The HamburgHammer Column
Thank God the football is finally back! For me at least. Not content with watching old West Ham highlights on DVD or the Confed Cup on the telly, I took myself to my very first football game of the new season and not even for a Concordia first team game but a preseason friendly of Concordia’s 2nd string/development squad/youth team away to ASV Bergedorf, nicknamed Die Elstern (The Magpies) after their black and white home shirts (just like Newcastle), with the main difference that the away support in their ground will never have to suffer from vertigo!
It ended in a very pleasant 4:2 win, so a good first entry into my football diary for the new season.
The Concordia first team will play their first two preseason games next weekend.
I had planned to write about at least one more new West Ham signing in my column, but there is now just no point trying to predict who our next signing is going to be and when it’s going to happen. The simple truth appears to be that indeed we need to remain patient until the big clubs have made their first moves buying their new strikers before we can then sign up their benchwarmers who happen to be our main targets this summer apparently.
Let us now jump into the headline of my column which gives us another off topic story from the lower levels of the German footballing scene, but bear me with as I can see this rearing its head in England too somewhere down the road. Allow me to take you to the 4th level of German football, into the Regionalliga Südwest (Regional League Southwest), a 4th level lower league of amateur or semi-professional clubs covering a vast geographical area of Germany, from the Black Forest in the South near the Swiss border, to Stuttgart in the East, with Frankfurt/Main smack in the middle and going as far up North as Kassel.
If you were to drive from Freiburg to Kassel for a game it’d be like travelling from London to Newcastle (and then some), just over 300 miles one way.
So you can imagine that this league consists of clubs from vastly different federal states and provinces, hence boasting different cultures, dialects, tempers. And like most clubs in the lower leagues there is a distinct lack of money with clubs struggling to sell tickets and pay bills. So one would think some extra money might come in handy for the new season. Add to that the current moves by Germany to intensify relationships with China on various levels anyway (business, culture, football) and the following idea won’t come quite as much of a surprise.
The Regionalliga Südwest at the moment is made up of 19 teams which means one of those teams would sit idle every weekend. On the other hand you have the Chinese Football Association who would like to boost the chances of their national side for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Which is why plans are now at an advanced stage to move the China U20 side into quarters near Heidelberg and make them play league games regularly against the teams in the Regionalliga Südwest.
The results and points, however, would not count for the official league table with the Chinese team not even listed in the table and they also wouldn’t have a ground of their own to host games. They would basically travel and play away games against every league team on the weekend it’d otherwise sit idle, play each of those teams twice during the season and raise the standards of their young players in the process of playing competitive games week in week out.
Each of the opposition teams as a reward would get between 15.000 and 20.000 Euros per game into their club coffers as part of the deal. Some club representatives have already gone up in arms about the idea, calling it a joke, a circus, a step too far, just another way of selling football’s soul in exchange for some kickbacks. Waldhof Mannheim were the first tclub to outright reject playing the Chinese and instead have begun organising games against one of the teams relegated from the league the previous season, the idea being they’d rather support another local club financially than being the stirrup holders of a team from the Far East, especially a national side, with no roots whatsoever in the local province or community.
What’s your take on this ? A win-win situation for all parties as the Chinese need the games and the German clubs need the money ?
A stupid idea whatever way you look at it ? It certainly is a factor also that the points gained (or lost) in these encounters would not affect the league table.
So how competitive would those games be in the first place?
Would the German teams deliberately rest their main players and treat the games against the Asian Kids as nothing more than friendly kickabouts ?
Or how about the other way around if players suffer bad injuries from over-enthusiastic Chinese opponents dishing out crunching tackles in order to impress their manager ?
Going back to West Ham I will not dare say if we will see a new signing being wrapped up for us this week. If there is a signing though, I really hope it’ll be Kelechi Iheanacho.
The much discussed buyback clause no longer bothers me as frankly it is not worth losing the player over the slim possibility Man City might want him back after two years and we would then “only” make a 10 million profit on his transfer back to Manchester.
Firstly, we’d have the player for at least the next two seasons which is the main thing I care about at this point. Secondly, City would only buy him back if he ends up being among the league’s five top scorers or so. Which means West Ham would also be in a terrific position as a club resulting in Iheanacho quite possibly prefering to stay at West Ham anyway.
If not, however, we’d still get about 30 million from City and would also be in a healthy league and financial position to attract a suitable replacement.
So nothing at this point really justifies letting the player go elsewhere over something as trivial as a buyback clause which may actually never be triggered anyway.
Not far to go now until West Ham arrive on their preseason tour of Germany which will be one hell of an exciting week for me. I think my record in terms of watching Hammers games in quick succession was in December when I watched us play three first team games in succession (one away two home) in the space of just seven days.
This time though it’ll be three games in just five days, a new personal record.
And if I’m lucky, not only will the weather do its bit giving us a few gorgeous summer days, but I may also be able to meet the team in their training camp which is not too far from Hamburg, so I hope it’ll be possible to have a quick chat with Slaven and a few of the players and they will be kind enough to sign a few matchday programmes for me.
To make it all a bit easier for me and to also give the preseason tour a bit of the old away day feel I have even booked accommodation in Schneverdingen and Bremen which will also give me a bit more time to spend with the Hammers travelling army.
The culmination of course will be the game against Altona 93 in my beloved hometown. This game will be packed with a lot of contrasting emotions for me.
As you know I would have wanted Concordia to play this game instead of Altona. But Cordi couldn’t afford the match fee, in contrast Altona apparently managed to find a suitable sponsor/business partner to get the idea off the ground.
You may also know that Altona were Concordia’s fiercest rivals for promotion last season, with Cordi ultimately missing out and Altona making the step up to the next level.
So you can imagine that Altona will never be my favourite Hamburg based club to put it mildly.
With all those games coming up I was busier than a one-eyed cat watching two mouse holes what with buying the tickets, looking for accommodation etc.
Altona was a special treat in that respect as the ordering form where you could buy tickets online was done very ingeniously in a way that I ended up buying home tickets several times (despite clicking the guest ticket option first). I will see how I get rid of those home tickets now.
I then had a long online conversation with the Altona ticket office explaining to me there would be strong segregation and the away section was allocated strictly and exclusively for the English as they put it.
I found this slightly nationalistic as I tried to explain to them there would be loads of Hammers fans travelling over from Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium, other parts of Germany and I also enquired if they were actually planning on doing passport controls for those fans willing to enter the away section. They then came out with the idea that I had to wait on the day if there was still space available and only then could I be let into the ground as a German West Ham fan. Bowlocks!
After arguing back and forth, they finally had to admit there was not much they could do if I bought a ticket for the away section (which I did of course), but somehow they still couldn’t grasp that a dyed-in-the-wool Hamburger could NOT support Altona in this game. Maybe I should have also told them that I support Concordia as well which might have helped them to understand why I want Altona to get a good old drubbing on the day!
For those of you travelling to this game I’ve added the videos above, in one of them there even is an English fan who adopted Altona as his club and moved to Hamburg as well. It’s supposed to give you an idea of both the stadium you are about to enter and also the highly loyal and feisty supporters of this old, traditional Hamburg football club.
For most of you the rusty old charme of the Adolf Jäger Kampfbahn (named after Altona’s version of Bobby Moore) will bring tears of nostalgia to your Mince Pies.
It’s a football ground as traditional as they get, bang in the middle of the local community (does that remind you of somewhere?), with most of the fans standing close to the pitch, forever hopelessly loyal to their regularly underachieving team. The Altona fans also have a fairly dry sense of humour, at least most of them and nowadays they view their much more famous neighbours St.Pauli as nothing but newly rich, posh and uppity primadonna divas. It’s all relative I suppose…LOL
Let’s hope there finally will be some new signings at West Ham soon. Let’s hope the preseason tour in Germany will be a complete success on and off the pitch, with no silly rucks between intoxicated supporters. Let’s just enjoy a few days in the sun, watching our boys in claret and blue, cheering them on and anticipating a new season with better things to come…COYI!