Hannover’s Excellent Pokal Road Trip: ” Der Pokal hat seine eigenen Gesetze.“

by Niklas Wildhagen

Hannover 96 fan Ansgar Löcke makes his debut on the Bundesliga Fanatic telling our readers about his road trip to see his favorite team play Anker Wismar in the first round of the DFB pokal.

„The cup has its own rules.“ No other team could agree more to that saying in the last years than Hannover 96 and their fans.

In two successive seasons, Hannover lost to lower league sides in the first round of the cup, where an amateur team is traditionally drawn against a well-established team from league 1 or 2. The draw is watched in the local pub by team and supporters and the bigger the name, the better. Often, the “bigger” name club with all their stars will travel to a small town unfamiliar to many fans.

In the Pokal, some lower-league clubs move the match to nearby big stadiums, while others let the opponent get a taste of the real life as an amateur side by putting them in dressing rooms without the usual amenities and where the hot water might not be running.

However the result turns out, the whole day is a major spectacle for home fans and especially the players, as they can play against professionals they’d normally just see on TV and the hunt for jerseys after the match is obligatory.

Hannover had every reason to be wary in this year’s draw, as the 96ers were expected to play FC Ankar Wismar, based in a small town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on the Baltic Sea coast. The previous years in the Pokal have been very frustrating for Hannover fans. Two years ago we lost against Eintracht Trier, marking the start to a rotten season. And last season a loss in the penalty shootout in Elversberg saw coach Mirko Slomka face serious trouble before the season actually began. Luckily for him, the overwhelming performances that year covered up the weak impression the club left in the Cup.

The plan to travel to the game was very spontaneous. Being a Hannover fan who lives 300 km away from the town doesn’t really help the cause, and even if we had played in Wismar, which is considerably closer, I don’t think I would’ve gone there.

But then news broke that the DFB had major doubts about the state of the Anker Wismar stadium and the home team had to look for a new location. Nearby Rostock declined and so it was up to Lübeck to step up and offer a new home for the 5th tier team.

Anker officials were very bitter about the DFB decision, the visiting official apparently was very friendly and everyone was left with the impression that he was very satisfied with what he say. But when he submitted his report, the Anker eyes were opened.

That's THE TICKET.

The prospect of just having 90 km to travel to Lübeck and having a day off work that day meant contacting some mates to discuss the details of the trip. We knew the stadium wouldn’t be sold out, so we didn’t have to bother about tickets in advance.

So on Saturday lunch time, with one or two slightly hungover friends, we left for Lübeck. Once we arrived in the surroundings of the stadium “An der Lohmühle”, the presence of Hannover supporters was inevitable. Many had made the trip up north on the Autobahn to watch the first competitive match of their team in the new season.

Unsurprisingly, the Wismar crowd was rather small. The 5th tier side has one official fan club with 20 (!) members. The fact that the Wismar fans now had to travel an hour to the match didn’t do the attendance figures any favours.

The queues on the box offices outside the specific areas were noticeable, but it didn’t take long to get a ticket for the terrace next to the Hannover supporters plus a matchday magazine for €6.50 (student price). The spot we picked was just right of the goal and so we awaited the teams to come out (when we arrived the teams were just finishing warm-up). As it was a home game, the official and the unofficial anthems of Anker (yes, they have two) were played a lot through the speakers.

Once the game kicked off, it was a very typical Cup tie. The professional side kept possession, held the ball well and let the opponent run. Individual class and quick movements showed in every other situation immediately led to great opportunities, which were converted four times in the first half, with Moa Abdellaoue and Lars Stindl both scoring braces.

After the first goal had been scored, you could see the relief in the faces of the supporters (who had raised a banner reading: ‘Treble 2012: DFB cup, Bundesliga, Europa League’ before the match). So the chants changed from general “Hannover” to more specific “Europapokal”, showing, what fans are really looking forward to this season.

Wismar supporters were given a terrace on the other side of the pitch, which stayed mostly empty. But that wasn’t really a surprise to be honest. To be fair though, the fans on the main stand were fairly mixed. In total, there were 6,077 spectators at the match.

During half-time, while ordering some drinks, there were some provocations behind the 96 terrace, which led to some supporters trying to climb over a fence to beat up whoever there was (there were some trees in the way which prevented a better view but I assume it was a local or a Wismar fan showing a Braunschweig scarf or something similar). The ever-present police, who looked mostly as if they just wanted to enjoy a football match during work on a Sunday, arrived to clear the scene.

Minutes later a flare was thrown in the same direction, but nothing happened. In fact, the commentator on TV referred to that incident as ‘a food stall that forgot to take the sausages off the grill.

Fortunately for the fans, the sun came out in the second half and it was actually warm. That is a rare thing this odd summer, where rain seems to be the only weather around in the north of Germany.

Wismar was tired, but still tried their best to prevent a serious beating. Hannover took their foot off the gas but still created quite a few chances. Substitutes Moritz Stoppelkamp, Christian Pander and Hannover captain Steve Cherundolo (who gets “USA, USA” chants) got 20 to 30 minutes to impress coach Slomka.

Midfielder Sergio Pinto missed a penalty and the Wismar keeper showed some good reflexes before substitute Stoppelkamp scored another brace to make it 6:0, which was also the final score of the match.

Hannover legend Altin Lala thanking the fans for their support.

Afterwards, Wismar players got their trophies in form of jerseys and handshakes with the professionals. Hannover players thanked the travelling supporters by coming to the stands. Veteran Altin Lala gave away his jersey to some fans who were standing just in front of me.

Wismar coach and former Hansa Rostock player Timo Lange said that they had no chance but were willing to take it. He was happy with his team’s performance.

Mirko Slomka was delighted with the result and the fact, that every player stayed fit and no unnecessary injury dampened the mood.

All in all it was a day full of winners, although the major upset didn’t occur.

The first ever presence in the highest German Cup competition was the greatest achievement for Anker Wismar.

Hannover won a routine match to set them on course to a hopefully successful season 2011/12.

Please follow Ansgar on Twitter, and feel free to leave a comment below.

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Author:Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 27-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 and on the @AufstiegPod.
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