Sunday 13th February 2011 ko 13.30
FORTUNA DÜSSELDORF 3 (Beister 45 Langeneke 52 64p)
FC INGOLSTADT 1 (Leitl 49p)
In a sense this piece completes the triptych of my first independent groundhopping trip that started at Cambuur Leeuwarden and took in Spakenburg before hopping over the border to Düsseldorf to finish our weekend. As I said previously I knew nothing of how to groundhop abroad, so as we headed east I wondered how we’d finish our weekend. We crossed from the Netherlands to Germany and immediately spotted a police car checking number plates ( a portent of a future trip to Banik Most?). I marvelled at how close Düsseldorf is to the border and how I was completely unable to get the theme to “Auf Wiedersehen Pet” out of my head.
It should be noted that the first series of the TV show was set in Düsseldorf but mostly filmed in Borehamwood (now the Eastenders set) and in Hamburg which is why nothing of what I saw here was remotely recognisable to me! What was on show was a new ground built on the site of the old Rheinstadion that had only been opened four year’s previously. Yet as squeaky clean as it all was there were no end of things to learn.
Firstly though there was an oddity. Between the car park and the turnstiles there was a massive scaffolding construction being erected. This was the year Germany hosted the Eurovision Song Contest and the May date clashed with several Fortuna home games as time was needed to convert the stadium into an indoor concert venue. The construction was the start of adding a temporary additional 20,000 capacity to the adjacent ground normally used by Fortuna’s reserve and youth sides to allow it to host first team games. I’m sure no end of German hoppers were ready to make a beeline for it.
But back to the main stadium and one thing Eurovision did manage to do was give the place a non-sponsored name- the Düsseldorf Arena. As perhaps you’d expect from a new stadium access was straightforward, and I do remember smiling at how the architects had managed to literally square the circle of an oval stadium and an oblong fascia. The roof fully closed and there’s climate control once the place has become an indoor arena too.
But there was plenty to learn here, other than that German bratwurst hot dogs are a must purchase, and that German beer is chemical free and I wasn’t driving. That beer did involve another lesson too. The plastic 500ml glasses all have €1 deposit on them which is why there was none littering the terraces after the game. Mine had long since been squirrelled away deep in my bag, and was used on the road for much of the next decade because a pint glass in a hotel room is usually handy! I reckon one way or another I got my €1’s worth!
With a capacity of 54,600 including 9,917 standing the stadium was clearly designed for far more than German second division football matches. The speckle pattern on the seats was clearly a design feature to make empty sections look occupied. The American Football team Rhein Fire played NFL Europe games here from 2005-7. Those speckles weren’t needed though when Wladimir Klitschko was fighting. The locally based Ukranian’s best known fight (to British eyes anyway) was when he lost the World Heavyweight championship here to Tyson Fury in 2015..
This didn’t seem quite such a clash of the heavyweights but a good touch was Fortuna playing a short section of the song “Strom” by punk band Die Toten Hosen every time they scored. The band are massive Fortuna fans and have sponsored the club in the past.
We got to hear that song 3 times as Fortuna won, and won well. We departed and were treated to a remarkable slice of Teutonic efficiency. We’d worried about how quickly we’d clear the car park as we’d got a Eurotunnel shuttle booked at Calais at 8. I’m no aficionado of car parks but this was organised in such a way that every line of parked cars filtered into an arterial road, and we were out of the stadium’s environs less than 20 minutes after the final whistle. I compared it with trying to exit Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium when there’s a 9,000 plus crowd- very favourably! We ended up sneaking on to the 7.30pm shuttle!
So what happened next? Fortuna managed a one-season stint in the main Bundesliga in 2012-13 and were promoted back there in 2018. They’ve just been relegated back to the 2 Bundesliga this season just finished. I suspect I’ll always keep an eye out for their results – it was my first German ground after all, but I do need to lay my hands on another plastic pint glass; it was handy. You could even say I was living alright!