“Hau den Ball ins Tor hinein!” – Bundesliga blog for the 24th day of play – Its derby-time!
There’s one thing my coach never tired of saying to me: “Hau den Ball ins Tor hinein!” – best translated with: “Just slam it into the back of the net!” What did yours used to say to you? What about this one: “In order to enchant your audience, you have to open yourself to them and show them the determination inside you”? Ever heard that? Probably not – unless you’re also in an amateur dramatic club.
One place in Germany where this kind of talk can be heard at the moment is the Ruhr area around Essen, Duisburg and Dortmund, which is European Capital of Culture 2010 (along with Pécs in Hungary). The Ruhr area stretches from Hamm in Westphalia through to Wesel on the Rhine and counts several major cities and five million inhabitants; and at the moment, it’s one big showplace for sculptures and installation art, festivals and concerts, theatre and opera performances and countless other events. Monumental industrial relics, disused mines, old smithies: all the signs of the old industrial powerhouse the Ruhrgebiet once was have now become an exciting backdrop for art, drama and music all year long.
This is a clear indication that restructuring of the economy of the Ruhr area is continuing on its course from heavy industry through to the service sector. Once the booming centre of the German Wirtschaftswunder known worldwide for coal and iron, the Ruhr-cities and their population grew with their industry and melted into one another, creating a continuous urban area that stretches almost uninterrupted for 30 miles from East to West. And alongside iron, steel and coal, the workers on the Ruhr also produced an unparalleled football culture: soccer is the heartbeat of these cities, and anyone who wants to get to know them has to go to one of the temples of this culture.
There are plenty of them: Rot-Weiß Essen, MSV Duisburg, Rot-Weiß Oberhausen, Wattenscheid 09, VfL Bochum. Like most temples, their best days are clearly behind them; most have had their time in the big leagues, now they play in regional conferences – a few are still in the Bundesliga, but mostly keeping a low profile. All except Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund, that is; the two big Ruhrgebiet teams are still in full effect, fired on by a bitter rivalry with each other. True fans of these sides will not speak the name of the other, for example, calling them by the names of their neighbouring towns instead (Herne-West and Lüdenscheid respectively).
And when these two teams play against each other, all hell breaks loose: on the 24th day of play this season, this dreaded derby occurred.
The reasons for this football rivalry are not the usual poor-rich or catholic-protestant tensions (like in Glasgow); no, the rivalry only started in the 1950s and was a product of the miners’ close culture: back then, the workers stuck to their areas of town and threw their hearts and souls into football. Before the Second World War, Schalke (named after its area of Gelsenkirchen) was the undisputed number one, playing its own brand of one-touch-football known back then as the “Schalker Kreisel”. After the War, however, Dortmund rose to the top, taking the title six times after 1956 while Schalke celebrated its last league championship in 1958. In the spirit of this rivalry, 2008 saw Dortmund celebrate “Schalke: 50 years without the cup”.
Nowadays, these legendary Derbys are becoming less and less important. Not for the fans, clad in royal blue on the “Nordkurve” at Schalke or in yellow and black on Dortmund’s “Südtribüne”, but certainly for management and the players, who are faced with too many other important games – and too many players who don’t come from the Ruhr area. “We’d rather beat Dortmund than be champions” is an old motto that the Schalke coach Felix Magath would probably not agree with any more, so the fans love it when the players nourish the flame of rivalry – like Dortmund’s 21-year-old native, Kevin Großkreuz, who was recently quoted as follows: “I wouldn’t go to Schalke for all the money in the world. I hate them more than anything and if my son were to become a Schalke fan, I’d send the little beggar to a children’s home.” Schalke’s goalkeeper, also a local of his side’s hometown Gelsenkirchen replied in a similar tone: “A few of Dortmund’s players damaged my reputation in the first leg this season” – and now he is out for revenge.
Now, Neuer succeeded in doing the damage, but he and Großkreutz were not the main focus of the game. The one to watch was Ivan Rakitic. After a relatively flat first half, Dortmund got a penalty and Sahin put them in the lead; Schalke replied with a goal from Höwedes, and Dortmund’s goalkeeper then managed to knock out his own defender Matt Hummels in a rather unfortunate way: Kuranyi had pushed Hummels into Weidenfeller’s curled fist, leaving Hummels being stretchered off with a broken jaw. Rakitic then used the confusion sown in Dortmund’s defense to make it 2:1 for Schalke, meaning that Dortmund has not one this derby once since 2007 and putting his side behind Munich and Leverkusen at the head of the table.
Bayer Leverkusen, by the way, have managed to lose the heavy weight they were carrying: that being the Crown of the Table Leader, which they lost due to a 0:0 draw against Cologne (another “Derby”, this one on the Rhine). Now that they’ve drawn 11 times this season, more than any other team in the league, they’ve dropped back to second place.
So it’s all eyes on Bayern München now, who are back at the top of the table for the first time since 17th May 2008 – and all they had to do was beat Hamburg 1:0. This is another old rivalry, the “North-South banger” as it is known, and although it’s not strictly a derby, the duels the two teams fought in the 1980s for the first place have left their mark. Munich’s win was their first against HSV at their home stadium, Ribéry sealing the deal with a really remarkable goal. This puts Bavaria back at number one after a long chase up the table: and they’ll be looking to stay there.
Another true derby is in Lower Saxony, Hannover 96 against Wolfsburg: Wolfsburg are still champions from last year – and Hannover are still in the top league (just), so it was no surprise that the “Wolves” won 1:0.
This weekend’s player of the day was VfB Stuttgart’s Cacau thanks to his scoring both goals in their 2:1 victory against Frankfurt. The week before, he had already scored four goals – and scored the goal in Stuttgart’s 1:1 draw against Barcelona in the Champions’ League. You might say he’s on a roll!
Now back to the Ruhr area. With this weekend now passed, culture is back on the top spot, with Dortmund’s U-brewery and Gelsenkirchen’s “North Star” as it is known back at the centre of attention. It would seem, however, that the jury for Capitals of Culture 2010 was pretty keen on football: after all, Istanbul is also a Capital of Culture this year – and is the scene of another derby: Galatasaray against Fenerbahce. You can bet that the coaches for those sides will be preparing their teams for their meeting on 28th March with phrases like “you just can’t lose against them” and, of course, “Just slam it into the back of the net!”
(by Stefan Reichart/Brian Melican)
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Results Matchday 24
FC Schalke 04 – Borussia Dortmund 2:1
Bayer Leverkusen – 1. FC Köln 0:0
Bayern München – Hamburger SV 1:0
Hannover 96 – VfL Wolfsburg 0:1
Hertha BSC Berlin – 1899 Hoffenheim 0:2
1. FSV Mainz 05 – Werder Bremen 1:2
VfB Stuttgart – Eintracht Frankfurt 2:1
Borussia Mönchengladbach – SC Freiburg 1:1
VfL Bochum – 1. FC Nürnberg 0:0
1 Bayern München 52 P
2 Bayer Leverkusen 50 P
3 FC Schalke 04 48 P
4 Hamburger SV 40 P
5 Borussia Dortmund 39 P
6 Werder Bremen 38 P
7 Eintracht Frankfurt 35 P
8 VfB Stuttgart 34 P
9 1899 Hoffenheim 32 P
10 1. FSV Mainz 05 32 P
11 VfL Wolfsburg 31 P
12 Borussia Mönchengladbach 30 P
13 VfL Bochum 27 P
14 1. FC Köln 26 P
15 SC Freiburg 20 P
16 1. FC Nürnberg 18 P
17 Hannover 96 17 P
18 Hertha BSC Berlin 15 P