A Journey off the Beaten Track to Unterhaching

Having booked my trip to Munich to see FC Bayern take on Borussia Mönchengladbach at the Allianz Arena, I started to consider my schedule for the weekend. With Bayern playing on the Sunday evening and my arriving on the Saturday morning, my immediate thought was to look for a game taking place in the city that afternoon. Having trawled through the fixture list, I found two matches: Regionalliga Bayern side VfR Garching against FC Eintracht Bamberg 2010, and the third division match between SpVgg Unterhaching and Stuttgarter Kickers.

After consulting with my friend and fellow Bayern fan Wolfgang – a fellow contributor here on the Fanatic – we decided on the ‘Haching game. Wolfgang would sort out the tickets, and the plan was set in motion. After a smooth flight into Franz Josef Strauss and a pleasant journey on the S8 into the centre, I dropped my luggage off at my apartment and headed to our meeting point at the famous Fischbrunnen at the Marienplatz.

Having met Wolf, we headed to back to Marienplatz to take the S3 to Fasanenpark. From there, it was a ten-minute walk to the ground. While not quite matching the walk from Fröttmaning U-Bahn to the Allianz, there was a certain charm about walking through a wide-open area towards the small Alpenbauer Sportpark.

Ever since their 2-0 victory over Bayer 04 Leverkusen that had helped FC Bayern pip the Werkself to the Bundesliga title in 2000, I had a soft spot for ‘haching – I felt that I owed them a visit, even though their glory days of top flight football were more than a decade behind them.

As well as the background history, I discovered a number of other connections between the current ‘haching setup and FC Bayern. SpVgg’s president, Manfred “Manni” Schwabl, was with die Roten for two spells during the 1980s and early 1990s. The club coach, Christian Ziege, was one of the few bright stars during the dark days of the early to mid 1990s. Then there were the members of the squad with FC Bayern connections: Manni Schwabl’s son Markus, a feisty right wing-back. Fabian Götze, elder brother of Mario. Jonas Hummels, the younger brother of Mats and also a product of the FC Bayern youth setup. Skipper Mario Erb, who played forty-eight times for FC Bayern II.

Haching’s time in the top flight had lasted two seasons in the early 2000s. Just a decade before that, Stuttgart Kickers had also been a Bundesliga side. Their first foray into the big league in 1988-89 had ended in immediate relegation. Things would be no better the second time around in 1991-92. However, on their way back down they had achieved a historic result against FC Bayern at the Olympiastadion: in what had been a nightmare year for every Bayern supporter, the players from Stuttgart’s second team headed up the Autobahn A8 with a stunning 4-1 victory that brought an end to Jupp Heynckes’ first spell in charge.

By a curious quirk of fate, both ‘haching president Schwabl and coach Ziege were in the Bayern team on that dark October day.

Having made our way into the Alpenbauer Sportpark, one could sense the history there. The faded seats and impressive looking main stand told stories of capacity crowds in the 1. Bundesliga and that famous last-day victory over Leverkusen. Although it is unlikely that ‘haching will ever scale such heights again these great stories will always remain part of the legend that helped make them something of a cult club both in and outside Germany. As we headed to the ground, we could even hear some English-speaking voices in the small crowd.

The current ‘Haching side are struggling at the bottom end of the 3. Liga, and it was always going to be something of a challenge against a Stuttgarter Kickers side on the fringe of the promotion places. ‘Haching were coming into the game without in a win in their previous four matches, but there was a glimmer of hope to be taken from the Kickers’ performance the previous week at mid-table VfL Osnabrück, where they had been handed a 4-1 hiding.

For just twelve Euros, we had secured pitch side seats in the Osttribune, part of a crowd of two-thousand. Given the ground’s fifteen-thousand capacity there were plenty of open spaces, but the Südkurve was well populated with home supporters and the small section of the north stand reserved for the visiting crowd was a seething mass of blue and white. The Kickers fans were in full voice, and as they went through their entire repertoire one couldn’t fail to be impressed by their energy. There is something to be said about second clubs from larger cities, in that what they lack in success their fans more than make up with unbridled commitment and passion.

The match started brightly for the home side, and just three minutes in there was something to cheer about. A mistake by former ‘Haching ‘keeper Korbinian Müller allowed Pascal Köpke to find the back of the goal with a looping shot. However the atmosphere was quickly dashed just six minutes later, when Fabian Baumgärtel’s right-footed effort from around twenty metres out found the bottom right-hand corner of the ‘Haching net. Kiwi ‘keeper Stefan Marinovic managed to get a glove on the ball, but unlike his cricketing counterpart Brendon McCullum was unable to keep it out.

With the glut of opportunities early on we sense something of a goal feast, but with the score at 1-1 things quickly tightened up. There were a number of sharp challenges as things started to bite, with the Kickers players proving to be particularly adept at flinging themselves about at the slightest touch – with midfielder Sandrino Braun stealing the show with some spectacular falls accompanied by some very audible yelps. Meanwhile, the Kickers were living up to their name in putting in some crunching challenges of their own. The referee was quick to prevent things from getting out of control however, dishing out three yellow cards in the space of around twelve minutes.

Polish striker Damian Gąska should really have restored ‘Haching’s lead with just Müller to beat, and at half-time the 1-1 scoreline was perhaps a little harsh on Ziege’s side. They had created the better opportunities, and as the crowd returned to their seats for the second half there was a positive buzz around the ground. Meanwhile, the Kickers fans were still loudly singing away, their loud drum pounding to the rhythm of familiar sounding tunes with different words.

The second half saw the visitors start far more positively, and once could sense the momentum shifting away from Ziege’s men. There was one encouraging charge down the right flank from Schwabl, but most of the swift moves seemed to be coming from the men in the turquoise shirts. The ‘Haching coach sent on eighteen year old Dominik Widemann for Gąska as he looked to up the ante, and then defender Danilo Dittrich made way for another teenager in Germany Under-18 midfielder Simon Kranitz, on loan from Kickers’ big-city rivals VfB.

Ziege’s commitment to taking all three points made for a more frantic closing spell, but it was the visitors that would take advantage. A left-sided corner from the impressive Baumgärtel was excellently delivered, and as the men in red struggled to close things down journeyman midfielder Marc Stein rose above the defence to head the ball firmly past Marinovic.

It was all hands to the pump now for ‘Haching, and there some loud shouts from the Südkurve in the dying moments when sub Lukas Huflnagel looked to have been dragged down in the penalty area by Kickers’ ‘keeper Müller. However the referee simply waved play on. It was a rather flat finish after what had been a bright and promising start, and the disappointed crowd slowly began to filter out and make their way to the S-Bahn station. Meanwhile, I headed to the small club shop behind the north stand to pick up a lovely red ‘Haching Trikot – ensuring that I will be perfectly kitted out for my next visit.

The result would ultimately prove to be the death knell for Christian Ziege. Within days, club president Schwabl announced that changes were needed to arrest the club’s dramatic slide down the table, and the coach was on his way after just a year in charge. I had noticed during the game that the ‘Haching Südkurve had created a rather nice banner saying “Kämpfen und Ziege”… Sadly, they will now have to make a new one.

SpVgg Unterhaching 1:2 (1:1) Stuttgarter Kickers
Köpke 3. / Baumgärtel 9., Stein 80.

Haching: Marinovic – Welzmüller, Herröder, Schwarz – Erb (c) – Schwabl, Abelski (83. Hufnagel), Dittrich (79. Kranitz), Hagn – Gąska (66. Widemann), Köpke

Kickers: Ko. Müller – Leutenecker, Starostzik, Stein, Baumgärtel – Halimi, Marchese (87. Fennell), Braun – Edwini-Bonsu, G. Müller (75. Calamita), Badiane (74. Engelbrecht)

Red Cards: – / –
Yellow Cards: Gąska, Erb, Schwarz / Calamita, Halimi, Stein

Attendance: 2000

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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