The Travails of a new Köln supporter

Michael Moruzzi has recently started following the Bundesliga, and as it happens, he fell in love with 1. FC Köln of all teams. In this piece, he chronicles the rollercoster ride he has had so far as a new supporter.

Around April last year I realised that if I wanted to be ‘in the football know’, I needed to acquire some understanding of German football. But I needed a team to follow to make my education a bit more engaging. Several regulars from this site made compelling arguments in favour of their respective clubs. However, after carefully considering their views, I decided to ignore them all and opted for FC Köln. As we are now half way through the season, I thought I’d share my initial findings from my first season as a Köln fan (if you’re hoping for detailed tactical insight, look away now).

Being a mono-linguist, my first task was to overcome the language barrier; for example, ‘football’ is called ‘fußball’ in Germany (thanks to freetranlsation.com for that one). With that obstacle successfully hurdled, and a nice German wheat beer in hand, it was time to watch some fußball. The first thing I have to comment on is the complete lack of defending in the Bundesliga. This is particular true of my adopted FC Köln, who favour what I can only describe as an anarchic approach to defending: there is no tangible structure, and everyone is free. I was brought up to believe the Germans were the masters of organisation and discipline, but when it comes to football, I was pleased to discover that nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s continue with the positives:

Victory at Hamburg

YES! Last minute glory in a seven goal thriller. This was a brilliant football match. Köln fell behind, fought their way in front, fell behind again, but refused to give up and came back again. Thankfully, when Köln scored to go 4-3 up there wasn’t enough time left for Hamburg to mount a response, because I am certain they would have contrived to lose 5-4 given an extra five minutes.

Podolski

Podolski is willing to give out candy to new supporters, what's not to like?

The 2011/12 season has been Podolski’s most productive ever. After a slow start, Mr Inconsistency has been scoring frequently and creating goals for others along the way. Köln’s one player with genuine star quality.

Solbakken

I like this guy, I like his relaxed demeanour. If Köln is a club prone to collective hysteria (and it would appear that it is), then it’s important to have a cool head at the helm. His team play with plenty of width and the style is focused on attacking, passing football. He persevered with his tactics despite a woeful start and slowly, but surely, results improved.

Jajalo and Clemens

Two young talents worth watching in the Köln side are Mato Jajalo (23) and Cristian Clemens (20). I don’t know much about the Croatian midfielder, Jajalo, but he’s played in almost every game this season, looking assured, and chipping in with a few goals. The young Köln native, Clemens, has also made a much needed contribution to the ‘Goals For’ column at his home town club. Both will need to continue in the second half of the season to take some of the burden off Podolski. I’m also intrigued by the recent signing of 18 year old Swedish striker, Mikael Ishak. It’s hard to find out much about him, and we might not see him introduced to the first team this season, but the side need more firepower. At 6ft tall he would certainly provide more presence up front.

Ok, that didn’t take long. And the negatives:

Podolksi

No sooner had the little Prince started to live up to his own hype than he started talking about a transfer. Bastard.

Solbakken

Solbakken - A stylish nordic even balder version of Guardiola.

I’m not sure about his cardigans. I can see what he’s going for – a kind of Nordic Guardiola, but he’s not quite there, yet. And I don’t like the suit and scarf option – it’s an incomplete look, like he’s about to put his jacket on to go outside. If it’s cold enough for a scarf, it’s cold enough for a coat.

Geromel

Apparently, this guy is one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga. Against Nürnberg, however, he conceded two penalties then managed to trick the referee into getting an opposing player sent off. Of course, despite the advantage of playing against 10 men for 60 minutes, Köln still managed to lose. But, more importantly, Geromel really stank the place out. He may be an excellent player, but on that day he behaved like an asshole.

Werder Bremen

Oh good god, this is when watching Köln becomes masochistic. The second half of this match concluded with the most inevitable, but drawn out failure you’ll ever see. Two nil up at half time, an early second half goal for Bremen was followed shortly afterwards by a penalty and a red card for Köln. Then, having just used their final sub, one of Köln’s players was injured, meaning they had to play out the remaining 20 minutes with nine men. They held out gallantly, before Werder got their winner with a couple of minutes to spare.

In summary then, following Köln is a step into the unknown. Like the consumption of a powerful hallucinogen; you might experience ecstatic highs or horrifying despair, before eventually waking up in an unfamiliar location, with no recollection of how you got there, or where your clothes are. In the brief time I have spent following my adopted German team there has been no plateau. I’ve watched about six of seven games, of which they have won one, and lost all of the rest, often taking a royal pummelling along the way.

However, this review reads more negatively than it should. Köln are sitting in mid table, which is not too bad considering their disastrous start to the season. There have been some impressive victories, just not when I’ve been watching. Mid table feels appropriate for a side with such a Jekyll and Hyde complexion. If they can cut out the horror shows (like their hammering at Schalke), they should finish in the top half, which would represent a good return from a transitional season.

Michael Moruzzi’s Regista Blog is excellent, so please take a look at it here. You can follow Michael on Twitter as well.

Feel free to leave a comment.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

2 Comments

  1. Both the post and comment are right on. I lived in Köln for 3 months in 2007 and it was an incredible experience, especially being at RheinEnergieStadion. I wasn’t really a big soccer fan before that, but I have been following the team ever since. I’ve seen them go from 2nd to 1st Bundesliga and that was awesome seeing the celebration videos on YouTube (I left before they got promoted). It’s been a roller coaster following them.

    And yes, Kölsch is the proper beer to drink. It’s still my favorite beer of all time. While I was still in college it was hard to find (only a few Kölsch brands get imported), but luckily I live just a few blocks away from a beer store now with both brands and mini-kegs for sale. You can find Reissdorf and Gilden in bottles and Gaffel on top (mostly on the East Coast).

  2. 1) If you are following Köln drink Kölsch not Weizenbier or Pils or god forbid Alt. Its Kölsch! Well, I think you will have a hard time finding it outside the Rhineland but bringing up Weizenbier in an article about Köln? Bad taste, very, very bad taste. ^^

    2) I don’t think it is possible to find a more volatile club than the FC in Germany. Its worse than Schalke or Hamburg or Hertha. At least Schalke and Hamburg did have some success in the last 15 years or so. Köln manages total rollercoasters just by staying in midtable in the best of times.

    Their last general assembly was a prime example of it. The hall wasn’t big enough so a lot of people had to stand or even wait outside. Chaotic to no end, dozens of speeches lambasting the team, the board and everybody in general and the general manager in particular.

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