(10May03) Flo was working filming this game and was able to get us press passes to catch the game for free. We arrived early with Flo so that he could setup his equipment. He gave us our passes and introduced us to the fellow who would show us to our seats, then turned us loose for a couple hours until the game started. We wandered about and had a warm Holsten. Not too tasty that one. Nedra wanted gummy bears (only German ones would do) so we looked for a store, but there were none around.
Fans started to arrive in large numbers an hour and a half early, wearing scarves, singing songs, drinking beers, arms on shoulders. The scarves are special team scarves, and many of the fans donned several scarves. Jean jackets with sewn team patches were popular too, as well as the usual team jerseys. Personally, I don’t care for the newest HSV jersey nearly so much as some of them from the recent past.
This game was an important one for both teams. HSV is in the running to qualify for the UEFA cup and possibly even the Champions league (both are international European cups), whereas Bayern Leverkusen, who last year went to the finals in the Champions league, is now in severe danger of dropping down to the second league.
Returning to the meeting spot so that we can get into the game and find our seats, we watch the team buses roll in. Flo shows up looking grim, and says that there’s been a change of plans. He pulls and envelope out of his pocket and says, “You get this guy’s tickets instead,” showing us the name. Boris Becker. He’d been in town to play his old buddy John McEnroe and was going to catch the game, but was a no-show instead. We got his VIP seats, and, thanking Flo, jaw agape, went into the stadium and sat down to some free beer and a VIP brunch. Holsten is much better cold, but still not legendary.
Our seats were on the half line, third row, right above the tunnel. Beautiful. One thing that really amazed me was that, as popular as cell phones (‘handies’) are there, I didn’t see or hear a single one the entire game.
At half time the score was 2-0 HSV (yay!), and they had been the dominant team throughout the game. We went into the building at the half, and wonder of wonders, there were several nice people waiting for us with platters of beer on them. Smiling, I took one, then hunted down a bratwurst. Life is good, and I had a helluva shit-eating grin.
The sound of the stadium was amazing. When a goal is scored, everyone jumps to their feet, singing or screaming, using noise makers and such (none of those blow horns though, a good thing). Part metallic, part roaring wind, part rainy downpour, it is so loud, and sounds both near and far at the same time, the stands are a galing sea of blue, a world apart from the golf-clap tamed world of a Blazers home game. The video screen frequently showed the scores of other games happening at the same time, and when the board showed that Munich had widened the gap on Berlin (a current contender with HSV) the crowd would explode as well.
In the 88th minute Bayern Leverkusen scored to make the game 2-1. The tension grew. It didn’t take long for HSV to return the favor with a beautiful cross buried in the net by a diving header. To seal the game, the left fullback beat the keeper in a one on one, for a 4-1 final score.
Funny thing though. The stadium was called AOL arena