Sandhausen v Heidenheim
Hardtwaldstadion / 2. Bundesliga / 21st August 2015
One particularly dull, Friday night in early June I found myself daydreaming of another ‘#eurolostboyos’ adventure. I had no real plan on where I wanted to go, but I knew I wanted cheap. One search entry into Skyscanner later (‘Manchester’ to ‘Anywhere’) and having written off a trip to Dublin (too near) and Oslo (too dear), there was one clear candidate: Stuttgart – Baden-Württemberg. Lost Boyos was off to the football rich south-west of Germany. Cheap flights were bought and it was now time to just and wait for the fixture list computer to decide my footballing destinations for the weekend…
After waiting patiently for the fixtures to align themselves, there seemed to be one clear winner for my Friday night in Baden-Württemberg: Sandhausen and the local team SV Sandhausen of the 2. Bundesliga.
If you glance over a map of Baden-Württemberg, Sandhausen is definitely a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ sort of town with it being dwarfed by nearby Heidelberg and Karlsruhe. Go on websites bubbling with information like Trip Advisor and Wikipedia and you will indeed find very small entries about the town. This didn’t exactly fill me with excitement about my Friday night there. Admittedly, more appealing to my tastes was when I learned that the town really came into being thanks to the growing of hops for beer.
I’d spent Thursday evening partying in Stuttgart (cool city) and woke up Friday morning ready to head to Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe had been selected as my base for 2 days, as I was heading to Karlsruhe SC Saturday and with them kicking off at 1pm I figured I should probably wake up (hungover) in that city.
By midday on the Friday, I had check-in all sorted in my hostel, literally next door to Karlsruhe train station, and after a brief hour or two exploring Karlsruhe’s ‘Sudstadt’, I figured it was time to go and see what the diminutive Sandhausen had to offer as a place.
I’d noticed that the Germans love to just drink casually in the streets and so I figured I’d join them whilst I explored Karlsruhe. This meant I was accompanied on the 40 minute train journey between Karlsruhe and St. Illgen Sandhausen with a can of Warsteiner.
I arrived into Sandhausen about 3pm and what I found was basically…well a big village really. Within minutes I could not believe that this small and quiet a place currently had a team residing in the league below the Bundesliga. And the Trip Advisor reviews (or lack thereof) seemed accurate – there really is not much to Sandhuasen. However, I did find the main high street and a cocktail bar. Obviously, this was a German football weekend, so beer was opted for over cocktails. Great choice too as the glass provided to hold my beer was possibly the funkiest glass I’ve ever had. I resisted the urge to steal it though as the idea of carrying around glass all evening was off-putting.
Generally, everyone in Stuttgart had spoken good English (although my German was commended a lot I may add – I knew that B grade at A-Level would prove useful) and the same was true of Sandhausen and so I got chatting to the barmaid about my trip. She then told me that here young son was heading to Sandhauasen game too, before adding that it kicked off at 7.30pm; this was news to me as I was certain it kicked off at 6pm. To Twitter I headed and learned that both me and the barmaid had got it wrong and it was a 6.30pm kick-off. That was fine with me, but it did suddenly hit home to me how remarkably little research on the games I was attending I had done before heading out to Germany. It did prompt me to double-check the kick off times for the 2 other games I was attending over the next 2 days.
The beautiful thing about German football is that I knew I could turn up at the ground a good hour or two before kick-off and still have a good time. So, I figured the barmaid had had enough of me butchering the German language and so I began the 15 minute walk from the empty bar to the home of SV Sandhausen located a 10-15 minute walk south of the main hub of the town.
The walk took me towards a more ‘forestry’ part of town and over the coming days I was to learn that the Germans seem to love building their football grounds near the woods. I got chatting to a family of Sandhausen fans on the walk and after they had expressed their joy that I had come today and also labelling me ‘crazy’, the ground suddenly appeared. More on the ground later – the first port of call was the club shop.
It’s become pretty much obligatory now that every time I attend a game on the continent I have to buy a scarf and so, for 15 Euros, I emerged from the club shop with a black and white Sandhausen scarf; I was obviously fine with this with my team Swansea City also wearing black and white. As well as a scarf, I also purchased a Sandhausen t-shirt. I’m not sure why, but my Curzon Ashton-supporting pal Aaron loves SV Sandhausen, so he had asked me a couple of weeks before to get him some sort of Sandhausen merchandise. When I asked him why he liked Sandhausen so much, he simply declared that he liked how ‘tinpot’ they are. Fair enough.
Joining me today was Kaiserlautern fan and German groundhopper Floyd, who had proved very helpful on Twitter when I was arranging my trip. Floyd wasn’t arriving until later and so I purchased our tickets (priced 11 Euros) ready for his arrival. There was some confusion though as the police lurking around the ticket office seemed to think I was an away fan for some reason and queried my purchase – even though I had a Sandhausen scarf tied around my neck. Anyway, bar time.
Sandhausen has a superb club bar, which felt more like an adjacent restaurant than a typical clubhouse. There were already a few groups congregated in the restaurant part and on the adjoining outside bar area. I remained inside purely for phone charging purposes. It was good that I did, as I got chatting to the very friendly SVS fans Jürgen and Diane, who described the club and fanbase to me in excellent English. Essentially, their message was that this was not a very big club and they were honest about the club’s modest standing. However, the message was clear: this was a family and community club and good on them for it. There really did seem to be a very pleasant vibe to the whole place. I then tried to explain to them that my mate Aaron liked them for their ‘tinpot-ness’, but trying to explain the term ‘tinpot’ to my German friends proved tasking.
Soon, I finally got to meet up with PAOK shirt-wearing Floyd and big respect to him as he had even come wearing a flat cap. As my philosophy goes: ‘No Flat Cap, No Party’. Floyd works as a translator so he even helped me translate the term into German and even into the local dialect of the south-west. So ‘Kä Datschkapp kä Party’ apparently.
A few beers were enjoyed prematch and now with kick-off looming, we said goodbye to Jürgen and Diane and headed out of the bar and towards the entrance of Hardtwaltstadion. So before I talk a bit more about my experiences, I suppose I should fill you in on a bit of Sandhausen history.
I’m sure many on our shores will be familiar with the rise up the German leagues of Hoffenheim; a club from a small village of a similar size to Sandausen and who were funded by billionaire Dietmar Hopp from the eight tier and right in to the Bundesliga. The initial proposal by Hopp was to form a ‘Rhein-Neckar ‘superclub’ consisting of Hoffenheim, FC Astoria Walldorf and SV Sandhausen. There were negotiations but Sandhausen owner Jürgen Machmeier felt that the interests of the merger were more to help Hoffenheim and he opted to place emphasis on his own club instead. Good on you mate!
So the 2000s saw Hoffenheim shoot up the leagues, but Sandhausen – who had a more modest bit of financial clout behind them – also rose at a steady rate too. The club is now playing in its 4th season in the second tier of German football after achieving promotion there back 2011-12. In fact, many now count the club as the smallest professional club in Germany. The club’s history, going back to its formation in 1916, centred around the lower leagues of German football until they arrived in the newly-created 3.Liga back in 2008/09 and then onwards to their aforementioned elevation into the second tier.
As for their home, Hardtwaldstadion, it was built-in 1951, originally with a clay pitch; this was replaced with grass 10 years later. The most significant developments to the ground have come in the 2000s with Sandhausen reaching the 3. Liga. Temporary seating was added, press and VIP expanded and added and an electronic scoreboard fitted. 2012 saw further improvements with another promotion as under-soil heating was added, two new stands built and areas for TV cameras setup. I’ll be honest and say that Sandhausen isn’t the most mind-blowing ground, but it’s decent enough. Obviously I was just happy to be on a standing terrace with a sausage and two beers. I also quite liked the fact that the ‘Sandhuasen ultras’ were placed directly next to the fans of Heidenheim to create a bit of competition in the stand behind the goal.
From being a quite low scoring team last season, Sandhausen have transformed into a free scoring machine this season with the team netting 13 times in the opening 3 games of the season. A win tonight would see Sandhausen go top of the 2. Bundesliga and so I was more than confident that my run of no 0-0s in 2015 would not come to an end this evening. Not a chance surely?
The teams emerged onto the pitch to cheers from the 5752 fans; today Sandhuasen were in their usual black and white and Heidenheim in red.
Despite the promise of plenty of goals, the action on the pitch was poor and there was very little to report in the first half. I was enjoying the beer and watching the ultras to our right more than the football. I’m still intrigued by the ‘chant leaders’ you find at the front of most German football ultras leading the bouncing and singing – I queried, ‘how do you even get that ‘job’?
And so the first half came to a close and there had been little on offer. Surely, the 0-0 run wasn’t go to come to an end here out in Germany?
Half-time: SV Sandhausen 0 – 0 Heidenheim.
The queue for beer was far more extensive by now, as I think the majority of our stand had got bored with the football and headed to the bar instead.
By the time, I got back from the beer selling kiosk behind the stand, the second half was underway. Please give me some goals Germany!
The second half was shaping up to be a far better half, as Sandhausen began to attack more and more. Admittedly, I found myself more entertained by other things once again as the beer began to hit me; this time it was a man standing behind us who looked a lot like Manuel Pellegrini (well, I say a lot, the beer perhaps made me think that). I did pester him for a bit and he did seem happy enough to pose for a photo, although he was a bit bemused by the Pellegrini comparison.
There was a shot cleared off the line and a freekick thudding the bar, but the last half hour was to prove scrappy again. The one shining light for me was Sandhausen’s no.13, who I later learned was Polish winger Jakub Kosecki – on loan from Legia Warsaw. He proved to be the most exciting player to watch with his direct running and his ball retention. However, not even the Pole could drag the club to victory.
By about the 80th minute I realised the inevitable was going to happen: I was about to see my first 0 – 0 of 2015 and my first since October 2014.
Full-time: SV Sandhausen 0 – 0 Heidenheim.
Originally, the plan was to head back to the club bar, but the beer in my system seemed to direct me away from the bar and after saying goodbye to Floyd, I found myself strolling back through the streets of Sandhausen.
Me, being the ever confident explorer, decided to take a ‘shortcut’ to make it back to the train station, but ended up with a mini sort-of-canal blocking my path and so I took to walking the overgrown path at the bottom of the small slope leading up to it. It was lucky I had had a few beers to numb my senses as I got stung countless times by ‘itchy stingies’.
More beer, whilst I watched German football news on TV, soothed the wounds when I arrived back in my Karlsruhe hotel though.
Sandhausen had been a low-key, but pleasant opening to my German football weekend. I liked the club and I liked the community feel of the place and how the fans seemed to recognise that they were a nice, family club. Just a shame that the club delivered me a 0 – 0.
Highlgihts: fairly easy to get to, decent ground, nice club bar, friendly fans, cheap tickets, good bier.
Low Points: Sandhausen is a quiet town, 0 – 0 scoreline.
See all my photos from Sandhausen here.