Friday 10th October 2014 ko 19.00
1FC SAARBRÜCKEN 1 (Döringer 13)
KICKERS OFFENBACH 1 (von den Burg 82)
Entry (Haupttribune/Main Stand) €22 (€1 =80p)
The alarm went off, it was 5.45am, and I was in a cheap hotel in Folkestone, its purpose only to get a car-load of hoppers to the Channel Tunnel as quickly as possible. I shuffled into the bathroom, and ran the shower only to watch the head extricate itself from the holster and hit my razor. The razor exploded in a spray of water, and I contemplated a hirsute weekend over a bacon roll and an Americano as the train travelled under the English Channel.
This weekend, a 5 game 3 country extravaganza was designed by Lee West and Peter Miles over the last few months designed in part to take advantage of Lokalrunde, the German equivalent of “Non-League Day.” I committed to the weekend, Lee booked the crossing, and we all booked our hotels and I completely forgot that it was the weekend of the Bedfordshire Hop.
I like what organiser Craig Dabbs is doing there, organising a hop below Supply League level isn’t easy, and I like to support him where I can. My dilemna was do I let down Lee or Craig? I opted to let down Craig as he would not be financially disadvantaged by my absence, and if Lee couldn’t replace me, he would. I contacted Craig and being the chap that he is, understood my mistake and my decision.
We blasted across Belgium stopping only for a slice of Wallonian pizza for lunch then passing through Luxembourg before crossing into Germany and our hotel in Saarbrücken. The capital of the Saar region was founded on coal, and that is possibly why the city and its football team have been part of two countries.
The region had been incorporated into France during the revolutionary wars in the early 1800’s, but became independent after the fall of Napoleon, then part of the united Germany in 1870. However after the First World War it was administered by the League of Nations until a 1935 plebiscite restored it to Germany. The Second World War led to a change in its status, and in 1945 Saarland became a French protectorate, with its own government and constitution.
Its high commissioner, Gilbert Grandval, encouraged the integration of Saar sports into French associations as a means of diminishing German influence. Saarland only returned to (West) Germany after another plebiscite in January 1957. Even then the Saarfranc wasn’t replaced by the Deutschmark for another two years!
1.FC Saarbrucken were allowed to reform in 1945 but opted not to join the Saarland Ehrenliga, presumably seeing their ambitions as being loftier, they had, after all had reached the final of the German championship in 1943! They styled themselves as FC Sarrebruck and entered the French 2nd division and won it by 6 points. That was enough for the French to deny them promotion, not wanting a “German” team in their top flight.
The club then opted out of league football for a few years, playing friendlies and sending 10 players for Saarland’s “National” side for the 1954 World Cup preliminary rounds, and being Saarland’s representative in the 1956 European Cup.
The club had returned to German football in 1952 and rather controversially were founder members of the Bundesliga in 1963, but finished bottom, were relegated, and have only found themselves at the top table of German football sporadically since despite having the likes of Tony Yeboah and Andreas Brehme play for them.
Last season they went though 4 managers in finishing bottom of the 3.Bundesliga, but found themselves top of the table at kick-off with Offenbach second. They too have played in at the top-flight, but were relegated from the 3.Bundesliga the season before last. I saw them at Unterhaching two years ago.
But let’s enjoy the ground for what it is, a huge bowl with a capacity of 35,000. Its big, there’s a running track, but it oozes atmosphere even when empty, I know as I was one of the first into the ground! The stadium hosted 53,000 spectators to watch Saarland play West Germany in a World Cup Qualifier in 1953 (Germany won 3-1), and it’s easy to see how they fitted all the people in!
There are moves afoot to square-off and cover the ends, particular if the club can regain their 3.Bundesliga status. That would make the stadium far more practical, but the intangible cost would be massive.
Offenbach will wonder how they managed to fail to win this one. Yes, Saarbrücken took the through a well worked corner but the visitors dominated the game and Steven von der Burg’s late strike, 2 minutes after coming on and with virtually his first touch was the very least the Kickers deserved.
At the end of it all I took a few minutes to explore the huge curved terraces, with the bierkellers and sausage stalls behind. It would be criminal if they were to be destroyed.