FSV Frankfurt 2 Nürnberg 1 (8th Feb 2015)
I’ve seen three games in Frankfurt, but never seen Eintracht Frankfurt play, having only seen internationals at the city’s main stadium. This would be my fourth game in the city, and I still wouldn’t see them play this time, popping along to see Eintracht’s little brother FSV in the east of the city. By odd coincidence, I’d been to Nürnberg’s ground twice, and hadn’t ever seen them play either.
With kick-off at an early 1.30 pm, morning plans were a little rushed. First I went out west to the district of Höchst. In a city flattened and rebuilt by bombing in the war, Höchst is one of the few genuinely old parts of the city left, although with snow starting to fall, and the tourist office shut, it’s clear not many venture that way on cold Sunday mornings.
I’d then planned to go to Bornheim, the district from which FSV hail. With a few old buildings of its own, and a bit of a bohemian reputation, it would have been a good place for a pre-match beer or two. Sadly, a closure of a U-Bahn line that serves the district, and a realisation that pubs in Germany don’t open on Sunday mornings, meant I took the train to FSV Volksbank Stadion a little earlier than expected.
With the sun now out, that normally wouldn’t have been an issue, especially with it just giving the vaguest suggestion of warmth on an otherwise bitterly cold day. The problem was that FSV’s ground is located in bit of a valley, which turned the place into a fusion of football ground and arctic wind-tunnel. The large FSV flags on high flagpoles around the stadium fluttered violently, straining at their moorings as if they’d be bound to break free and fly off down the street before too long. If ever I needed to buy a club scarf, today was indeed the day.
All four sides of FSV’s ground have been recently rebuilt. The change from an old-fashioned open oval to tight modern little ground had matched their recent rise from Germany’s lower reaches to the 2nd tier. Rather unusually, the new terrace down one side extended well beyond the end of the pitch by around 30 yards. It looked like the steps to a grand public building, and offered an unusual vantage point for a pre-match amble.
On the other side of the fence, this terracing became a seated stand, and would be my home for the match. I couldn’t help but notice that this covered, but completely backless stand, offered precisely zero protection from the windchill.
Some shelter was offered behind the home end. Looking slightly like a military bunker from the back, it did at least act as something of a wind break. That the bar and food stalls were here was probably not a coincidence, although it would still have taken quite a ravage of thirst to fancy a cold beer outdoors this lunch time.
Having exhausted all the options of things to do outside the ground, i.e. a walk round to the main stand, a bit of huddling behind walls to keep the wind off, and a walk round the other side and up an embankment for a view of the ground, I opted to brave the conditions inside. Actually it wasn’t too cold in some parts. Down at pitch level, with the wind blocked off and the sun shining, it felt relatively balmy. You also saw how in the rebuild they taken the incredibly simple but seldom used idea of having the tea bars etc at the top of the terrace, on a roof concourse, and the other facilities below, thus avoiding the concourse-cum-mineshaft that blights many small grounds.
Older pictures of the ground show how it’s been completely rebuilt on all four sides. Not so long ago, it seems, the old oval (http://www.stadionwelt.de/sw_stadien/index.php?stadion=frankfurter-volksbank-stadion&folder=sites&site=fotos&id=363&page=15) had more foliage on it than spectators.
The new stands, unlike the old, all hug the touchline. Twenty or so steps of very steep looking terracing are at ether end, sadly uncovered, but no doubt offering a good view. A stand down the side, the stand I was in, was the same height, but was for twelve rows of blue and black seats instead. The bigger main stand, added slightly later, was a whole 17 rows of you count the executive boxes at the back (probably not much call for such things in their regional league days) with the stadium name picked out in a sign above the roof. It could probably do with a little more cover, but it’s a smart little rebuild holding just over 12,500.
Around a third of that total would be the away end, completely filled by travelling Nürnberg fans, making the 150 mile journey up from North Bavaria. There were probably another 1000 or so in the stand I was in too, completely unsegregated, such is the impact of allowing unrestricted online booking. It’s not even as if Nürnberg are doing well this season, being just in the bottom half of the table, but they are still the best supported team in the division, averaging 32500. FSV’s support, in contrast, is the 2nd lowest. Today’s crowd of 9152 would be 2000 above the previous season best, and over 3000 higher than their average.
However welcoming the home club would be to the travelling fans, the colourful spectacle they provided behind the far goal, and their ticket money, it wouldn’t extend to much on the pitch. Nürnberg started the better team, but only looked genuinely dangerous at set pieces, and the home side started to come into the game more and more.
Odise Roshi, an Albanian international, was causing Nürnberg problems down the right with his pace. Sadly, while he had the speed of an American muscle car, he also had the handling of one too, so many a break behind the defence resulted in an attempted cross which would politely be described as disappointing. Luckily he’s a bit more deadly from closer in, pouncing on a cross that evaded defender and attacker in the six yard box, to half-volley the ball in to give FSV the lead.
Ten years ago, at my very first German match, I saw a young Marc-Andre Kruska hit a cracking 25 yarder into the top corner to equalise for Borussia Dortmund in front of over 80000 at the Westfalen Stadion. I predicted that the 17 year old Kruska could have a bright future. The fact that it was him who put the cross in for FSV’s opening goal perhaps shows why I’m not hired by top clubs for my scouting ability, although it was good to see him again.
As the half progressed FSV paid the price for waiting for half time, allowing Nürnberg back into the game. A corner was their undoing, with Nürnberg’s Norwegian defender Even Holvand heading in at the near post, to celebrate in front of the travelling fans.
The second half was lively, even without a glut of clear chances. FSV regained the lead on the hour. A low 25 yard shot seemed out of the blue and caught everyone one, not least the Nürnberg keeper, beaten at his near post, to steer FSV towards a vital three points in their battle to keep clear of the relegation scrap.
Nürnberg stepped up a gear, but it was FSV who probably came closest to scoring again, with a series of corners (12:3 in favour of FSV, for those who like their stats). Neither team did though despite the openness of the game, and the cheers at the final whistle meant that most of the crowd, even of not by a large majority, were able to go home happy.