My earliest recollection of Eintracht Frankfurt FC was during the Club’s 1960 European Cup campaign with its legendary Final against Real Madrid at Hampden Park, Glasgow in front of a crowd of over 127,000 and shown live on TV in black and white.
Picture courtesy of SMG/Press Association Images
To score first and add two more goals in such an important game would normally be enough, but to lose 7-3, in what is regarded as one of the greatest ever games, attracted my sympathy as a supporter of Latics, a Club with a history of inconsistency and many a ‘nearly’ story.
Members of the SGE Bockenheim and Rhönadler supporters’ groups of Eintracht Frankfurt FC met some Oldham Athletic supporters during an international fan club football tournament in Paris over 30 years ago. They camped by the River Seine and not only did the two teams share food, drinks and songs, they also met in the Final. I am assured that Latics supporters would have won if a player had been alert enough to follow-up when the ball stuck in the mud, thereby avoiding a penalty shoot-out, which the Germans won – no surprise there! One of the Latics supporters won the player of the tournament prize of a large bottle of Pernod, which was shared by both teams. They formed a friendship which has stood the test of time, and since 1982 supporters of both Clubs have continued to visit each other to attend games, social events and World Cups.
One of the founder members of this friendship link was lifelong Latics supporter and part-time Club Scout Colin Shaw. In April 2006, Col died of a heart attack aged 49, at Stansted Airport on his way to meet his friends and to see Eintracht Frankfurt play in the German Cup Final. The continuation of the friendship is a testament to Col’s memory.
Margaret and I first met our German friends in 1998 when they joined us in a pub, which Bernhard remembered was named the Black Horse, in Newport, South Wales, before attending the F.A. Cup-tie between Cardiff City and Latics at Ninian Park. Their impressive display of male tattoos and their insistence on standing topless during the game, with its four seasons’ weather including a mini-tornado during half-time, endeared them to us. ‘Eintracht’ is German for ‘harmony’ and traditional Latics songs sung in English and German harmony certainly puts the Eurovision Song Contest in the shade.
While in Newport our visitors distributed scarfs commemorating the link between the two Clubs and I was one of the lucky recipients.
Some years later, a couple of Latics supporters, who had each received a scarf, swapped one of them for a Shamrock Rovers’ supporter’s shirt, as part of the Latics/Hoops link which started in the Isle of Man in 1997.
Over the years we had met up with our German friends at Boundary Park, Anfield, Goodison Park and various social events in Oldham.
Now we were to realise the ambition of meeting them on their home turf. We were even foregoing a second round F.A. Cup tie at Boundary Park, for this weekend away incorporating a Bundesliga game against TSG Hoffenheim. Our Eintracht friends were already hoping for Latics to face Liverpool again following Sunday’s F.A. Cup draw, but Mansfield had to be beaten first. Thoughts were also straying to the more realistic possibility of a Wembley appearance in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final if Chesterfield and Fleetwood/Rotherham could be overcome.
Up long before the crack of dawn on the Friday morning, a party of 23 Latics supporters flew from Manchester and we flew from Birmingham. We all met up in the Arrivals hall bar, where our host Bernhard greeted everyone. He proved to be an organisational meister, with immense patience, to be tested to the limits in the next few days. The only disappointment of the trip was experienced here when there was no pilsner available in the airport bar - the loss was more than compensated for over the next few days!
After travelling into the city, we dropped off the bags at the hotel, being unable to check-in until after 3:00pm. The time was filled first in Bockenheim’s Doctor Flotte pub, where it was like going back in time, particularly with smoking being permitted. A few of the long-serving members of our group took time out to visit their friend Clemence, who was unable to leave his apartment due to serious illness. It was good to hear the next day that Clemence was still feeling better for their visit.
Then a short train ride took us to the Christmas Market. We had visited previously the Frankfurt Christmas Markets in Birmingham and Manchester, the latter having been visited coincidentally by Latics’ management and players, shortly before we left home.
Picture courtesy of Oldham Chronicle
This was the real thing, which dated back to 1393. The elaborate and creative stand decorations, the picturesque surroundings of the Römerberg and Paulsplatz and the huge Christmas tree created a wonderful atmosphere.
The air was filled with the scent of baked apples, chestnuts, gingerbread and Bethmännchen, Frankfurt’s popular marzipan delight, as we warmed ourselves with a cup of the famous Applewine, served piping hot. Not forgetting the bratwurst, stollen, glühwein and giant glasses of beer - wunderbar!
Friday evening saw a get-together with our Eintracht friends in the Fox and Hound pub. The management had reserved tables for us, but by this time we were running about three hours late and Bernhard’s phone was red hot with calls from his wife Judith, who had been waiting there since 2:00pm with their younger daughter and friends from the SGE Bockenheim Eintracht supporters’ group.
Here we met Klaus and Mischu, two of the original friendship-formers from way back in 1982, and we were joined by Members of the SGE Rhönadler Eintracht supporters’ group. A great evening was helped along with a ‘virtual juke box’ (a young lady dialling-up requested tunes on her laptop for 50c each). The pub resounded to a sing-along, ranging from ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ to Dead Kennedy’s ‘California Über Alles’ and Nena’s ‘99 Luftballons’. There was also what proved to be the first of several renditions of the Eintracht Club anthem.
Video link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322591335/in/set-72157638575421523
Saturday was match-day, but first there was a visit to the Farmers’ Market, with its colourful array of produce and many stands selling grilled foods, delicious cakes and hot drinks of all kinds.
The street entertainment was certainly different to what might be seen on the way to ‘Ice Station Zebra’.
The match ticket included free rail/tram travel all day. We headed to the stadium via the S-train early and outside the Stadion station is the fans’ pub where memorabilia from Latics and other clubs is displayed.
The stadium is situated in a forest about 5 km to the south of the city and, after walking down a woodland track, we arrived at the parking area, where we met many other supporters sampling the refreshment at the ‘beer stand’ (the boot of Klaus’ car).
The underside of what was a grey concrete bridge has been turned into a colourful spectacle thanks to the Frankfurt fan project and the Ultras, in collaboration with artist friends.
The Commerzbank-Arena is still known by its former name of the Waldstadion. With its steel-cable inner roof (incorporating a suspended video-screen cube) and retractable outer one, the capacity is 51,500, including 9,300 standing home fans filling the Kurve West immediately behind the goal and seated tiers above. There was a free Eintracht Santa hat on every seat. Away fans are also given standing room.
The Club now has over 650 official fan clubs with around 17,000 members world-wide. A big part of the Eintracht fan-base is represented by the ‘Ultras Frankfurt’ group founded in 1997. About 600 members (one of the largest organisations of its kind in Germany) play a major part in creating impressive colourful and elaborate displays ahead of and during games. Elliot, our group’s youngest member, was invited to join the Ultras for an experience he’ll never forget.
Video link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322863243/in/set-72157638575421523
This got me thinking…should Chaddy the Owl be replaced by a real one?
Eintracht had not won a home league game all season, but over 40,000 supporters turned up and there were high hopes that good luck had been brought from Oldham. Those hopes proved to be misplaced, as Hoffenheim received early Christmas gifts from the home defenders, even though they squandered most of them. After a goalless first half, the visitors took the lead through Sven Schipplock in the 46th minute, but optimistic noises were made when the equaliser arrived from Joselu two minutes later, even though the ball had gone out of play before being pulled back to him. However, gift-wrapped opportunities continued to be presented at the other end and Firmino must have said "danke schön" as he scored what proved to be the winner in the 51st minute. If only the visitors’ finishing had been better, they could have won by three or four more goals.
Match video highlights: http://www.goalsarena.org/video/germany-bundesliga/07-12-2013-eintracht-frankfurt-hoffenheim_en.html
It’s traditional for the Eintracht players to go to face the Ultras’ end of the stadium after each game, and on this occasion they were left in no doubt that their performance was unsatisfactory, as verbal abuse was hurled at them.
We had been kept up to date via text message with events at Boundary Park, where the game kicked-off 30 minutes after ours. Early hopes of a victory were dashed when Mansfield equalised, but at least Latics would be in the third round F.A. Cup draw on Sunday.
We tried to lift our hosts’ spirits following their team’s woeful performance, and the appearance of an extrovert Brighton fan and his friends was just what was needed to bring smiles to all our faces.
After sampling the post-match food and drink outside the stadium, we headed back into the city by train and sampled more food and drink in the Christmas Market. Then on the way to a pub with Bernhard and Judith, we discovered one of Frankfurt’s hidden gems – the Liebfrauenkirche Kapuzinerkloster Lourdes-Grotto with votive candles lit for special intentions, which proved to be the weekend’s most poignant moment.
The Opera House, which was featured in the design for this year’s glühwein mugs, looked impressive as we went for the train back to our Bockenhem hotel.
On the Sunday the train took us to the Baroque city of Fulda in Hessen, with its Christmas Market. We were grateful to Judith and Bernhard for providing us with the special Christmas beer and food nibbles on the train. In Fulda our host Stefan met us to transport our luggage to the hotel in his van.
During the afternoon, a text message revealed that our hosts’ prayers to see Latics play at Liverpool in the F.A. Cup might be ansewered if the replay is won.
From Fulda a taxi ride to Steinau in Petersberg took us to Stefan’s hotel, where we were all accommodated overnight. A friendship party with food and live music had been arranged in his Irish pub and this was a wonderful evening of drinking, singing and dancing.
Judith, Margaret and Bernhard
Video links: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322671876/in/set-72157638575421523
The rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ was memorable and it looks like there will forever be a little corner of the pub dedicated to Pete and John, the ‘Wild Boys’.
Margaret’s helium-filled ‘Yard Dog’ (two-legged version), which she carried around most of Frankfurt, has found a good home among Stefan’s Latics souvenirs.
Video link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/11322720826/in/set-72157638575421523
For the first time ever, Stefan’s Irish pub was drunk dry, but by 7:30am the brewery had replenished his stocks.
The aforementioned friendship link with Shamrock Rovers has taken us around Europe on a great adventure with the Hoops. Eintracht Frankfurt took an amazing 12,000 supporters to Bordeaux, all dressed in special orange-coloured outfits.
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqsEKRpEH9E
A 1-0 victory qualified the Club for the group stage of the Europa League, and we’re hoping this may lead to us enjoying a similar adventure following Die Adler (the Eagles) over land and sea.
Monday saw us heading back to Fulda for drinks in the Felsenkeller pub attached to a brewery, hosted by Hans-Udo, before returning to Frankfurt by train.
There were some weary travellers on the flights home and it was back to reality on Tuesday night when Latics took the lead and then lost to Chesterfield in a penalty shoot-out ending one of this season’s Wembley dreams.
Now we look forward to meeting up with our friends again when they return later this month to watch Latics in the away games against Sheffield United and Coventry City………… and possibly Liverpool next month.
Design courtesy of GuyGermanLatic
Heartfelt thanks are extended to our hosts for all the gifts and for the hospitality, kindness and friendship shown to us.
More pictures available on my flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diego_sideburns/sets/72157638575421523/