May 29, 2017

Racking up the miles for Werder Bremen and the Nordderby

Werder Bremen crest

My love affair with Werder Bremen began in September 2006 when I went to live in Bremen for a year as an ERASMUS student. The name Werder Bremen was familiar to me from watching Champions League football in the UK as a casual Man Utd fan, but I couldn’t have imagined the years to follow as a fan of the Green and Whites. My friends in England think my interest in German football stems from a weakness for sausages and men in leather shorts, but I can promise you it’s the football!

I remember my first weekend as a student in Bremen. Werder were playing at home at the Weserstadion. I saw that day for the first time how fanatical the city becomes about their team; the Riverislanders are the only top flight club in the federal state of Bremen and walking around the city on a match day, or indeed any other day, you will see green and white flags with the Werder symbol hanging from the locals windows, up on flag poles and in car windows.

For most home games, my tickets were for the Ostkurve, which is where the home support and Ultras stand. Tickets are available for €16 up until kick off. It’s whilst standing on the terraces and speaking to supporters around me that I had some of my most enjoyable days watching sport. There is a manner in which the Bremen public supports the team that I haven’t experienced anywhere else before and I would recommend a trip to the Weserstadion to anyone who likes a proper old fashion football atmosphere.

From the 2007/8 season onwards I used to fly once a month from London to Bremen for a weekend to watch the games and occasionally to away matches in between. That was until October 2012 when my work took me to Helsinki and my commute to games became a whole lot more interesting.

So here is my account of my latest trip to the 100th Nordderby, a game I had been looking forward to since the 21st of September 2013 when Werder beat Hamburg 0-2 at the Imtech Arena.

My Saturday 01/03/2014 started early at 06.00 with a 30 minute taxi ride from my apartment to Helsinki Airport.

cab_to_airport

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t very excited, but a there’s always time for very quick beer at the Airport – it has become a custom.

Pint_at_airport

Afterwards comes the 2 hour flight from Helsinki to Hamburg.

landing_Hamburg

I landed at 10.00 am German time to catch the S-Bahn (a local train) from Hamburg airport to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof where I would inevitably get my first glimpse of the ‘opposition’ supporters.

trainstation_Hamburg

So it would be the 10.46 train that would take me to Bremen where my day would finally start:

leaving_for_the_promised_land

I had been told by a journalist friend of mine from Bremen that trains leaving at around 11:00am were going to be packed with Hamburg fans so I should book myself a seat in first class.

I had little to fear … Instead of hiding the fact that I was both English and a Werder fan, I got to spend the 55 minute train journey drinking with a banker from Berlin who was on his way to see his elderly mother in Bremen.

In 2009, I remember seeing one of the last away fan marches towards the stadium before the city opted to transport the HSV fans by shuttle bus to the stadium as it is a high risk game in the Police’s opinion (those marches were noisy and really increased the excitement).

That year, 2009, some thousands of HSV fans had clashed with Police in the city and near the stadium. This time around, the city provided toilets and were pumping German disco from the Police van’s speakers:

Police

At 12.00, I met my friends and chatted to a few HSV fans about the game, before we walked through the city to soak up a bit of the atmosphere whilst heading to the stadium where the Werder Ultras, as a sign of support to Robin Dutt and the team, had organised a stadium march on their own stadium.

When I  first got my first glimpse of the stadium, I really started to get excited:

Weserstadion_on_the_horizon

The city was covered in propaganda ahead of the game:

thetruth
There were a few clashes between fans outside the stadium, but the Police were there in large numbers separating the fans:

Police2

Which meant there was only really one thing left to do before going inside the stadium: eating one of Bremen’s famous fish sandwiches full of onions.

Matjes

The atmosphere outside the stadium was very tense, there was a lot of talk about battling relegation from the Werder fans, but the main topic of conversation was that we must – must – beat HSV. Winning against HSV means everything to many Werder fans; the clubs have played each other more often in the Bundesliga than any other clubs in German football. The rivalry is fierce with Werder continuing to be the smaller and financially inferior club compared to Hamburg, but the Green and Whites do have the better record in the derby, having won 35 out of the 99 matches whilst losing 31 times before the match last Saturday.

In the stadium, I met a few friends who were involved with the choreography on display that day. One of them told me it was going to be very classy and that I should make sure to watch it on YouTube after the match, “especially the last part” he said with a wink.

For this very special occasion the Ostkurve was completely jam-packed 1.5 hours before kick off, something I have personally never seen that before. I struggled to find a spot and ended up being on the edge squeezed between two big lumps wearing Werder scarfs as skirts.

Ostkurve_prematch

The atmosphere during the first half was electric, and the Werder stadium rocking, I really like this picture I took of two friends sharing holding a scarf after the Werder goal.

Friends
And for anyone who hasn’t had the privilege of visiting the Weserstadion:

Weserstadion

I am not qualified to analyse the game, but from where I was standing I would say Werder rose to the atmosphere and occasion much more than HSV. Robin Dutt’s team started fast and with purpose, the assist from Hunt was sublime and the finish from Junuzović was skilful and controlled.

The Werder fans may have got a little excited in the second half:

Pyro

I would however add that most of the stadium booed this and shouted ‘you are hooligans’ and ‘ultras out’.

For me, a wonderful 1-0 result and the boat ride back to the town centre ended a great day in Bremen.

Weserstadion_floodlights

What has been your best trip to Germany? Tell us in the comment section below!

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