Stuttgart 1 Duisburg 0

Stuttgart 1 MSV Duisburg 0 (25/08/2007)

I’m not Duisburg’s lucky charm. I’ve seen them play three times and they lost twice, and haven’t scored a goal in either game. This was actually the 2nd of the games I saw them play, and the first game of a football weekend.

Time must have been of the essence, as I flew out Saturday morning, and didn’t even have time to go to my hotel before going to the game, dumping my bags in a stadion locker and catching a tram to the stadium, getting the with about half an hour to spare.

Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena is actually nearly 80 years old, originally opened in 1933 as the “Adolf Hitler Battleground”, although you’d never guess its age from looking at it. From the outside it looks likes a brand new stadium. Some parts of it are new. Originally a single tier bowl, two additional tiers have been added on each side for the 2006 World Cup, as well as a new roof covering the whole ground. This roof is actually not connected to the stadium. Instead it hangs over the seating areas like an umbrella. The fabric of the roof is supported by hundreds of thin ribbed roof supports, angling towards the centre, looking the the outside of a giant spider’s web.

Inside, new seats and new running track, not to mention a lush August pitch, give the place a vibrant glow of prosperity. Despite the track, sat in the smaller of the two new tiers, the stadium was an impressive place. Perhaps behind the goals, on the original terracing, the views weren’t so great. Regardless, the “terrace” to my right was the home the the main Stuttgart support. Hundreds of flags and banners, not to mention a traditional “singers” part of the ground, gave it an experience seldom seen in England these day. It depresses me somewhat that so many English fans think themselves too “cool” to go in for such displays of support, as when you see an end decked out like that, it never fails to lift your spirits.

Sat right at the very end of tier, being able to look directly onto the people below, gives a strange perspective. I’m not sure everyone in that section appreciated being photographed though. Some waved, but one guy looks very grumpy.

More flags and pagentry to welcome the teams to the pitch, and then the anticipation was over, and the game could start…..oh well. It wasn’t a terrible game, but it was rather disappointing to say the least. Duisburg looked dour and defensive. Stuttgart looked like they were a decent side having a bit of an off day. Very little sticks in the memory. Not even the only goal of the game, sadly. All that remains is the memories of a terrific stadium, and a match that didn’t live up to it. If I’m not Duisburg’s lucky charm, then seeing them play two dull games out of the three of theirs I’ve seen, hints that they perhaps aren’t mine either.

The stadium has changed since my visit nearly four years ago. Not only is the place on its 4th name – it was the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion when I was there – but both ends have been knocked down and built square to the pitch, which itself has been lowered so the track can be removed and the side stands extended. With a bit of foresight they could have done that for the World Cup, but all the structural changes added for 2006 are still there. So it actually looks quite different to when I was there. Maybe I’ll have to go back one day. I think I’ll just make sure they aren’t playing Duisburg that day too.

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