MSV Duisburg 0 Kaiserslautern 0 (7/12/2008)
The third game of my German long weekend, after trips to Alemannia Aachen and Fortuna Düsseldorf, was in Duisburg in Germany’s industrial heartland of Westphalia. I knew Duisburg were in Germany’s second tier, and I knew they had the good taste to play in blue and white hoops, but my knowledge of Duisburg itself wasn’t that detailed.
To be fair, it’s not a place that features in too many tourist brochures, and the odds of the next (or indeed any) series of the Holiday Show featuring Roland Rivron showcasing his week there are not high. To that end, when looking for something to complement my day at the football, I found myself looking at Google Earth. Specifically looking for clusters of blue squares that would indicate something worthwhile seeing. And something did indeed crop up. It was just a bit unusual.
Germany’s industrial heartland suffered in much the same way as in the UK, and there are just so many steelworks that the area can sustain. When one steelworks to the north of the town closed in 1985, the obvious way to deal with the site would be to bulldoze it. Instead, it was decided to turn the whole steelworks, much of it intact, into a public park. Trees now grow where men once toiled at the re-christened Landschaft Park, but in a controlled way rather than just dereliction. Families can and do stroll round the park appreciating the town’s industrial heritage, and the strange brutal beauty of the structures. The brave and the foolhardy can also climb the exposed steel staircases 50m high, to take in the view, and to test out their vertigo.
Rather more modern is the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena, home of MSV Duisburg. MSV have played there since the early 1920s, but the ground was completely rebuilt in 2004. And for my money it’s the best 30,000 sized stadium around.
From the outside all is clean and modern. The concrete even looks white rather than the usual dreary grey, which contrasts well with the blue steelwork of the roof. The main stand side is smart with a curving wall of glass presenting and impressive frontage. A large depiction of the club’s zebra badge (we’ll draw a discreet veil of the fact that zebra stripes are black rather than blue) adds a clear touch of identity.
Inside it’s simple, yet so effective, with the ground having two tiers of seats all around. One end has the lower tier as terracing, and is unsurprisingly where the most passionate MSV fans go. The away fans also get terracing, but just a corner at the far end. Large scoreboards hung from the roof at either end add a sense of occasion, while the corner floodlight pylons peek over the roof as if sneaking a view without paying to get it. Unsurprisingly the ground has been a huge hit with the fans, with crowds more or less doubling. With access to the ground easy by U-Bahn from the central station and surrounding area, it struck me as almost perfect. If only I could have said the same about the match.
When you see a lot of games, its inevitable that you’ll strike out sometimes, but it’s always frustrating when it happens. As a neutral you don’t even get the consolation of gaining a point, and the best you can hope for is the 0-0 being one of those that people talk about when they say 0-0s can be exciting. This one wasn’t. It was a lesson in frustration and tedium as both teams went through a full repertoire of ways to bodge up a promising looking attack. From pretty early on the 0-0 scoreline was about as predictable as OK magazine having a feature on Katie Price, and was just about as awful. That little bit of hope that something – anything – might happen to puncture the growing balloon of boredom stifling the arena, but no. The only end was the final whistle. I should have done the Landschaft Park second. At least they have a light show in the evening. That may not be much, but other than the joy of the surrounds and the initial atmosphere from the two sets of fans, entertainment, like employment in the steelworks, was in short supply.