TWO TEAMS IN HAMBURG, TWO HSV’s IN THE BUNDESLIGA.
Why Watch Football in Hamburg?
I have to confess I am mystified why it has taken me so long to pencil in a football weekend in Hamburg. If you want to dive head first into two distinct cultural differences of German football, it does not come more fascinating than Hamburg SV and FC St Pauli. My preconceptions of Hamburg SV were of a traditional club, whose loyal working class supporters regularly troop out to the modern out of city centre sports stadium, Imtech Arena. The club has never been relegated from the Bundesliga and there love for former player Kevin Keegan is only matched back in Newcastle.
FC St Pauli were the rock and roll club of German football. Their Millerntor stadium is a cramped small stadium, just an Astra beer bottle’s from Hamburg’s infamous Reeperbahn and are followed by some of the most politically motivated, but passionate supporters in Europe.
Being German football, I was naturally looking forward to enjoying top class European football for between 12-35 euros, stand on a terrace whilst drinking a beer, eating a bratwurst and whinging about why I am not allowed to do this back home in England.
Away from the football, Germany’s second biggest city has alot to offer the weekend visitor. For the discerning beer drinker, stag party goer, beatles nut or pervert, there is the Reeperbahn. Here many of the cafes, bars, sex clubs, pubs , peep shows, nightclubs and restaurants never seem to close, but if you are still standing at 7am, you may want to round off that night out with a dawn drink at the Fish Market. On arrival at the fischmarkt in nearby Altona, just follow the noise of live band. After 3 days and nights in the Reeperbahn, I can understand why John Lennon was famously quoted as saying he ‘was born in Liverpool, but grew up in Hamburg’.
A perfect cure for the Reeperbahn hangover is a visit to the Hamburger Dom (or funfair), near Helligengeistfeld. Held in late March, late July and late November and lasting for 4 weeks at a time, one of europe’s largest and oldest funfairs offers acres of fun in roller coasters, dodgems, and gluwhien/bratwurst stalls. The ferris wheel here is perfect for aerial views of St Pauli’s Millerntor stadium.
When to Go:
Bundesliga season goes from mid- August to early June, with a break over late December to mid January. Fixtures are normally confirmed in July, giving you plenty of time to book those budget flights. As with other major European football leagues today, Bundesliga fixtures are determined by television schedules and spread over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fixtures dates are normally confirmed up about 5 weeks before kick-off.
Thankfully there is enough to do in Hamburg to warrant a Fri-Mon long weekend break and you should be able to do a couple of matches, with St Pauli and Hamburg SV playing at home over alternate weekends. So after deciding whether you prefer football at the Millerntor stadium or Imtech Arena, why not add a Werder Bremen or Hannover 96 home fixture to the itinery?. Both are only about an hour on the train from Hamburg and if you plan it right, you could even watch the other Hamburg team play away. Our “Bundesliga weekend” on 20/21st November was Hannover 96 v Hamburg SV on the Saturday and St Pauli v Steve Mclaren’s Wolfsburg (as they appear to have been renamed back in England) on the Sunday.
Club Basics: Hannoverscher Sportverein von 1896 e.V.
Address: Arthur-Menge-Ufer 5, 30169 Hannover.
Supporters Website: http://forum.hannover96.de
Getting a ticket:
At the time of writing, Hannover96 are riding high and are currently third in the Bundesliga. Unless its against Bayern Munich, Schalke or Werder Bremen you should still have no problem getting tickets for a Hannover 96 match. Simply email the ticket office about 6 weeks before the match and the club will arrange for tickets to be collected from Hannover 96 fanshop at the AWD Arena, on day of match. Bring some ID.
The best place to watch a match and the choreography of both home and away supporters at the AWD Arena is on the Westtribune (western) or Osttribune (eastern). We purchased €35 tickets in West Tribune, lower tier (block W2), and had unrestricted views can be seen on photo below:
Please note that to reach lower tier of the West Tribune, the entrance is actually back at the Nord tribune. We naturally entered the AWD Arena outside the West Tribune and found ourselves in the upper tier with no obvious way to our seat below. This is the first ever time I have been ‘lost’ inside a stadium itself. Upon finding the correct entrance, you finally enter the AWD Arena itself, right under the section containing the Hannover ultras on the Nordtribune.
Getting to Hannover from Hamburg:
Intercity (IC) trains only take an hour to Hannover, and will cost about €40. For a mere €12, I would highly recommend a Regional (RE) train via Ulezen, to be in Hannover about 2 hours before kick-off. We arrived at Hamburg’s central station, Hauptbahnhof (hbf) to be greeted by sight of hundreds of HSV supporters carrying crates of Astra beer. In our “non-alcoholic”carriage, other HSV supporters were busily decanting everything from schnapps to jagermeister into soft drink bottles for the 2 hour journey. This accounted for the carnival atmosphere on ‘HSV party express’ when it finally pulled into Hannover hbf.
After the match I would advise grabbing a bite in Hannover before catching train back to Hamburg. We did not do this and instead decided to catch the earliest train back, spending an hour on a packed train, after a good day’s drinking. Never was so many bladders emptied off platform 2 at Ulezen train station, by so many relieved looking HSV supporters ,that evening.
Getting to AWD Arena:
On arrival at Hannover hbf, you can catch underground. Lines 3 and 7 (to Wettbergen) or line 9 (to Empelde). Get off at Waterloo and on leaving the station, just follow signs to Stadion/Waterloostrasse. We opted for joining the crowds in a leisurely stroll through Hannover, to the AWD Arena. The journey will take about 25 minutes, longer when stopping off to sample the local brew “Hannoversch”.
Pre-match pint and programme:
Brahaus Ernst August, Schmiedstrasse. 13, 30159 Hannover.
HBX-Stadtbrauerei am Aegi, Osterstrasse. 64, 30159 Hannover.
Nordkurve, Arthur-Menge-Ufer 8, 30169 Hannover.
The Nordkurve is located at the AWD Arena and appeared to be a popular meeting point for both Hannover 96 and Hamburg supporters. Weather permitting, grab a table and benches outside and enjoy a few beers, a bratwust and some Bundesliga2 matches on a big TV screen.
The Hannover 96 fanhaus is apparently located close to the old “Eilenriede Stadion”. From Hannover Hbf, you can get there on the bus (128 or 134) or on the underground on line 11 from Kropcke (towards the Zoo).
Souvenirs can be brought directly at the Hannover 96 Fanshop at the stadium. Match programmes are on sale at kiosks around the stadium. British Clubs, please note Hannover 96 can knock out 68 page glossy magazines for a mere €1.50 each.
HSV and HSV:
Throughout the day, I was surprised about the lack of police presence, either when getting to and from Hannover with the Hamburg supporters and at the AWD Arena itself. During the match our section was a peaceful mix of Hannover and Hamburg supporters, exchanging banter and songs. At one point both sets of supporters were chanting “HSV” from their respective ends of the stadium and the stadium tannoy played Hamburg’s club song..
Talking to supporters on the train back to Hamburg, they confirmed both clubs supporters have a friendship that began in the late 1990s and both clubs are known as HSV. Both Hannover and Hamburg share a rivalry against Werder Bremen and probably explains the amount of “F#ck Bremen” scarves in evidence. There are a few more friendships within Germany, including Bayern Munich and Bochum and Schalke and Nuremberg.
Club Basics: Hamburger Sport-Verein von 1887
Address: Imtech Arena, Sylvesteralle 7 , 22525 Hamburg
Supporters Website: www.hsv-uk.co.uk
Getting to Imtech Arena:
Take the S3 or S21 S-Bahn line from Hamburg hbf to Stellingen. Keep an eye out for HSV fanhaus which is 3 stops before on the same line (Holstenstrabe) and well worth a visit on the way back. Exit the Stellingen station and follow signs and HSV graffiti for 20 minutes through the Volkspark to the Imtech Arena.
This excellent museum is open daily from 10am and entry for adults is €6. For an extra €2 you can get an English language audio commentary on everything you wanted to know about the only founding member of the Bundesliga to have never been relegated.
Despite its illustrious history, if you are to ask an English football supporter of a certain age what they know about HSV, he/she will inevitably answer that is the team that Kevin Keegan played for. HSV stunned English football and me (My dad remembers showing an 8 year old me where ‘Hamburg SV’ was on the map!), when they persuaded Kevin Keegan to leave Liverpool in 1977.
After an indifferent first season in the Bundesliga, Keegan inspired HSV to their first Bundesliga title in 1979. Celebrations at the championship winning match versus Bayern Munich, were overshadowed when serious overcrowding in home end, led to crushing which seriously injured 79 supporters.
Although HSV finished Bundesliga runners-up in 1980 and lost European Cup final to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, Keegan again had another excellent season.
‘Machtge Maus’ ( ‘Mighty Mouse’ as HSV supporters affectionately called him) became the most universally admired Bundesliga player of that era and his admirers spread outside Germany, being voted European Footballer of the Year in 1978 and 1979. Yes, English players used to be proficiently technical enough back then, to win such accolades. Sorry, I’ll get off me soap box now….
The museum’s section on Keegan includes his original locker, signed Hamburg and England shirts, a Union Jack flag from the Keegan fan club and a copy of his pop single, “Head Over Heels in Love”. Although Keegan’s pop single barely reached the top 30 back in England, the record stayed in the German charts for nearly 33 weeks. I can only imagine there are fair few 30 year old hamburgers today, with the distinctly Anglo Saxon middle name of “Kevin”.
Getting a ticket for:
HSV biggest matches of the season are against Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and St Pauli. Matches against teams with a good away following also include FC Koln , Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach. Tickets go on sale about 6 weeks before the match and see club website for details. Also check out the HSV UK supporters website ( www.hsv-uk.co.uk ) where they have a very handy guide to ordering tickets
Pre-match pint and scarf:
If you are looking to meet up with HSV fans in Hamburg, then visit the FanHaus ( Stressemanstrasse 162, 22769 Hamburg) right beside by Holstenstrasse S-Bahn station. Exiting the station, turn left and it is the first building you see. From the front it looks like an old schoolhouse and that is because it is. From the back you see walls painted in club colours, that could even be seen from the train above. Inside, fan projects meet regularly to look after the interest of HSV supporters at home and away matches and there is also a bar to down an Astra beer or two.
I did not see too many HSV bars in the Reeperbahn and I understand most to be located on the southern part, towards the port. One bar repeatedly recommended by HSV supporters was the Sportspub Tankestelle ( Gerhardstrabe 7, St Pauli).
For unofficial HSV souvenirs, check out the 1887 Streetwear shop (Kleine Reichenstrbe 15 , 20457 Hamburg). They were formerly located in the upper floor of the HSV fanhaus.
Official souvenirs can be purchased at the Imtech Arena and at Hamburg airport. Amongst the usual club endorsed products is a nifty toasted sandwich maker that not only toasts your sarnie, but also leaves the HSV club logo on it!. Class.
Club Basics: FC St Paul.
Address: Auf dem Heiligengeistfeld, 20359 Hamburg
Supporters website: www.stpauli-fanladen.de
Getting a ticket:
Bearing in mind it is FC St Pauli’s centenary year; the club is back in the Bundesliga for the first time in nine years, the Millerntor stadium has a limited capacity of some 23000 capacity and they have a worldwide fanbase numbering millions, match tickets are understandably difficult to source. Any tickets left go on general sale about 3 weeks before match and you can apply online through the club website. If you are prepared to pay over the odds, you can go through reputable ticketing agencies.
Because I wanted to experience the joys of watching top flight football whilst standing, I opted for tickets for one of the many terrace sections that can be found at the Millentor stadium. I contacted St Pauli’s supporters club, the Fanladen and was very, very, very fortunate to secure a spare ticket on the sudtribune. It cost me just €13 euros and had to be collected at the Fanladen on Friday between 3-8pm or until 2 hours before kickoff. Please chuck some euros into the funds tin on the fanladen desk.
Pre-match pint and souvenirs:
The Millerntor is a classic, small town-centre type stadium right next to hamburg’s busiest bar district, the Reeperbahn. There were plenty of bars that will were packed the previous night before ,let alone before kick-off. In no particular order of preference, our favourates were:
Gretel & Alfons. Gross Freiheit 29 , 22757 Hamburg.
Fanladen St Pauli: Brigittenstrasse 3, 20359 Hamburg.
Jolly Roger : Budapesterstrasse 44, 20359 Hamburg.
Rosi’s Bar: Hamburger Berg 7, 20359 Hamburg .
St Pauli Eck: Simon-von-Utrecht-Str. 87, 20359 Hamburg,
Tippel II Detlev-Bremer-Str. 46, 20359 Hamburg,
Zum Silbersack , Silbersackstr. 9, 20359 Hamburg,
Inside the Millerntor itself, the drinking continued. I experienced the ultimate joy of standing on a terrace, watching football with a beer or gluwhien in one hand, a bratwurst in the other. Don’t forget to return your beer mug for a refund, although I kept mine as a souvenir of a memorable evening:
You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to St Pauli souvenirs. Fanladen is good source for unofficial tshirts, if there are any left in stock. To be honest, the official stuff is so good you just have to visit the club store located outside the sudtribune on non match day. Saves you the hassle of carrying bags of St Pauli goodies into the match later.
Even if the skull and crossbones theme is not your cup of tea, you cannot help but be tempted by fashionable brown tshirt complete with club logo and phrase “RETTER”. This shirt was sold to raise funds for the club when it went into administration, a few years ago. I also picked up a baby romper suit for me cousin’s new daughter, choosing the club emblem over a skull and crossbones motif that might not have gone down too well at the christening. A St Pauli scarve is obligatory if you want to stand on the sudtribune and join in with the locals, singing “You Will Never Walk Alone” at the final whistle.
Opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 10am-7pm. Please note on Sunday or match days, store is only open 3 hours before kick-off. Contact store at firstname.lastname@example.org . There is also an outlet at Hamburg Airport.
Getting to Millerntor stadium:
It was not too difficult for us to locate the Millerntor stadium, as we could see the ferris wheel of the Hamburger Dom (that overlooks it) from our hotel window on the Reeperbahn. If you are coming in from another part of Hamburg, simply head to train station, St Pauli on U3 line . On exiting station, you cannot miss Millerntor’s floodlights or the imposing concrete structure overlooking the stadium that was a second world war flak tower fortification. On matchdays, flag waving St Pauli supporters have been spotted on its roof , watching the match below. Both the club store and ticket collection (Kasse) windows are located on the sudtribune.
Wallking onto the sudtribune of the Millerntor stadium, was like stepping back in time to Blundell Park or Elland Road in the 1980/90s. But watching Grimsby Town or Leeds United was never like this.
The sight of thousands of St Pauli supporters standing on a terraces around three quarters of the stadium, to watch a football match. On the perimeter fences in the sudtribune, the conductors with megahones lead the choreography.
The sound of St Pauli team entering the field to AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” and celebrating a goal to Blurs “Song 2”. Between, the St Pauli supporters provide their own atmosphere by of jumping up and down and chanting enough terrace songs to match the Beatles back catalogue.
The smells of bratwurst, beer and smoking. And all for just €13 euros. I have read that St Pauli plan to increase stadium capacity from current 23,000 to 28,000 but this being St Pauli, the terrace sections will be expanded , rather than replaced. This can only be good news for the St Pauli regulars and football tourists alike.
Thanks to folks at Hannover 96 forum; HSV UK supporters website; Fanladen St Pauli; Danny Last at EFW: Mike Davies for the Hamburger Dom photo ;Michael Stoffl for translations and finally Glenn who only decided to get married, just so he could plan a stag weekend enjoying Bundesliga football in Hannover and Hamburg (Only joking Janet!).
Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor – December 2010