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An Israeli at The Bundesliga: Not Only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

The German Bundesliga has reached winter break and it seems like the right time to write about my experience at a recent Bundesliga game. How did I get to the stadium? How was the atmosphere? All of the answers are below:

In September I had the pleasure of attending the Bundesliga game between Mainz and Hoffenheim (3:1) , and as a long time Bundesliga fan, any Bundesliga game is worth seeing and is sure to be an amazing experience.

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Hoffenheim pyro-Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

On paper Hoffenheim were the better team with players like Kevin Kuryani and Kevin Volland in their squad, but this game 23 year old Turkish International Yunus Mallı stole the show with a wonderful hat trick, including an exquisite shot from outside the box.

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Mainz players before Kick off-Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

The game opened Match Day 5 and as the teams stepped onto the pitch they were wearing t-shirts saying “Refugees Welcome” as the match day was dedicated to the refugees who came to seek refuge from the atrocities occurring in their countries. Interestingly enough on my way to the stadium I noticed a large amount of Arab speakers; these were refugees from the city of Mainz invited by the team to the game against Hoffenheim.

Transportation to and from Stadium

In Germany, like in Austria and Switzerland, public transport to and from stadiums is encouraged. Firstly public transport is available in these countries seven days a week, unlike in Israel.

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Standing ovation for Malli substitution-Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Secondly the public responds positively to the call to get to the stadium with public transport and additionally the transport is free of charge. In fact, many of the local transport companies in these countries are also sponsors of the teams. When thinking about the transport in Israel for games let’s look at Sammy Ofer Satdium in Haifa. In theory the train ride to Sammy Ofer stadium should be free of charge for all football fans, in return for sponsorship adverts in the stadium, like in Germany, as long as the game is played after the Sabbath (when games are played on Saturday spectators of big teams or the National Team are able to reach the stadium with Fan Zone, but you still need a means of transportation to get to the bus stations where there tour buses pick you up). Food for thought for the Israel Football Association, and the Israeli Professional Football League.

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Malli talking to TV after match-Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Most fans in Mainz took the bus from the main train station (Haptbanhof) in the city, where a long line of shuttle buses was waiting to take fans to the stadium, and take them back at the end of the game. The distance from the train station to the stadium is 4.5km. Once the fans got off the shuttle buses, both Mainz and Hoffenheim supporters mixed together for the short walk to the stadium.

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Harald Strutz Mainz President-Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Atmosphere:

29,000 fans filled the “Coface Arena” and made their presence clear in their support for the host team. Hoffenheim fans were able to bring in some flares and firecrackers to spice up the atmosphere but no crowd trouble occurred during the match and the climate was calm. On the pitch a balanced match was took place. Hoffenheim took an early lead, but Yunus Mallı changed the outcome with a hat trick, his first in professional football and took the match ball home. Without doubt Malli will move from Mainz to a bigger team, like other players and managers who started their careers with the club (Managers: Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, Players: Andre Schurrle, Lewis Holtby and Shinzi Okazaki to name a few).

Final Thoughts:

If you are in Germany, and in a region where a football match is taking place, it’s worth the short trip to the local stadium. Prices are affordable starting at 8 Euros (Standing place) to 50 Euros (Grand stand) for matches between mid table teams (For Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund games it will be harder to find affordable tickets).

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Darmstadt Stadium-Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

I tried to attend FC Bayern’s match in Darmsatdt (3:0 to Bayern) but this game was sold out, and no scalpers were even in sight, so I watched the game outside the stadium but still got a good dose of Bundesliga atmosphere. Bayern seem to be hot favourites for a fourth successive title after finishing the first round of the Bundesliga 8 points ahead of Borussia Dortmund. Their manager Pep Guardiola announced this week that he will depart the club at the end of this season and Carlo Ancelotti was officially named his successor. This will not hurt Bayern in the short term and the Champions League is a tougher competition to win than the Bundesliga and their sights seem to be set on that coveted trophy.

Meanwhile Mainz ended the first round in 8th place, only 5 points off a Champions League place while Hoffenheim are bottom of the Bundesliga with 13 points, only two points away from 15th place and salvation. Darmstadt are also struggling, ending the round in 13th place, four points out of a playoff spot and 5 points away from relegation.

Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

Darmstadt Stadium-Courtesy Roy Jankelowitz

The Bundesliga is off now for the traditional winter break and will return for Match Day 18 on January 22nd 2016 when Hamburg will host Bayern Munich.

Till then

Auf wiedresehn!