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.
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.
Right, let’s get this out of the way straight away: my team, Eintracht Frankfurt, lost this weekend, going down 0:2 to VfB Stuttgart. It was their fourth defeat at home in a row and has helped them to an astonishing new record in terms of losing: it’s the seventh game they’ve played without scoring a goal! And as if this weren’t shameful enough, they were up against a Stuttgart team which spent 75 minutes of the game one man down after their captain, Matthieu Delpierre, got a red card for smacking Frankfurt defender Maik Franz. Eintracht put in 30 shots during the game; Theofanis Gekas, top goal scorer of the first half of the season, hit the inside of the post in the 56th minute, and apart from that, Stuttgart’s 22-year-old goalie Sven Ulreich did a tremendous job. Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia had put him on the bench last week against Benfica Lissabon, but after the 34-year-old Marc Ziegler injured himself, Ulreich was suddenly flavour of the month again. Frankfurt, too, had a replacement goalie due to injury, but the 22-year-old Ralf Fährmann standing in for Nikolov made a bit of a hash out of the two shots which sent Stuttgart ahead.
So the 20th match-day of the Bundesliga is over and we know who lost and who won: but do you know who’s new in your favourite team? Ideas, anyone? After all, the winter transfer rounds in January are wreaking absolute havoc with the line-ups, and so it’s not hard to understand why some people are asking questions about whether this additional round of swaps and sales after the summer signing season is a help or a hindrance. I for one am very much of the opinion that it doesn’t help at all, leading to considerable confusion within the teams – well, in teams like Schalke 04 at least.
The usual Bundesliga were rudely pushed out of top slots in sports news this week by a (not so) shocking revelation: Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has been accused of doping! Using substances intended for cattle farming by re-injecting himself with his own blood! He claims the substances must have come from contaminated meat… Yeah right! This guy is about as “innocent” as German doped cyclist Jan Ullrich.
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.
“Hau den Ball ins Tor hinein!” – Bundesliga blog for the 23rd day of play
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!” Of course, every country has got its stock footie-phrases – football isn’t a complicated game, after all. One of the classics in every language is: “Either we win today, or we get relegated”. Every professional footballer has heard that one at least once in his career; either that, or he has always played and will always play for a team that always wins the league cup – but there aren’t many players with that kind of luck. That makes the danger of dropping down a division a permanent – and exciting – part of professional football; the fear of losing is always audible in the background, like the moody music in a good thriller film. In a way, the fights at the bottom end of the league table are just as fascinating at the duels at the top.