Saturday 21st February 2015 – TSV 1860 München 2 – 1 FC St. Pauli
Bundesliga 2 @ Allianz Arena, München
It is not uncommon for the exiled fan to fill gaps in the calendar with random trips away. The Munich weekend however was to mark my first foray into European club football – whilst the chants unfamiliar, the beer was good, the fans passionate, and…..not only did it involve terraces, but you were actually allowed to drink the aforementioned beer on the terraces!!!
It’s an old rant, but English clubs, The FA, and our local plod could learn a lot from our Germanic cousins. More on that later…
My first match was 1860 Munich vs St. Pauli. Why travel all the way to Bavaria for a Championship match? And one at the bottom end of the table at that? Doubtless not many travel from foreign shores for Rotherham vs Millwall – but it was the away team that was the allure.
St. Pauli have something of a cult following across Europe; whilst historically second fiddle to their larger city neighbours, Hamburg, they are known for their liberal, left wing attitudes. The players come second at St. Pauli – the fans take centre stage. By way of example, the guys I travelled with supported clubs ranging from Huddersfield to Hammerby, but go for the sense of community and acceptance that the club offers.
But to the hosts first. 1860 Munich. 1860 play their home games at the architecturally impressive Allianz Arena these days, the home also of European aristocracy, Bayern Munich. But whilst it looks good on paper, they want out. The stadium was initially a joint venture between the two clubs (who vacated the Olympic Stadium across town to move in) however 1860 get far smaller gates than Bayern (and also don’t benefit from ongoing Champions League riches) so sold their half to Bayern to combat financial difficulties, and are now just tenants. I have read that the club are looking for a new home now, more within their means.
It was a 1pm KO, so an early start. The Allianz is not in central Munich (not uncommon for a new ground) – it is situated amongst industry in the North East of the city, about a 30 minute tram ride away. And when I say amongst industry, I’m not talking about a retail park – I mean cooling towers, refineries, rail yards and also busy motorways!! Architecturally impressive, and very unique, but in a very unattractive part of town!
Its location also means one huge downside – no pubs! Not a problem at first. We met up with some guys from the Bavarian St Pauli supporters club, who kindly supported some Astra for the journey. Brewed in Hamburg, a big favourite amongst their fans!
This inevitably plays into the hands of the stadium. To buy beer (or food and drink of any sort at the Allianz) you have to put money onto a non-refundable prepaid card (minimum €10). I have seen this before in Holland, but still very disappointing. Guess the money not spent that remains on these cards helps pay Robben’s wages…..
I read prior to the match that the stadium used to be lit up to reflect who was playing that day (so red for Bayern, blue for 1860) but it was not to be that day. Again, rumour I think but I believe this is because it was causing accidents on the nearby Autobahn. Could also have been because it was daylight. Who knows.
Once through the turnstiles (and VERY tight security cordon – no flares that day!) there is an immediate ring around the ground where you can buy beer (and your card) and a couple of club shops. Then onto the concourse, which whilst spacious, I thought was a little sparse. Perhaps this was because I was in the away end. I once made a trip to Twickenham for England vs Fiji rugby union a few years back. Egg chasers beforehand remarked that it is the greatest stadium in the world, however I felt it lacked character and was just a concrete mess. The inside of the Allianz reminded me very much of Twickenham.
Away from the concourse however, the Allianz does impress (much like its facade). The pitch is sunk beneath ground level, and whilst on paper it is a three-tier 66,000 behemoth, inside it is actually quite compact.
The top-tier was closed (as I believe it is for all 1860 games), so I was worried that we would be rattling around a bit inside, but not to be. both sides were very vocal. In particular the 1860 fans directly opposite the away end. St Pauli took c. 4,000 fans that day, all of whom were in good voice (I got the impression a fair few had been drinking since the night before – this probably helped).
The away end itself, as alluded at the top of this entry, was completely terraced, as were other sections of the ground. There was a distinct lack of stewards, and beer was also allowed to be taken within the view of the pitch! It was all very laid back and relaxed – it was nice to have to down your dregs 5 minutes before KO. And it worked. I am an advocate of safe standing at football, and I think the authorities over here could do worse than replicate the German model. The vast majority of the stadium was seated, but designated areas set aside for standing for home and away fans is surely a good thing – better atmosphere, no more arguments with stewards, fellow fans, and some basic freedom for football fans!
So to the game. A real relegation six pointer, with both clubs at risk of dropping down to the German third tier. A real scrap of a match which ended 2-1 in 1860’s favour. An unfortunate own goal from St Pauli opened the scoring and a second was added shortly after the half time interval. St Pauli made a real scrap of it after that and pulled one back – but too little too late. The mood amongst the travelling fans, including my own contingent, was that relegation now seemed a cert. Unfortunate if that is the case, but as somebody pointed out, that could mean a Dynamo Dresden ground tick….
Two thoughts from the match. The atmosphere was top-notch and much better than a of English grounds I have been to. As stated, I think this is probably linked to the standing aspect of the ground. One noticeable absence at this match though was the tide of people rushing for the exits with 5 minutes to go. Fans stayed in the ground long after the final whistle. St Pauli players spent a good ten minutes applauding their own. And the 1860 players had a routine whereby they knelt in front of their fans who chanted constantly! Not sure what was going on, looked good though!
And finally, I don’t normally comment on taking a piss at half time, but enlightening at the Allianz if only for the sticker culture prevalent in German football (more so in the toilets). I had noticed this on trams and at stations around Munich prior to the game, but a nice effect (though some will no doubt claim it is vandalism…).
And so into the late Munich afternoon, the temperature having now dropped considerably. The Allianz provided a good induction to German football, but was let down badly by its location and the prepaid card feature. The atmosphere generated by the fans that day though was great, I imagine when full and on big Champions League nights the place can really rock. Not a bad day out for the €15 ticket price….
Plenty of good beer halls in downtown Munich, worthy of a blog entry of their own. Perfect warm up for Part 2….
Other photos from Allianz Arena