The HamburgHammer Column
This post may be slightly boring for some of you due to the quite personal nature of the topic at hand, so I’ll be talking about our 2:2 draw at Sunderland first and once that is out of the way you can decide for yourself if you want to continue reading or not. So West Ham first. We were all screaming at the screen (or at the players if you were among the loyal West Ham travelling band) during the first half when we were not at the races at all and allowed Sunderland to take a much deserved 2:0 lead.
Obviously we couldn’t allow Lawrenson to be right with his ridiculous prediction of a Sunderland win and put Sunderland under the kosh in the second half like we should have done from the start and more than deserved this point at the end of the day. With the number of chances we created we should have won really.
I think it shows how far we have come as a club that we can bounce back after poor performances in the first half like we have done again on Saturday.
Not playing well, making silly mistakes and still getting points out of games is the sign of things changing for the better at our club.
If I had to single out a player for praise it is Manuel Lanzini. He has arrived at our club on loan with (fortunately) an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season. His loan deal is certain to constitute a much cheaper proposition than the one we have in place for Song, Moses and Jenkinson, yet there can be no doubt Lanzini already has had a massive impact.
Young Manuel plays his football with a smile on his face (and a pretty interesting barnet he has too), is creative, not afraid to get stuck in and work his socks off for the team.
He very much made Payet’s goal who didn’t have that much to do really after Sunderland’s keeper simply couldn’t hang on to Lanzini’s fierce shot.
We will see a lot more positive stuff from the kid this season I’m sure.
Which brings me to the personal bit of my column: Quite out of the (claret and) blue I took my 8 year old nephew to his first football game on Friday evening. I had planned to go with my brother to watch a local cup game here in Hamburg (the winner of that competition wins the right to play in the first round of Germany’s equivalent to the FA Cup) between Lohbruegge (my brother lives close to where they play) and the local East Hamburg side we’ve been supporting for more than 30 years, Concordia Hamburg.
When I arrived to pick my brother up I was surprised to hear that his little son was considering coming along, probably encouraged by his mom.
My nephew, Daniel, was excited, bordering on hyperventilation, he wasn’t initially sure though if he could handle the whole experience as obviously in his little head all kinds of stressful scenarios were being played through.
He was probably expecting to be taken to a Champions League encounter in front of 50.000 fans in a massive stadium. Or at least a St.Pauli-Hamburg SV derby game.
He was afraid of the potential noise around him (he’s a bit sensitive in that respect), he was scared there would be hooligans and flares and giant flags being rolled out engulfing the fans and running battles in the streets around the stadium between drunken adolescents with leather jackets and more tattoos than braincells.
He insisted that we shall have to take a mobile phone with us so we could make an emergency call for his mom to pick him up and take him back home in case the whole football experience would get out of hand on the evening.
So Uncle HamburgHammer sat down with him and told him to hold his horses. And relax. We were not going to a proper stadium or arena, we were merely going to a football pitch (an artificial one at that) you could stand alongside and watch. There’d be 130 fans or so in total. Most of them too old or too much of a caring family person to be keen on starting fights. There were some other kids there too all of whom could watch the game for free of course.
The noise would mainly be provided by shouting players, their managers and their assistants. Flares would have been useful though as the floodlighting left a lot to be desired. But the first issue to be dealt with was which team my nephew would or should support on the day. Daniel had decided he would choose according to the colour of the shirts worn by the teams on the pitch. I’m not sure if he genuinely prefered the red/black of our team (the away side) or the blue/white of the home side.
In the end it was decided rather quickly. Several team members from Concordia including the assistant manager chatted to the little lad prior to the game, joked around with him and answered questions, plus obviously his dad and uncle wanted the team in red and black to win, so that was that.
We won 5:1. We saw some cracking goals, including a backheeled beauty into the net from a ridiculous angle.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing for my nephew, he’s still quite short and the pitch was dimly lit, so it obviously was hard for him to properly spot everything that was happening on the pitch (one thing he had in common with the referee), especially if the linesman or a team physio were walking around in front of him.
So whenever the ball entered one of the penalty boxes (which was often) he asked without fail: Was it a goal then just now ? When the goals were finally going in he quickly recognized the marked reactions among his fellow fans, so he simply joined, jumping all over the place, fists in the air, screaming with delight, hugging dad and uncle in succession. Two halves with 45 minutes each are a bit of a challenge for the attention span of a modern kid though. First halftime couldn’t come quickly enough because he was hungry for a sausage, second half he got a bit tired (way past his usual bedtime) and just wandered about with twenty minutes of the game to go as he had lost a bit of interest in watching the game. Kids have their own priorities and sometimes food or strolling along are just more important.
At the end of the day of course it was a result insofar as a) he immediately wanted to get a Concordia football shirt his size with number 16 as that was the player that had impressed him most and b) he was very keen on joining a local football team soon and playing the game himself.
That now will be slightly tricky as he is still doing judo and his parents would prefer him continuing with that for the time being, but ultimately I think the experience will make him join a local team and also come to watch a game again with his dad and uncle.
I had a cracking time with the little chap and the most entertaining thing apart from the game itself (and which some of you may be able to identify with) were the numerous questions being asked by the lad, some silly, some surprising, others almost philosophically deep like:
Will we win the game if we score 32 goals in the second half ?
Why has the referee just blown the whistle ?
What is offside ?
Can I have some jellybabies at halftime ?
Why is that mad man in the black jacket screaming at the players ? (Talking about the manager)
Are Concordia as good as Hamburg SV or Bayern Munich ?
Can I take the ball home if it goes out of play and I catch it ?
Well, it was just his first game. I’m certain my questions weren’t that different really when I watched my first game (which was Hamburg SV I seem to remember).
Maybe my nephew will become a footballer eventually. God knows what club he’ll end up supporting properly. I’ve made sure with subtle providing of presents that West Ham are the only English club he will ever support. He may still go for a local German option eventually (peer pressure in school and all that). But either way football is a fantastic way to bond with loved ones, especially kids.
And now that we brought little Daniel back home from the game healthy, happy and in good spirits I’m sure I can take him again in the future. And again.