In the midst of the international break for domestic fixtures, one might imagine that there’s absolutely nothing football-wise happening on the domestic front in Germany right now. It’s a fair but incorrect assumption, as Germany’s national third tier and Regional leagues below it have continued to play host to a number of games – and it makes sense, given that most teams have very few international absentees at this level and the lack of action for the bigger clubs sometimes means fans might pop along to the game of a different team to see them play too.
Saturday coincidentally played host to Germany’s equivalent of non-league day (which readers from England may recognise), in Germany called the “Lokalrunde”, encouraging fans of the game to go and watch their local amateur team play. Not able to find a game listed nearby on the website, though, I had to “make do” with one of the highest quality club games of the weekend between two professional clubs in the 3. Liga.
SV Wehen Wiesbaden against SC Fortuna Köln in Germany’s third tier – that doesn’t exactly scream glamour tie, does it? However, wanting to see some live football for the first time in Germany, I and around 2500 others (presumably not all going to watch Wiesbaden play for the first time too) descended upon Wiesbaden’s BRITA-Arena to see the game played on a drizzly early September afternoon and, really, didn’t leave disappointed. For those who don’t know Wiesbaden, the city, it is the capital of the state of Hesse and is sat directly on the other side of the River Rhine from Mainz, a city with a Bundesliga club.
Wiesbaden itself is a leafy, relatively beautiful city and the walk to the stadium from the Hauptbahnhof is simple, a case of walking out of the Eastern exit and continuing for just under a kilometre until you see the entrance to the ground. Tickets are – as you’d expect – cheap, costing roughly €10 for a standing place and a few euros more for a seat, and being able to drink beer in your seat is, obviously, completely normal in Germany but was a novelty for someone who’d only been to English games live.
The BRITA-Arena is a very modern stadium, having only been built in 2007, and fits in around 13,000 people so with just over 2500 fans in the stadium the stands looked relatively sparse. However with a lively away block of Fortuna fans and the standing section in the Wiesbaden end relatively full, it was still pretty noisy, helped albeit by a few drums in the home end.
The game began and Wiesbaden immediately looked the more proactive of the two sides, not completely unsurprising as they were the home side and Fortuna are newly promoted, and the first clear-cut chance of the game fell to Kevin Schindler who scooped a header above Fortuna goalkeeper Tim Boss’ goal.
A flurry of corners followed in the next few minutes for the hosts but realistically they never looked like scoring from these opportunities, with the most exciting pieces of play really coming on the break as a midfield of Kevin Pezzoni and Nils-Ole Book (who lived up to his name and went into the book early on) playing passes out wide to the aforementioned Schindler and forward Luca Schnellbacher.
David Blacha, formerly of Hansa Rostock, also went close for Wiesbaden before the break but in reality the first half was a half of relatively few clear-cut chances, with corner upon corner wasted by the hosts and absolutely nothing created by the guests. Half time, however, meant the chance to change the course of the game and, of course, a chance to refill the beer without missing any action.
After the break the game did change somewhat but, initially, actually in Fortuna’s favour as they began to knock on Wehen’s door and create chances at long last, with the best chance probably falling to forward Marco Königs with just a few minutes of the second half played. Suddenly, the Wiesbaden fans were beginning to get a little restless, especially with referee Riem Hussein giving a few debatable decisions in Fortuna’s favour rather than to the home team. On reflection, they were largely correct calls, but the home fans wanted the relief of an opener.
They weren’t made to wait long, though, as Wehen hit Fortuna on a counter, with Schnellbacher wriggling past Oliver Schröder into the area and firing home a fine half volley past Boss in the away goal, sparking scenes of celebration in the BRITA-Arena. The goal felt almost like the winner given how much Wiesbaden had been a better attacking presence during the majority of the game, but with just over twenty minutes left it was still all to play for.
Not for long, though, as Schnellbacher broke again from deep, running centrally before slipping a ball into Schindler who struck a lethal effort past Boss for the second. Wehen were well and truly in the ascendancy and were finally making their dominance known on the scoresheet. Moments later, Michael Vitzthum, on as a substitute for the outstanding Schnellbacher, added a third with his second touch of the game – his first beginning the move from deep before Marc Lorenz added trickery in the box and a delicate pass to the substitute for the decider. With ten minutes to go, the game was won. 3-0 in favor of the home side.
All that was left were the end of game celebrations as the team approached the fans in the standing section to celebrated three well-deserved points, and for me a train back to Mainz. All in all, a good day for me and for Wehen. Long may it continue.
SV Wehen Wiesbaden 3:0 (0:0) SC Fortuna Köln
Schnellbacher 66., Schindler 74., Vitzthum 81.
Wehen: Kolke; Wein, Dams, Geyer, Mintzel; Book (Funk, 77.), Pezzoni; Schindler, Blacha (Oehrl, 67.), Lorenz; Schnellbacher (Vitzthum, 80.).
Fortuna: Boss; Kwame (Schröder, 59.), Uaferro (Flottmann, 73.), Hörnig, Fink; Pazurek, Andersen (Kessel, 29.); Rahn, Dahmani, Biada; Königs.
Book 22., Geyer 57. – Kwame 47.
Photos by Conor Garratt