Day 71 of 98 – Jebus! It’s already Day 72?

27 Nov

Last night I set my alarm for the first time since I left Finland. It’s an early morning – have to catch the 08:50 Ice Train to Bremen (going to watch some soccer “action”).

I always have trouble sleeping if I have to get up early for any events that are very difficult or expensive to reschedule (weddings, air travel, shuttle launches, etc). The night before an overseas flight I have this ritual where I go out with some friends until about midnight, and start packing shortly thereafter. It’s the only way I’ve been able to to ensure I can sleep through an entire flight.

I’ve only been to one Bundesliga (German first division) soccer game and that was in Dortmund in 2003 against Bochum. Because they are neighbouring cities there is this local rivalry that made the game much more interesting than it actually was. All of the Bochum fans were packed into the stands at the end of the stadium – from the rafters to the playing field. They had with them: a marching band (complete with French horns), megaphones, firecrackers, flags, and some sort of toilet paper trebuchet (for launching, not made of). About a dozen cops not in riot gear were mingling at the base of the stands between the field and the Bochum fans. Toilet paper was launched, firecrackers were lit, the marching band played, Bochum lost. There was no riot.

Now compare this to ice hockey in Canada. At a typical regular season Ottawa Senatsnores game it’s the electronic scoreboard that has to tell the fans when to cheer. I’m not joking. There’s a police presence but it’s usually two or four officers (I’ve never seen more). I’m not exactly sure why they’re needed.

And this is perplexing because hockey is so much more interesting to watch than soccer. If there was a space alien (whom we will call Glaxznor) who has never seen either sport and you took Glaxznor to a professional soccer game and a professional hockey game his logic centres would go into meltdown from what he would observe.

The action-packed hockey game would have spectators that would appear so subdued compared to their soccer counterparts who look like they’re about to go to war over a game that is, well, kinda dull.

And by dull I mean compared to hockey, which is faster (both the players and the puck), has less stoppage, is more dangerous, has less cheating, has players with knives on their feet and clubs in their hands, and if your team is down by one goal with a minute remaining there is a greater than a one-in-a-thousand chance that they can come back and win the game.

I’m ready to concede it’s entirely possible, that after watching a few dozen matches, Glaxznor will fall in love with soccer. But, with only a single viewing I betcha hockey wins out.

Aside: I can list as many areas where soccer is better than hockey but I will save that for another post.

My most vivid memory of that day eight years ago is from after the game. On the way back to Dusseldorf from Dortmund the train was full (but not packed) with soccer fans. There was a cross section of people from all walks of life but many of them were younger, working-class men – the generic kind of enthusiastic fan one finds at any major sporting event. Some were sleeping, other talking loudly, most had had a few beers, but everyone was reasonably well behaved. One guy had been in a fight (I think he lost) and his girlfriend was doing her best to alleviate his pain. I didn’t feel unsafe at all.

Now on this train with all these soccer fans was a young immigrant couple and they had with them a young infant in a stroller. They were standing in the stroller zone (an actual place) near the door as the train pulled up to a station in some city I’ve forgotten the name of. The doors opened to reveal the platform which was overflowing with some of the roughest looking people I’ve ever seen. They were adorned in the paraphernalia of some unknown sports team and they were all very loud, drunk and excited from whatever it was they had just finished doing. Compared to these guys, the soccer fans looked like they were on their way home from church.

I later found out that they were supporters of a team called the Rhein Fire (Rhein: a region in Germany, Fire: fire). Apparently Germany had (or has?) an American football league that played during the North American offseason.

Anyway, even though we were packed in there like peanut butter, some of the Rhein Fire fans set up a safety circle around the young couple and their child to make sure they had enough space. At the time I did not know what to expect, cramming so many drunk people into a train late at night, but it all seemed to work out ok.

No comment.

One Response to “Day 71 of 98 – Jebus! It’s already Day 72?”


  1. Day 79 of 98 – The Soccer Part 2b: There’s plenty of exits for everyone « Die Hard Three - December 8, 2011

    […] The majority of regular season games are, well, regular (i.e. nothing special). So why all the craziness? And why are there real security concerns at regular season soccer games? The answer is a bit […]

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