Things have been a bit hectic here at TBIR Towers recently. Real work (gasp!) has sort of intruded on the mirth and mayhem that goes with reporting from around the world. So by the time you read this I am sure you will already be familiar with the fact that SSVg Velbert lost at home to SC Verl in the Regionaliga West last Friday night. After all, the game is hardly off Sky Sports news, and ESPN’s extended highlights are dragging a bit too now.
Well that’s lost half of my usual 10 readers, so for you other 5 who obviously live on Mars (or in Azerbaijan “Yenə Hello – I gün tutmaq əla ümid edirik. Mən dəniz Bass özümü bir az sevgi”) I will aim to describe events from last week in as few words as possible, painting a picture instead of life in the German non leagues. To organise such a complex trip you need to call on the German non league footballing equivalent of the A-Team. Danny Last, Kenny Legg and Michael Stoffl. In true A-Team style, Danny is “Bad Attitude” Baracus due to his loathing of flying and his love of a glass of milk before bedtime, Kenny is “The Face”, a man who can get a waitresses attention in the blink of an eye, and Stoffers is just Stoffers.
Kenny is obviously famed for his award-nominated blog, Adventures in Tin Pot but has recently relocated to Germany. We are bound by the official secrets act as to the exact nature of his job but we understand he came within an inch of being in THAT scene from the Olympic Opening Ceremony when Daniel Craig was umming and aarring about his dislike for corgis. A new habitat hasn’t stopped Kenny’s eye for a non league ground or some club-endorsed slippers, and so he ha cunningly rebranded in true Marathon/Snickers style to “Das Adventures in TinPot” (just click on the link at start of the paragraph, the PR team haven’t quite finished the rebranding work).
“Come on over and let me show you a good time”. That line could have been whispered by the mouth of Hayden Panettiere and still it wouldn’t have seemed so attractive as a weekend of football, beer, football, beer, sausage and more beer in Düsseldorf as suggested by Herr Legg. So Danny and I were booked on a train (well, 3 trains but you know what he is like about not getting on “no damn plane”) for a weekend at Tinpot towers.
Remember a few months ago when we sauntered out to Rome to stay at Chez Lloyd’s for the Eternal Derby? Our hopes were high of a similar class of accommodation in Germany – after all Kenny was bowing in front of the Queen every day so entertaining her subjects on foreign soil would be of the utmost importance.
Our plan, after arriving on the Rhine was simple, yet cunning. Three games, three new grounds, three days (well, actually four for Danny who was staying on to find some Rot-Weiss Essen slippers). A few beers perhaps, maybe a sausage or two and basically some cheap laughs at men who wear denim jackets with lots of badges sewn on.
Day one saw us leave these fair shores on Eurostar from Ebbsfleet International, almost in the back garden of TBIR Towers. A smooth five minute walk in Brussels to our ICE train and before you knew it we were gliding into Düsseldorf Hauptbhanhof. One final change and we were at Kenny’s door. A quick sweep for listening devices and a tour of the west wing of the property and before Stoffers could say “Sechzig” we were in one of Kenny’s locals supping the first of many Alt beers.
But we had little time for general niceties as we were heading west to the metropolis known as Velbert. Velbert is so special that it is one of the few places in Germany that doesn’t have a train station. They like to keep themselves untouched by technology here (it is rumoured that M Night Shayamalan used it as an inspiration for his film The Village). Bus number one took us to the centre of Hottsville. It was like a scene from an updated Valley of the Dolls, with young women everywhere walking around in the tiniest shorts, cropped tops.
“No time for indulgence” Boomed Stoffers as he marched us across the road, picking up our tongues and removing our cameras, “These are not real women. They are merely here to trap you to staying. Once you are in their web there is no escape”. His warnings reminded me of a night out in Worksop and I certainly didn’t want to experience that again so we jumped on bus two, that took us to the stop for bus three. Velbert had to be worth all this mystery.
What can I tell you about the town? I’m sure if I mention that it is twinned with Corby you can fill in the blanks, so let’s instead concentrate on the football. We were heading for the Stadion Sonnenblume, which all you students of German will know means “sunflower”. The ground is located in a sleepy hollow, surrounded by trees. The distinct and noticeable lack of floodlights had Danny in a sulk straight away but the promise of a dog or two, a beer and a large portion of German non league clothing had him smiling again within minutes.
SSVg Velbert 0 SC Verl 3 – Stadion Sonneblume – Friday 17th August 2012
I am sure you want a detailed report on this fourth tier German game, right? Well you can go and read that somewhere else. Yep, there were three goals, one of which was so far offside that Ray Tinkler even saw that (fact: on YouTube this is still the most watched Leeds United video), a bizarre sending off and of course some dogs in football. This was despite a clear warning outside the ground that canines were banned…
First things first, a drink and some food. Hmm…what to choose. I know – a beer and a sausage. Velbert use the world famous “bingo card” system to purchase food and drink. You buy a card and then when you want something one of the ladies shouts out what she has and you cross it off your card. Or something confusing like that. Quite why you couldn’t just pay them in Euro’s is lost on me – Germany efficiency eh!
The music was blaring out from a little hut set in the hillside above the terrace. It looked like a beach bar shack, but was actually the press stand. The crowd milled around in the sunshine as the players went through their moves on the pitch. It certainly was a picturesque setting, made all the more strange by the fact there wasn’t any floodlights. Based on the name of the stadium, translated as the Sunflower Stadium, I expected them to be in the shape of a big sunflower with the bulbs taking the place of the middle part – German creativity eh!
The game started although our attention was mainly focused on the crowd. Not one but two dogs had flaunted the rules and regulations that clearly said Nich Hunde! If everyone was to be so lax where would we be? After all, the notice also said no naked flames, no guns and certainly no nude people on the pitch (“Keine nackten Leute auf dem Platz”) – German security eh!
The visitors were clearly the better side and so it was no surprise when they took the lead from a well worked move. The main talking point came in the second half when one of the Velbert players was sent off for a tirade of abuse aimed at the referee. Instead of simply walking back to the changing rooms around the pitch and down the tunnel, he decided to jump in the stand, walk up to the path that went around the top of the arena then sit on a grass bank watching the rest of the game like a child being made to sit on the naughty step.
So game one complete. A three nil away win seemed to be with form and the bookies odds. For us, the night was young and the bright lights of Düsseldorf beckoned. I’m sure it would be a cultural evening full of fine wine, fine dining and fine conversation.