So there you go: the last match day of the 2010-2011 season has been played, and the 18 Bundesliga teams is divided into two camps – the winners and the losers. Nevertheless, deciding which teams belong to which category is a matter of personal interpretation – and here’s mine.
After having recently spent most a blog post cracking jokes at the (considerable) expense of vulgar nouveau riche football clubs, I thought I should even things out a bit by admitting something: tradition, as nice as it is to have, is no better at buying success than good, hard cash. A team that has been demonstrating this over and over again in the last couple of weeks is the Hamburger Sportverein, or HSV. This Hamburg team, with their long and great history, lost by a very poor 0:3 to VfB Stuttgart on the weekend; the week before, they only just limped to a disappointing 0:0 draw against Hannover Sportverein 1896, despite the fact that they were playing at home and that Hannover are supposed to be the smaller and less important HSV from the North German plain.
The 29th match day of this Bundesliga season was a day of big-name duels. There was Frankfurt-Bremen, Stuttgart-Kaiserslautern and Mönchengladbach-Cologne, all of which were fights between relegation candidates – the latter, of course, was also something of a local Rhineland derby.
There was the Bavarian derby duel, too, with Munich up against Nuremberg. Attention was focussed pretty much exclusively on Bayern’s president Uli Hoeneß, though, who had had a real go at the club’s own fans last week after they gave him some flak for wanting to save TSV 1860, the other Munich club.
I like Pierre Littbarski. First he was one of the country’s most elegant dribblers in midfield, contributing decisively to the World Cup success of 1990. Then he was a coach, with a distinct lack of vanity and an ability to stay focussed and unemotional. This weekend, however, I did find myself wondering about our “Litti”, who has taken over from the luckless Steve McClaren as coach at Wolfsburg. I mean, I know the guy is pretty relaxed, and I know he’s spent the last seven years playing and coaching in Japan, known as it is for its attachment to Buddhist Zen philosophy, but calling your new job “a nice little hobby” in front of television cameras is not really on – especially when your entire team has spent much of this season playing as if their Bundesliga exploits were, for them too, little more than a nice way to pass the time of day, not their primary means of putting food on the table. In fact, they’ve played so poorly that only their goal difference is saving them from the relegation spot; nevertheless, they still lost 1:2 to SC Freiburg this weekend.
Last week, Germany and Italy lined up against each other for a friendly, but the atmosphere was everything but. The reason is that, apart from Brazil, there is no one country against whom Germany has a worse record than Italy: over the last 30 games, they have only booked seven wins against the Italians, whilst drawing nine and losing a disastrous fourteen games. To make matters worse, their last win was 16 years ago, and one of the many defeats they have suffered fell at just the wrong time and in just the wrong competition.
What did we all learn from yesterday’s 9th Bundesliga match-day? That Berti Vogts has a much underestimated understanding of national football. That’s right, Berti Vogts – or, as many of you might be thinking, “Berti who?”
Hans-Hubert Vogts, Berti for short, was the German national coach from 1990 to 1998, and is currently training the team of a lesser known footballing nation – Azerbaijan. This move to Central Asia followed an unhappy year at Leverkusen in the 2000-2001 season, but is by no means in keeping with his track record.
It was the fourth match-day, and in this year’s Bundesliga, that could only mean one thing: derby time! In Wolfsburg, Gelsenkirchen and Hamburg too, neighbouring clubs lined up against each other, and it is this last local clash that really stood out. After all, it had been 48 years since the city rivals HSV and St. Pauli had met on the latter’s home turf at Millerntor. Up until this point, all meetings between the two teams had always ended up being relocated to HSV’s far bigger stadium at Volkspark.