Lok Leipzig - A phoenix from the ashes. A place where, “Tradition can’t be bought!”
1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig v VfL Halle 96
30. Spieltag, NOFV-Oberliga Süd 29 May 2011
Thirteen clubs had been seen in their natural habitat which left us with just one more to go to complete our journey through the last ever DDR Oberliga season and there was some kind of symmetry as we were off to Leipzig to see Lokomotive play. The same Lokomotiv, we are sure you will recall, that we visited on that flood affected day back in August. After the raging success of our trip to Frankfurt a couple of months back we had WAGs (WAGs = wives, girlfriends/boyfriends, general free-loaders) clamouring for more. So, we were expecting company.
A less frantic than usual bicycle ride through the forest had Stinzi, Jonners and the Badger at Wannsee station in plenty of time but, unfortunately, our WAGS were not so punctual. Peter, he of the lost luggage fame, arrived and Laurel made it in plenty of time so we had the prerequisite ‘fab five’. But Brer Jeff and Yvonne were also expected to join us plus Jay and Squirrel Chris+1 had stated their intentions to join us. Time was ticking so Badger rang Squirrel only to get his girlfriend who informed us that the nocturnal one was still in bed so he and his mate were out. Jay wasn’t answering his phone but we assumed he was coming so Darren turned to his phone to calculator to see what tickets we needed. The cheapest ticket option; yes, ladies and gentlemen…that overrode comfort and speed again, needed five people to a ticket so we bought two of those and went to the platform to meet Brer Jeff, Yvonne and Jay. As one train arrived with no Jay we eagerly anticipated the arrival of Brer Jeff…not just because we love his company but we would have wasted our money without him. Brer Jeff duly arrived about two minutes before we were due to depart but minus Yvonne. Fortunately, Brer Jeff had gotten an earlier train just to be sure to get here, mistakenly thinking we were meeting at 9:15 not departing then.
So all was well as we started our final journey. Indecision, caused by Stinzi procrastinating, cost us a comfortable seat next to the toilet but being the martyr-type he then sat on the stairs while Badger stood and the others enjoyed the not-as-soft-as-the-intercity-train seats. The Badger did what he does best and pulled out the snacks but poor packing had meant that the chocolate and marshmallow ‘Top Hats’ (that look more like nipples) were packed too closely to the hot sausage rolls and resulted in a marshmallow, maltesers and chocolate gunge. Poor, poor show and a culinary disaster. After a fraction of a seconds deliberation Badger declared them good, started tucking in and was reminded to pass them around. Stinzi cursed his forgetful nature and hoped that Jonners might have remembered to bring some sliced cheese for Badger. Earlier in the year, you see, Badger had eagerly exclaimed that he had come up with a fabulous culinary discovery. Putting a slice of cheese on a boulette, he explained, was something special and we should market it. “Funny that,” commented Jonners at the time. “McDonalds call it a cheeseburger!” We have not let him forget it and had planned to make his dreams come true today.
Beer often follows, or accompanies, breakfast on these trips and Darren wondered aloud if it was indeed that time already. Brer Jeff put a bid in for stupid question of the day by asking Stinzi if he was drinking today and got the reply he had been thirsting for. As Jonners and Brer Jeff both won Badger’s Spoilsport Award by bringing bottle openers and robbing him of the search for a flat surface in the toilets Stinzi wondered whether 9:34am was the earliest we had started drinking on any of these trips. Brer Jeff reckoned he had started drinking a lot earlier than this, especially when he had a fridge in the bedroom in the days before Yvonne’s redecorating. We toasted Yvonne in her absence and inquired as to her whereabouts. “She’s still in bed,” explained Brer Jeff. “Hopefully not with Squirrel and Jay though.” As 10:000am ticked over, Peter declared that it was late enough for him to prove he doesn’t have a drinking problem and he reached for a beer. We started to think about our end of season dinner but nothing could be agreed upon past the fact that it must be done and done before the summer holidays begin in a few weeks time.
Whilst Peter was keen to prove he is free of a drinking problem, Badger unfortunately fell victim to the shaky train while answering the call of nature and returned with an embarrassing wet spot he claimed came from the tap. This only encouraged further scorn and Brer Jeff proposed the theory that the chances of post-urinal dribble are directly related to the colour of your trousers. He then went to answer the call himself and was labelled a ‘show-off’ by Jonners when he returned with splash marks on his shoulder. Brer Jeff claimed that the toilet wasn’t too bad, a claim that was ridiculed by Badger and we wondered what kind of state a public loo has to be in for it to smell better after Badger uses it.
Talk soon turned to football and the woes of Babelsberg03, who seem to following Sachsen Leipzig into finance-induced ruin. However, since our trip Babelsberg have met the financial requirements necessary to retain their licence and place in the 3.Liga. Hurrah!
On a brighter note, Badger and Jonners had enjoyed a good day out at Stahl Brandenburg and while the standard of football wasn’t brilliant at the end of the game it was announced that everyone was entitled to free beer. As one official wryly noted, “That’s why there are so many people here, today!”
The Champions League Final, of course, was debated. We were in general agreement that it was one hell of a Barcelona side that won it. The way they control possession and territory is astounding and how hard they work is beyond belief. Sure, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and Co. have an awful lot of skill but the fact that they just never stop must be suffocating to play against. There is no such thing as an easy pass against them and as for attempting to stop them pass the ball, just ask Manchester United how much fun that is. Jonners’ interesting stat for the day (via a kindly gentleman on twitter) was that if Ryan Giggs’ wife divorces him and gets half his league medals, she will have still have a bunch more than Steven Gerrard. We wondered if you took away the Manchester United team, and possibly Chelsea, if she would have more than most of the premiership players put together?!
Unfortunately, during the week Turbine Potsdam lost their Champions League Final, unable to obtain back-to-back wins. An unnamed member of the group (not, we might add, Andy Gray) took us back in time by declaring that the biggest revelation for him this season has been watching Turbine and discovering that, “Women can play football”. As we passed a train station advertising the approaching ‘Männertag’, or ‘Herrentag’ as it is known in our neck of the woods, we started discussing our options for one of our favourite days of the year. In a slight stretch on the traditional Father’s Day, instead of spending time with their loved ones at home, men gather in groups to spend the day at one with nature and at one with a large amount of beer. Wandering around in the woods with a wagon full of beer or cycling from place to place to enjoy that same refreshment is the most common form of celebration and we are planning a cycle around the Wannsee area. Stinzi’s wife has wisely opted to take their daughter and spend not just the day but the weekend at her mother’s leaving him to wallow alone in his own filth.
As we approached Roßlau station,Badger got a bit of a rough time when the Astra beer he bought for Laurel was judged to be less that brilliant but only voted the second worst gift of all time. Unanimous winner was any variation on the ‘My sister/brother/dad went to London/New York/Berlin and all I got was this stupid T-shirt’ T-shirt. It led to Jonners sharing the best T-shirt he has ever seen, a very buxom young lady wearing one that had ‘I wish these were brains’ emblazoned on the front. Another unanimous verdict of crapness was bestowed on the ‘Baby on Board’ signs in cars - OK, I will go and deliberately crash into someone else, then.
While we waited on the platform for our connecting train, a fox provided us with fleeting company as Badger started to do the toilet dance. This is always amusing for an onlooker and somehow led us into a discussion on the painfulness of getting a knock in the knackers. Brer Jeff and Stinzi agreed that a glancing blow is, actually, worse than a full on kick in that region but when a test was offered in the form of Laurel’s right foot followed by, after a period of recovery, a glancing flick with a right index finger they assured everyone that their word should simply be trusted instead.
Once the train arrived and Badger dashed for relief and we settled into a rather uneventful second leg of the journey. Stinzi reckoned that the recent rally in Melbourne which was to publicise the message that a woman is entitled to dress any way that she wants and not be subjected to sexual assault because she is wearing revealing clothing was strangely named. We all agreed that the message is a very good one but calling the rally a ‘Slutwalk’ seemed a bit odd to Stinzi and it was difficult to argue. We guess there is a good reason for calling it that and have since discovered that these marches have taken place in a number of cities across the world and we hope the message is heard.
After grabbing a beer at Leipzig station and finding a cash machine to fund the rest of the day, we headed out to find the tram to the ground. There were quite a lot of Lokomotive fans around, far more then on that first doomed trip, so we assumed no natural disasters had called too many police away and everyone was in good spirits. Badger complained again about being misrepresented in the blog and Jonners rebuffed him by exclaiming that while we do have the odd reader, “There is unlikely to be an uprising in Aberdeen over it.”
Brer Jeff’s hat was well received and after explaining that he got it at a tourist shop in Berlin, Laurel helpfully pointed out that it had Berlin written all over it and, in all seriousness, “Did you realize that?” This was taken as further evidence that she and Badger are indeed a very good match. After Badger declared that he wanted an Aussie bush hat, Stinzi bemoaned the fact that he had given his one away when leaving Tanzania a few years ago and had not replaced it. Upon questioning he revealed that he had given it to a mate because his mate complimented him on it and he was feeling generous. “Thank God he didn’t compliment your wife,” was Jonners’ sardonic response.
Against all the odds and all precedents from the season so far, we refrained from going from tram to pub and we followed the crowd through a park towards the stadium. Once tickets were procured and entrance gained we headed for the three usual targets and, very conveniently, the fan artikels, beer and food were all just a matter of metres apart. Badger wanted a scarf and like a true Scotsman got someone else to buy it for him. The wimples and pins were not the greatest on offer but we headed to the terraces in high spirits.
Lokomotive Leipzig, a club with tradition (courtesy of wikipedia): The club was formed on 26 May 1896 out of the football department of gymnastics club Allgemeine Turnverein 1845 Leipzig. However, they lay claim to an earlier date of origin by reaching back to a club that was incorporated into VfB in 1898 – Sport Club Sportbrüder Leipzig – which was one of four football clubs formed in Leipzig in 1893. The union lasted until 2 May 1900 when the two sides went their separate ways again. VfB Leipzig was one of the original eighty-six teams that came together in the city in 1900 to form the German Football Association. They were immediately successful at their chosen sport and made their way to the first German national championship final held in 1903.
In the aftermath of the war the club was dissolved by the occupying Allied authorities, like most other organizations in Germany, including sports and football clubs. Club members reconstituted the team in 1946 as SG Probstheida under the auspices of the occupying Soviets. After playing as BSG Erich Zeigner Probstheida and then BSG Einheit Ost, the club merged with SC Rotation Leipzig in 1954 and played in the DDR-Oberliga, East Germany's top flight league, but earned only mediocre results. In 1963 Leipzig's two most important clubs – SC Rotation and SC Lokomotive Leipzig – were put together resulting in two new sides being founded – SC Leipzig and BSG Chemie Leipzig (our very own Sachsen Leipzig – see earlier blog entry). Playing as Lokomotive, the club’s fortunes improved somewhat as they almost always finished well up the league table, but they were unable to capture the top honour in the DDR with losing final appearances in 1967, 1986, and 1988.
Lok earned a clutch of East German Cups with victories in 1976, 1981, 1986 and 1987 against failed appearances in the Cup final in 1970, 1973 and 1977. They also won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1966 and made an appearance in the 1987 final of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup falling 0:1 to Johan Cruijff's Ajax Amsterdam after a Marco Van Basten goal.
Re-unification in 1990 was followed by the merger of the football leagues of the two Germanys. A poor season led to a seventh place finish in the transitional league, but an unexpectedly strong play-off propelled the club into the 2. Bundesliga.
1. FC Lokomotive made a grasp at their former glory by re-claiming the name VfB Leipzig. A third place finish in 1993 advanced the team to the top flight Bundesliga where they finished dead-last in the 1994 season. The new VfB began a steady slide down through the 2. Bundesliga into the Regionalliga Nordost (III) by 1998 and then further still to the Oberliga Nordost/Süd (IV) by 2001. They were bankrupted in 2004, their results were annulled and the club was dissolved.
In 2004, the club was re-established by a group of fans as 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig. The renewed side had to start in the lowest league eleventh-tier 3. Kreisklasse, Staffel 2 in 2004–05. Even so, they continued to receive solidly enthusiastic fan support: their game against Eintracht Großdeuben’s second team in the Leipzig Zentralstadion on 9 October 2004 broke the world record for lower-league attendance with an astounding 12,421 spectators in the stands. Thanks to a merger with SSV Torgau, the club could play in the seventh-tier Bezirksklasse Leipzig, Staffel 2 in 2005–06. Finishing this league as champion, the team qualified for the sixth-tier Bezirksliga. In 2006 Lok Leipzig qualified for the Landespokal 2006–07 by winning the Bezirkspokal. Lokomotive Leipzig finished as champions of their group and promoted to fifth-tier Landesliga Sachsen Group for 2007–08 season. The club finished 2nd and missed out on direct promotion to NOFV-Oberliga Süd by 2 points in 2007–08 season. It still had the chance to regain Oberliga status through a relegation play-off with FC Schönberg 95, winning game one 2–1 at Schönberg. In the return leg, in front of almost 10,000 spectators, the club lost 0–1 but still gained Oberliga promotion on the away-goal rule. Lokomotive Leipzig finished Oberliga as 3rd in 2008–09, as 12th in the 2009–10 and as 8th in the 2010-11 seasons
The stadium, like so many others we have seen this year has certainly seen better days but is not in bad condition at all. The bright yellow and blue paintwork on the grandstand gives it the look of an IKEA store but with the exception of one section the terraces look well maintained if not all open. The pitch looked reasonable and the customary gravel running track was there, of course. As Jonners said, “It will be nice when it’s finished”. Brer Jeff’s response of, “It was nice when it was finished,” was probably more accurate.
Most of the crowd were to be found along either touchline and as the Halle side was announced fans competed between shouts of “fussballgott” or “arschloch” depending on which team you were supporting. The home fans then began shouting, “absteiger!” at the Halle fans and after a quick check on Badger’s sexy iPhone we realized that the visitors could actually get relegated if they lost today. So this wasn’t the meaningless game we thought and we were excited by the prospect of another pitch invasion at the end of the game if Halle confirmed their safety. The pre-match music featured such football ground favourites as Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”, some Queen and even a rendition of “Highway to Hell”. It inspired Badger to comment that it reminded him a bit of Ibrox, “…Just without the sectarianism”. We were surprised that he would have experienced that as we didn’t realize that Aberdeen inspired that kind of treatment from the Rangers faithful.
The stadium was filling up a bit and the home fans were finding their voice, chanting to each other across the pitch. We were listening out for some original chants but were a bit disappointed so Brer Jeff tried to get us to join him in his favourite chant from Wigan which goes, “Meat pie, sausage roll, come on Wigan, give us a goal!” We did chuckle but thought we didn’t need to make a spectacle of ourselves but Stinzi was happy to give the old Tottenham, “Nice one, Cyril” chant an outing if someone scored. Thankfully, after twenty minutes we hadn’t seen an opener and Stinzi forgot all about it. One figures he would have been on his own, anyway.
On twenty-five minutes Halle grabbed the opener and the scorer raced over to the away fans, climbed up onto the fence and really gave it some. Yes indeed, this game certainly meant something alright. The home fans were getting restless and a little unhappy with some of the refereeing and when a Halle player went down a touch easily and was given a serve by the crowd Laurel was moved to comment, “Get up, even my six year old could handle that!”
Ten minutes after conceding, Lokomotive got themselves an equalizer and what a goal it was. The scorer took the ball down about 25 yards out and lashed it first time into the top corner. An absolute screamer! It would take some beating for the Goal of the Year crown. Badger had just left to visit Mother Nature and Jonners had just remarked that seven more goals would give him 200 for the season and so the timing added that extra little something.
On half-time, a terrible back header from a Lokomotive defender dropped off the crossbar into the shocked goalkeeper’s arms which saved the home side the honour of best and worst goals of the season in a single half. Half-time brought refreshment and sunscreen was called for. When Stinzi tried to inspire the rest of the gang with that old Aussie advertising classic jingle, “Slip. Slop. Slap” he was rebuffed by Badger with the comment that, I’m Scottish – I just get burnt.” He then explained that somewhere in his family there is the suspicion that one of his ancestors had got intimate with a Spaniard off the Armada and so he was therefore safe from skin cancer. Laurel quickly added that there is a story in her family that a Spaniard was involved in some of the child production and we only then noticed a slight resemblance. Brer Jeff then started a lively incest-related discussion on the insufficient closure to the Luke Skywalker/Princess Leia kiss at the end of Star Wars.
As half-time scores from around the league were announced, Laurel displayed her understanding of everything football by asking if these were the “raffle numbers” but we can certainly forgive the mistake as some of the team names were less than immediately recognizable and loudspeaker announcements in a foreign language are never easy to understand. Brer Jeff saved her from a ribbing by announcing, in a return to discussing the state of lavatories, that the toilets here reminded him of Bolton. When Badger asked him if that was before the Reebok Stadium was built, he replied, “No, just Bolton.”
The second half commenced again and on the hour mark Lokomotive were ahead. A cracking free kick hit the crossbar and was bundled in to send the home crowd into delirium and the Halle fans into despair. Once the celebrations had subsided, Badger inexplicably spat a mouthful of beer over the guys in front of us. They turned with dirty looks on their faces but were placated when we explained that Badger was Scottish and he would never deliberately throw anything away, let alone beer, and they were satisfied that it was just an unfortunate accident and/or lack of general coordination.
As Halle searched for an equalizer to potentially save their season, the time ticked away and an incredible miss from the home side kept them in the hunt. Out of nothing, in the last seconds, a Halle attacker flicked a ball with the outside of his foot from just outside the box and in it went. Unbelievable! The Halle bench emptied and it was unrestrained joy in the form of a massive pile-up. This might well have saved them from the drop. There was barely a murmur from around us and the final whistle blew very shortly after.
We had to dash to get to the train station but as we left we saw the Halle players sitting on the ground, either waiting for the results from other games to come in or having heard that their last minute goal had not saved them. Although, Halle did finish in the relegation zone they were saved due to the untimely demise of Sachsen Leipzig who went bust and fell to last place in the Oberliga Süd pushing everyone else one place up the league. The loss of Sachsen Leipzig has caused us great stress but their story will have to be told another day.
We made the tram and got to the train station in enough time for Brer Jeff to accidentally smash a beer bottle in the bottle shop and we had to run for the train. Family duties awaiting many of us meant that it was a pretty sedate journey home. Perhaps we were all reflecting on this wonderful season that was. We’ll save those recollections for another blog post…post our end of season dinner.