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Friday 4th April 2014 ko 19.00

Regionalliga Südwest

SSV ULM 1846 FUẞBALL 2 (Ludmann 71 Trkkulja 81)

SpVgg NECKARELZ 0 Gerstle missed penalty 89

Att 798

Entry €16 (€1 =82p) for Haupttribune (Main Stand)

Programme €1

Badge €2.50

The university of city of Ulm lies on the on the Baden-Württemberg side of the river Danube, its twin city Neu-Ulm lies on the Bavarian side. It’s a genteel place, even if the likes of Daimler, and Siemens have large presences here, and the makers of James Bond’s PPK gun, Walther are based here too. Ulm Minster towers over just about everything, sporting as it does the world’s tallest steeple, a massive 530 feet, and 768 steps to the top. No, I was not tempted to climb it!

Ulm is the birthplace of the greatest scientist of all, Albert Einstein and is where the founders of the White Rose movement, siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl were brought up. The, Die Weiße Rose movement was a non-violent resistance group to the Nazi regime that distributed leaflets calling for the overthrow of Hitler between 1942 and 1943, until the group were arrested, tried and beheaded. A memorial is to be found on the Münsterplatz commemorating the Scholls’ sacrifice.

The Donaustadion is conveniently found on a tram terminus on the eastern edge of town, and only a short distance from the Danube. Its a multipurpose stadium, and yes, there’s a running track but it does try to be suitable for both football and athletics, the Haupttribune is curved reflecting the track, but is configured for the half-way line rather than the start/finish line. There’s a fan shop and it was easy to pick up a team sheet (mannschaftaufstellung) from the hospitality area.

The football club used to be part of a wider sporting organisation, the football section made the 1999-2000 Bundesliga but were relegated twice in two seasons to find themselves in the Regionalliga Süd. The  club’s finances then prevented them getting a licence to play in anything higher than Verbandsliga Württemberg. That was at the fifth tier of the German pyramid now the sixth since the introduction of the 3 Bundesliga in 2008. The club fought its way back through Oberliga Baden-Württemberg  in 2002, and back to the Regionalliga in 2008 but the finances, and a betting scandal caught up with the club in 2011, and were liquidated. The new club was set up outside the rest of the SSV Ulm organisation, hence the Fussball suffix and were relegated back to the for 2011-12 Oberliga Baden-Württemberg winning it at their first attempt to take their place in the newly formed Regionalliga Südwest last season with the DFB expanded the Regionaliga from 3 to 5.

The club’s history can be found in the ground if you look carefully. The ground regulations for Regionalliga require 1,000 seats but the stand on the far side, built for the club’s one season in the top flight remained unopened for the game. There’s also the frame behind the near goal, all that’s left of the big screen, another mandatory item for all 3 divisions of the Bundesliga. The ground is far too big for the club’s 4th division status, but on a warm evening it was good to be able to stretch out a little and discuss in pidgin German Manchester United’s chances against Bayern Munich (none!)

The game was exactly what was expected from a side worried about relegation. There are two automatic relegation spots, and above that 2 relegation playoff spots. With Ulm in the lower of the playoff spots a win was essential against visitors ensconced in a mid-table torpor, with little or nothing other than pride to play for. The fact that they had scored all bit 8 of their 37 points at home pointed to a dour encounter and that is exactly what we got.

The first half was so bad, I’ll leave it at that, but the game opened up slightly when Ulm took the lead, a neat reverse pass found Johannes Ludmann who’d been on the pitch less than a minute, and he raced through to slot past Simon Wagner in the visitors’ goal. The relief amongst the home fans was obvious and 10 minutes later the lead was doubled as an attempt at a similar goal saw Ugur Kiral’s weak shot spoon up off Wagner only for Nikola Trkjula to smash the ball into the roof on the net from 15 yards out.

That really should have been it, but an ineffective Neckarelz cross from the left was needlessly handled in the box, but Marcel Gerstle contrived to lean back and blast the penalty yards over the bar, far beyond anything that Ulm keeper Holger Betz needed to react to. In many respects it summed up the game, but as a follower of a 4th tier team, I’m well used to poor games, it comes with the territory!