Some people say it’s a waste of time to spend too much time on Facebook. I politely disagree. Not only did I find my current job via a local expat group, last weekend I was also offered free tickets to the HSV-Werder Bremen game. And for those who are not locals around here: that is a big deal, a really big deal. The Northern Derby, possibly the most important game of the year.
Neither HSV nor Werder Bremen are rocking the Bundesliga right now. Our local pride HSV almost got relegated last year, and is currently very much at the bottom of the league table, with only one team separating them from the last spot. Werder Bremen is not doing much better, with the current 14th position. They seem to have entered a good period though: last weekend they were in 16th and 18th position (out of 18 teams, mind you) respectively. But regardless of their positions in the league table: this is always a major game.
I take the bus to the stadium, which is located in Bahrenfeld – my former neighbourhood. The closer we get to the Volksparkarena, the more crowded the bus gets. Everyone wears blue, HSV’s colour, except for me. I don’t really have anything blue here. A good hour before kick off the area around Stellingen looks like a blue sea: supporters of all ages are having a good time. It doesn’t take long to get in, and my companion and I head for the food counters, where they sell Germany’s favourites: bretzels and bratwurst. “The beer today is alcohol free”, warns the cashier. The club does not want to take any risk on this derby day.
“I only go to HSV when I can get VIP tickets”, my former flatmate warned me many months ago, “only the free food and drinks make it worth going”. Keeping this is mind, my expectations are low. Most Hamburgers actually prefer St Pauli over HSV, and considering the fact that St Pauli is far away from Bundesliga football, that should say plenty. For really good football atmosphere in Hamburg, one does simply not go to HSV. But then again, this is a derby game. If we don’t get good atmosphere today, we’ll probably never going to get it.
The match starts by chanting “Hamburg, meine Perle”, which is a pretty horrible song about how beautiful Hamburg is (which Hamburgers somehow believe, I tend to think they haven’t travelled enough). Afterwards the entertainment mainly takes place on the pitch. Surprisingly enough. Although the hardcore supporters of HSV and the away supporters are teasing each other with songs and chanting back and forth, around me I see little excitement – apart from the young man in the row behind me, who is shouting his lungs out.
HSV is not half as bad as their position on the table leads you to believe. They managed to create a good few chances, scored two goals – Werder would certainly have been more satisfied with the draw than HSV was! But at the end of the match, I find myself still a tiny bit disappointed. We have seen plenty of goals, football that was actually pretty decent, and still something seems to have been lacking.
I can’t entirely put my finger on it, but somehow I expected more craziness in a derby. It was in no way comparable to the Dundee United-Glasgow Rangers game I went to a couple of years ago, or the Istanbul derby between Fenerbahçe and Besiktas I once attended. People were not shouting and dancing all game long, they were not cheering their team towards victory, they were just sitting on their chairs as if nothing was at stake anymore – least of all being the pride of the north for a short while, or three important points in the battle against relegation. With the exception of the stand with the hardcore fans, HSV fans are pretty quiet today. Bringing earplugs definitely not a necessity. Is this then what the lack of beer does to live football?