
My first game of a three day German football weekend saw me finally return to take in a match at Aachen, following an aborted trip when I spurned them in favour of FC Köln v Duisburg three and a half years earlier (see FC Köln 4 Duisburg 0 in the Germany section).
It was timely too, as it was Aachen’s last season at the old Tivoli stadium before moving to the new Tivoli, rising up just 300 m away up the road.
And that was a shame as while the old Tivoli might lack the facilities of the new place, it was hardly a crumbling wreck holding the club back. Aachen were in the middle of another promotion push, with sell-out crowds being regular. The Tivoli has terracing on three sides, but it was pehaps the main seated stand which let the ground down most. The terraced sides were steep, considerably steeper than the average old English terrace, and packed with enthusiastic fans.
In many ways it reminded my of my old Elm Park in happier times, just a fair degree bigger. The Tivoli was also uncovered at both ends, meaning the popular part of the ground, in terms of where the singers go, was down the side. One thing we never had was a singer at the front of the packed terrace leading the crowd from upon a podium set into the fence. Despite a designated chant leader, the crowd did seem more English in its style of singing, ebbing and flowing with the game, rather than the perhaps more typical ultra style support common in continental Europe.
Less welcome, and a reminder of terrace life in England pre-Hillsborough, was the ugly, view-resticting fences at the front of the terraces. Even before conversion to all-seater, they’d long gone in England so it seems a shame they are still regarded as necessary in Germany, even for home sections.
It actually made it quite hard to get a decent view with everyone trying to crowd back to see over the fence. I think I annoyed one local someone, who muttered “F***ing Englischer” under his breath, although quite how he’d have picked me out as being English is beyond me.
One thing you fear as a neutral is a 0-0 draw. Even a defeat you can enjoy, having seen at least one goal. There does come a point where you sense a 0-0 draw coming, but luckily I didn’t even have time to start thinking about it, as Aachen scored with the first attack of the game. Inside the first minute some neat passing found an Aachen player in a bit of space just outside the corner of the box, and without hesitation he lashed it across the keeper into the far corner. I was right behind it and could see it was in from the moment it left his boot. The terrace went mad. It was terrific, bodies jumping everywhere, punching the air. Many climbed or banged on the fence, which swayed alarmingly as if it was made out of pipe cleaners. That’s what football’s about. I may generally opt for a seat at neutral games, but there’s nothing like being in a packed terrace when a goal goes in. You feel part of the action, rather than just watching at as you do from a seat.
From then Aachen were in control, but somehow failed to add a second until five minutes from time. The game went all too quickly. I enjoyed every minute of it. At Elm Park I use to love night games. There’s something about a packed terrace on a dark night that looks so special. So typically “football”. I may have only been to the Tivoli once, but it was so easy to imagine what it must be like coming along every other week, with the familar sights and sounds, taking your usual spot on the terrace, and swaying with the action in front of you.
And it was also easy to imagine the mixed feeling towards the shiny new place being built to take the club forward. At least Aachen got a whole end as a terrace at theirs, but it’ll take a lot to make a new ground feel as “homely” as this one.