Werder Bremen v Eintracht Frankfurt: Bundesliga
Saturday 14th May
This game was a winner-takes-all relegation battle. The winner was guaranteed Bundesliga survival. The loser, a place in the playoff against Nuremberg, or worse. For Werder Bremen fans, this victory was their reward for their loyalty in the face of their team’s stuttering and inconsistent season and they celebrated it as though it was the league title itself.
I had already booked my travel to Hamburg, via Bremen, to go and see St Pauli on the Sunday before I considered going to this game. It seemed that it might be important, and it fitted nicely into my travel plans, so I ordered a ticket and made this ‘part 1’ of a weekend double-header. Just how important this match would turn out to be would become apparent over the coming weeks.
In the matches before this match, Bremen had won 6-2 at home to VfB Stuttgart and picked up a point in Koln with their first clean sheet of the season. Frankfurt had won three matches in a row, including an away derby victory in Darmstadt and an impressive home victory over Dortmund. The Kovac brothers have picked up some decent results since taking over at Eintracht since Armin Veh’s departure back in March.
Add to the mix Hoffenheim’s rebirth since Julian Nagelsmann took over from Huub Stevens and Stuttgart’s sudden capitulation, and the only constant down near the bottom of the league this season has been the inadequacy of Hannover.
Trains for this weekend were more expensive than usual, even booking well in advance, so it was either risking the night bus or paying a fortune for the train. The lucky recipients of my money were Flixbus (https://www.flixbus.de) – a new experience for me – and they took 21€ for my passage to Bremen from Brussels. That’s about a Euro for every minute of sleep achieved!
The bus left from Gare du Midi at 0115. It’s not the most pleasant area to pass time during the day so lurking with the pimps, crims and homeless was not unexpected at that time of night. Of course, since the security clampdown, just about every (legal) facility in the area is shut down at that time of night. I managed to look efficient and get on the bus quickly. I had hoped Brussels would be the origin of the bus but, alas, it had started out in Paris so was already two-thirds full by the time of my ascension. Although I found a double seat to myself, the aisle chair was populated seconds thereafter and the gentleman in the seat in front, who smelled of last night’s ashtrays, decided to recline. I was cramped in, whilst nursing sciatic nerve pain from a herniated disc and a recently impacted patella, and incredibly grumpy and tired.
Arrival at Bremen Hauptbahnhof couldn’t have come any sooner. I quickly found a toilet, got some sugary things from the Kamps bäckstube and a strong coffee before leaving my bag in the left luggage lockers. It felt good to be off of that bus.
Tickets and Accommodation
For just 14€ plus delivery, I was able to get a ticket in section 2a+4, which translates as the Ostkurve. Tickets can be bought from the club at http://www.werder.de/tickets/heimspiele/. When the ticket arrived, I do remember thinking ‘Why is it so long?’ I was staying in Hamburg that night in the Ibis City hotel; not because there’s nothing to see or do in Bremen I might add but because of the match the next day.
Knowing that I wouldn’t have a huge amount of time to be touristy, I decided to just stroll around the centre of Bremen in the morning, get some lunch by midday and then walk out to the stadium. Leaving the train station, crossing the wide road and strolling past the ubiquitous Irish pub and associated doorway dwellers, it takes around ten minutes before you reach the old town. After strolling around Böttcherstrasse, the area around the Markt, the Rathaus and the Schnoor, it was time to recharge my batteries with a draught Beck’s from the Beck’s café in the Bremen Markt. Whilst enjoying this beer outside, it hadn’t escaped my notice that the day seemed to be getting colder and the sky, greyer.
I had a sausage platter and a weissbier in the Hofbrauhaus before walking down to the river, via the Schnoor, for the walk to the stadium. You can spot it in the distance almost immediately. It is worthy of note that the Werder flag was flying from just about every landmark, balcony and shop window in Bremen. This is a one-club city and the unity and support was unanimous and, for a visitor, actually quite up-lifting.
The stadium is situated about 20-30 minutes walk away from the centre of Bremen and the station and the stroll along the river is very pleasant. There are vendors of bog-standard beer sprinkled along the route, incase you get thirsty, as well as some Trolley Trolls looking for your empty bottles to refund – it’s like a codependent deregulated industry in itself.
As I approached the stadium, I was aghast to hear a Bremen fan bar playing what sounded like ‘Three Lions’, by the Shitening Seeds. It turns out that Werder have adopted this as a fan song, with German lyrics of course. This, along with the adaptations of ‘Daydream Believer’ and, of course, ‘WunderWand’ by die Oase.
I absolutely love the look of this stadium from the outside. It was renovated between 2008 and 2011, removing the running track and adding the photovoltaic panels over the exterior chassis in a shape that looks like an upside-down dog bowl. Sci-fi writers from the 1950’s would recognise this as some kind of Alien Mothership.
The area immediately outside the ground comprises of a decent selection of snacks and drinks, although the further east you go, the less you can buy without a Werder Card. Yes, those bloody pre-paid efforts that you can only charge up with a round number of euros, thereby limiting, or dictating, your purchases to around that amount. As I’ve ranted before, these initiatives are fine for season-ticket holders but for the occasional fan, it’s an acutely neuralgic rectum.
Anyway, fresh with my beer, I sauntered over to the Ostkurve area, where there is a small fan area, with a barn-type structure for when it rains. There’s also a banking which the fans gathered on for a sing-song pre-match. It made for an exciting and enjoyable pre-match atmosphere. The club shop was very busy and there was a promotion on the ‘This is Osterdeich’ T-Shirts for under 10€. Given my lack of club colours, and the fact I was going to be on the Ostkurve, I felt that one of these T-shirts would provide an extra layer to keep out the chill and, coupled with a scarf, I’d blend in, for not much financial outlay.
Going into the stadium was easy. An electronic scan, up a few stairs before a quick pat-down, and I was in the food and drink area at the Ostkurve. The selection was reasonably good although there was one very long queue. And no, it wasn’t for the toilets. The one girl responsible for loading money onto these Werder cards was undoubtedly the rate-limiting step in the club’s match day takings for food and beverages. So I queued for one of these and was willing to spend 14€ as I saw this would get me two beers, a Bratwurst and a Pretzel (over 90 minutes). However, I got to the front and was told I could only load 10 or 15. As the only other cash I had was a 50€ note, and I didn’t trust my German enough to tell her to take ‘funfzehn and not funfzig’, I loaded a tenner on and it was one beer, a bratwurst and a pretzel.
In a way, that may not have been a bad thing because once your onto the fankurve, you’re going to struggle to get out and you’re certainly not getting your place back without a large friend to look after it for you.
Given the space-age nature of the outside of the stadium, the inside is a bit conventional and underwhelming. It’s good, but at the same time, fairly regular. It does, however, possess some top quality oldskool floodlights. Interestingly, the corporate boxes are at the top of the stadium and not in a little mid-height ring between tiers, as has become more of the norm.
Werder Bremen V Eintracht Frankfurt
The match, in isolation, was a fairly one-paced and repetitive event. Werder Bremen completely dominated possession and Eintracht were happy to let them. They had clearly come for the draw that would ensure their safety. For Werder, a draw would guarantee a relegation playoff place and a defeat, if Stuttgart won, would have resulted in automatic relegation. The circumstances, therefore, really did dictate the pattern of play.
Werder continued to make nearly all the play. Eintracht counters were generally well-read and intercepted by Vestergaard, who was colossal and kept the wayward Djilobodji in check. Werder struggled to find any penetration and Eggestein, Oztunali and Junuzovic were providing Pizarro with scraps. The build up, while controlled, was painfully slow and Frankfurt were executing their game plan well.
This general pattern continued for most of the match. Occasionally Wiedwald had to be wakened up by the occasional Frankfurt foray upfield and, for all Werder’s possession, Hradecky in the Frankfurt goal wasn’t actually all that busy. Clemens Fritz demonstrated an excellent passing range throughout the game but Werder’s wide men were unable to create.
Then, finally, on 87 minutes, the breakthrough came. Werder had forced a number of corners throughout the match and with two giant centre backs and Ujah now on the pitch, a good cross had to spell danger. While the goal was messy, it went in. In the stadium, Utah was credited as having scored but it was subsequently, post-match, attributed to the modern-day Carlton Palmer that is Papy Djilobodji. The goal-celebrations went on for what seemed like an eternity and Frankfurt’s players had a hollow, empty look about them.
Werder held on for the remainder of the match provoking mass celebrations, before the net at the Ostkurve that holds the fans in was ripped and a deluge of delirious supporters poured onto the pitch to celebrate. From my personal memory bank, the only similar thing I can remember is when Anderlecht won the title on the last day in 2014. This wasn’t a title win but to Werder’s fans, it felt like it. The Green White Wonderwall had, just, kept Bremen in the league. Bremen’s fans, while not the most vociferously vocal in the kurve, were supportive from all four stands, all 42000 fans, and not just from the cheap seats. It made for an interesting and excellent atmosphere. I would say that they’ll need to improve for next season or the same fate, or worse, may befall Bremen as their over-reliance on the ageing Pizarro is very apparent.
Now I left before most fans but I was still in the stadium at least 25 minutes after the final whistle and fans started to trickle out thereafter. I’d say about half of the stadium had spilled onto the pitch. Because they could. And why not? They had just saved their season. It says something about the closeness at the bottom of the league that Bremen finished the day in 13th position after starting in 16th. As for Frankfurt, if you’d said to them at the start of March that they’d finish 16th, I think they might have taken their chances. It’s going to be a big week for them in the playoff.
On the way back from the stadium to the station, the police had blocked off the riverside road so the fans walked down a busy shopping street, with trams, instead. One fan stopped me and asked me if he could buy my T-Shirt and how much I wanted. I thought for a second and said, ‘Well, I paid 15 euros for it, so you can have it for that.’ He handed over the money and I took off my T-shirt, which I had essentially hired for the match at a 5€ profit. The only other time anything like that has happened was when a cheeky Moroccan offered to give me his flag for my kilt after Morocco had just pumped Scotland 3-0 in St Etienne in the 1998 World Cup. That time, I refused.
There was drunken delirium in the streets of Bremen – it really meant a lot to people. I got the feeling the police would have a busy night and, while I was partially disappointed at not staying in Bremen to share the celebrations, I was so tired that all I could think about was falling asleep in my hotel bed.
- Quality of match: ***
- Stadium character: *****
- Stadium atmosphere: ****
- Hospitality: ***
- Ease of access: ****
- Things to do around the stadium: ****
- Overall: ****.5
Conclusion: A weirdly wonderful stadium, pleasant town and supportive fans make this a great day out. The importance of the game undoubtedly heightened everything.