Thursday, February 19, 2015
The impending marriage of a good friend took me to Berlin last weekend, a trip that included my first live Bundesliga match.
As stadiums go, the Olympiastadion is amongst the best I've ever visited. An imposing concrete facade hides a football cauldron that keeps the atmosphere inside the ground. Even the Olympic-standard running track doesn't hinder the view. The stadium is everything that Hampden should have been, instead of the not-fit-for-purpose mess that is our national stadium.
A stroll around the ground took us past the track where Jesse Owens gave Hitler the finger at the 1936 Olympics, and there's a strong feeling that history has been well preserved in and around the ground.
If the ground could teach Scottish football a thing or two, the quality of the play on the park suggested the opposite could be true. There was one Champions League winner on the park, in the shape of Salomon Kalou, but the quality of football was atrocious.
Despite the noisy backing of a huge crowd of Ultras at the opposite end from us, Hertha Berlin had no shape, struggled to keep the ball and looked well off the pace. A better team than Freiburg would have destroyed them (Bayern Munich had recorded an 8-0 win over Hamburg the previous day).
But luckily for the home side, the visitors were nearly as bad, which led to the sides playing out what looked like a Raith Rovers vs Falkirk match in a stadium fit for a World Cup final.
Jens Hegeler, apparently a former Germany U21 international, is one of the worst players I've ever seen play topflight football - with every touch he either found the opposition keeper or hoofed the ball out of play.
Both Freiburg goals came from scrappy Berlin mistakes, and the home crowd was justifiably pissed off at the final whistle.
Still, at least they had massive bratwursts and litre-sized cups of beer to dull the pain.