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Saturday 11th October 2014 ko 14.00

Regionaliga West

FC HENNEF 05 0

SV RÖDINGHAUSEN 0

Att 418

Entry (Haupttribune) €12

Programme FREE

From Saarbrücken we headed north leaving Saarland and passing into Nord Rhine Westphalia. The two-and-a-half hour drive took us past the Nürburgring, scene of Niki Lauda’s infamous accident. I glanced over to driver Lee, then the speedometer showing below the speed-limit so no race influence here!

We were entering Köln’s environs, but I’m not sure how often I’ll ever pass two cities that are twinned with places I’ve lived! We passed Bonn, twinned with Oxford, and shortly after arrived in Hennef, twinned with Banbury! I don’t want to think how many times I’ve driven along Hennef Way!

Hennef is most famous for its castle the Schloss Allner. During its history it has served as a residence, a municipal seat and an orphanage. During World War II it was the scene of an unsuccessful attempt by the Wehrmacht to halt the advancing Allied forces from crossing the Sieg and entering the Ruhr Valley.

FC Hennef were formed in 2005, a merger between TuRa Hennef and FC Geistingen. The merger has clearly worked for the club, they won the Mittel-Rhine Liga three times from 2011 to 2014 inclusive, and decided that the time was right to make the step-up to Regionaliga (level 4) football.

That meant that Stadion im Sportzentrum Hennef would need an upgrade so €400,000 was invested in a roof and seats for the near side, larger dressing rooms, and an away section opposite the new stand. That wasn’t needed for a low-risk game against opposition who have quite a story to tell, having themselves been promoted 5 times in 5 years!

But my memory of Hennef won’t be any of that, it’ll be of a friendly club who were determined to enjoy “Our big adventure,” as one official put it. They seemed as interested in their 4 English visitors as we were in them, and we were invited pitch-side to have our photo taken in front of the stand. That’s a good reason to avoid the Hennef website for a week or two! They enjoyed our company, as we did there’s.

The problem is that the Regionaliga is rapidly looking like a step too far for them, despite all that charm. Coming into this fixture, the club were bottom of the league with just a solitary point from 10 games. And apart from a frantic opening 10 minutes where at its end the score really should have been 2-1, Hennef never looked like recording their first win.

I compared what I was watching with the previous night’s fayre at Saarbrucken. Yes the stadium was much smaller and the crowd too, a drop of 7,011 to 418 is lot across a parallel level, but this game was of much lower standard too, full-timers against part-timers. Perhaps that’s the beauty of German football in the Regionaliga, you can see fallen giants and the newly successful all in the same division.

The game settled into a pattern of safe, dull passing with risk avoided. It looked an inevitable 0-0 draw well before half time, and with 85 minutes gone I performed the hoppers’ cliché and met the others at the corner nearest the exit for a sharp getaway.

Hennef’s Regionaliga adventure looks sadly doomed to a return to the Oberliga, but we had our own adventure to explore, and it involved, once again, crossing a border.