Friday, March 30, 2012

Uli Hesse in Germany

Last Saturday, I saw a cracking game. The visitors, second from bottom, scored from a set-piece in the first minute and then, as the hosts piled on the pressure looking for an equaliser, added two goals from counter attacks for a stunning 3-0 lead at half-time. The home side, in fourth place when the game began, pulled one back early in the second half and proceeded to throw everything forward. They hit the post, then scored to make it 3-2 and in the final 20 minutes it was thrilling end-to-end stuff, though even the best chances went begging. I had a few beers and a bratwurst, I applauded good moves and shook my head at bad ones while squinting against the sun. Then the final whistle blew, we all went home and, all things considered, the world was not a bad place to be. There's no point in telling you who played whom and who scored - suffice it to say that I had a stunning conversation with the groundskeeper, who is an old pal of Otto Rehhagel and owns the very ball with which Bremen's Uwe Reinders scored from a throw-in against Bayern Munich. It was a game in the Schleswig-Holstein-Liga, one of the 11 regional divisions that currently make up the fifth level of German football. Despite the presence of some well-known clubs at this tier - former German champions VfR Mannheim and former cup winners Schwarz-Weiss Essen, for example - this is what we call amateur football.

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