Wiener SK v SC Neusiedl
Sportklub-Platz / Austrian Regional League East / 19th August 2016
‘Oh, Vienna,’ a city I had never visited and so I had yet to decide whether it meant nothing to me or not. This is my first blog from my new home in Central Europe. I now live in Slovakia for those who don’t know. With Slovakia now technically being ‘home’, I felt I deserved a weekend holiday elsewhere before I start my new job. And so the Austrian capital, Vienna (well d’uh), won out after deliberating over heading to one of several other European cities; plus, there were the added practicalities of it being located just 90 minutes from my new base in Trnava.
So after traipsing through the names of clubs I had never heard of before, I stumbled upon Wiener SK. They sounded fun and the ground looked cool, so it was decided that my 2 year (at least) European football adventure was going to begin watching 3rd tier Austrian football in a suburb of Vienna. Delightful.
Two days before I was to set off to Vienna for the weekend, I decided to spontaneously squeeze in a day/night out in Bratislava with me not having yet had a chance to visit the Slovak capital. I’ll share my views on Bratislava when I inevitably go there to watch football (possibly next Sunday), but my views are nothing but positive. So this is how I found myself groggily leaving a hostel just away from the Bratislava city centre on a Friday morning and walking to the station to embark for Austria.
The train journey was a pleasant one with the hour journey taking in a whole load of lovely Slovak and Austrian countryside, before suddenly Vienna was sprung upon me with it seemingly appearing from nowhere. This was surprising really as the city is enormous.
I’d been told repeatedly that Viennese public transport is excellent, but on setting foot in Vienna I shunned it and instead opted to walk to my hostel to ‘get to know the city’. It was a long walk…
With my bag dropped off, I had a chance to explore the city and with little research done on where the hell to go, I decided to just follow my feet and see where they took me. It wasn’t long until I found the main high street which then led me to the iconic Museum Quarter. Everything here was…well stereotypically Viennese. It felt almost a parody of itself at times, but undoubtedly Vienna is stunning – like really beautiful…but for some reason I was not falling head over heels in love with the place like I imagined I would. Maybe it was the sheer enormity of the place and the buildings – everywhere I went I felt completely dwarfed. I decided after making it down to the Donau canal, perhaps a beer would help me be won over by Vienna.
Vienna: famous for its coffeeshops and fashionable bars – where did I end up? Hard Rock Cafe. My brother and fellow Lost Boyos-er Marc and his wife Kathryn have ‘a thing’ of having to visit a Hard Rock Cafe whenever they are in a city, so maybe I was just trying to jump on board their bandwagon, since there are no Wetherspoons on the continent. Anyway, in here I was introduced to Austrian beer Stiegl and so delightful was it that I had a 2nd here (I’d soon learn that Steigl can be found virtually anywhere in Vienna).
I carried on to be consumed by the gargantuan streets of Vienna and enjoyed being doused in a seemingly neverending barrage of beautiful museums, until I found I was near the bar 7 Stern Brau. I’m a big believer in acknowledging pub/bar recommendations from fellow travellers and so I listened up when European football traveller – although he’d prefer to call himself ‘one of those weird groundhopper types’ – Callum Snell sung the praises of 7 Stern Brau. What a good call too. The bar brews all its own stuff with the gleaming canisters sat right behind the large bar. I love hot food (the hotter, the better) and I love beer, so there was never any doubt I was going to try the Chilli Beer. Anxiety did arise when the bar staff were staring at me as I took my first sip and in fairness it was a bit mental. But after that initial sip, my taste buds understood it and I have to say that the stuff is magnificent.
It was also whilst in 7 Stern that I decided to spurn public transport again and instead I decided that I’d walk north of the tourist part of the city towards the Hernals suburb of Vienna, where Wiener SK live.Once again, it involved an hour walk, but I figured after a week of introducing myself properly to Trnava through the medium of drink, it was a good way of sweating off the Slovak beers.
Like the rest of Vienna, I was treated to huge buildings and trams rolling on by, but there was a definitely a bit more of a ‘rundown’ feel to this area – it was certainly not worthy of the ‘Welcome to the Ghetto’ graffiti on one lamppost I saw though. Then, that wonderful moment struck: surely those huge towers looming over the tall buildings below them couldn’t be the floodlights of a 3rd division Austrian team? Well, Google Maps was leading me straight towards them and they were indeed the floodlights that were confirming that I had arrived at Wiener SK.
As the name ‘Sport-Club’ suggests, the club was originally the base for many sports and it is one of Austria’s oldest athletics club, after being formed in 1883. Today, only the football and (strangely) fencing remain, along with a water polo team formed in 2005.
Wiener SK play in the Austrian Regional League East – the third tier of Austrian football. Despite their lowly status on the Austrian football pyramid, they are still a famous name. The team won the league in 1922 and on 3 occasions during the 50s; during their glory years in the 50s they even trounced Juventus 7-0 in the European Cup (this remains the Turin club’s biggest loss in Europe). However, it would be financial issues throughout the 90s that would see them sink down the leagues.
Since then, the club have very much become part of the ‘punk football’ movement with the fans playing a large part in the running of the club. Whereas the current big two clubs in Vienna, Rapid and Austria Vienna, despise each other passionately, Wiener and their rivals, First Vienna, play out the ‘Derby of Love’ – a derby where both clubs celebrate each other’s shared values and their left-wing philosophies. It will not surprise you to learn that Wiener are friends with Germany’s most celebrated ‘punk’ club, St. Pauli (who are even travelling to Wiener SK for a friendly in a couple of weeks time). If you have 8 minutes spare, I highly recommend checking out the ever excellent Copa 90‘s documentary about the Derby of Love (which you can watch here).
The whole fan culture of the club became evident to me as soon as I arrived at the back of the Stehplatz stand, where the fans were setting up food outlets and merchandise stalls – all simply placed on regular tables under a small marque. With it being a lovely evening in Vienna, it was the perfect place to enjoy a prematch beer, accompanied by some sort of chicken steak burger.
Once I had bought my compulsory European football scarf, I had noticed that there were very few English speakers here. So, I was relieved to find that the ladies behind the ticket counter did. They seemed to find it hilarious that a Welshman was here actually – more so when I said I lived in Slovakia now. I also got chatting to another woman selling season tickets on a table just away from the kiosk: €110 for such a ticket. A bargain for what I was to see of the club tonight. (off the pitch, more than on the pitch, admittedly).
The club Twitter had been communicating with me a fair bit throughout the afternoon (always something that gets a club bonus points in my eyes) and they had informed me that the bar housed within the stand is also fan-run. I decided to go take a look and what a gem of a club bar it is! The philosophy of the club is laid out on the steps as you walk up to the bar ‘LOVE PEACE RESPECT NO HOMOPHOBIA NO RACISM NO VIOLENCE NO SEXISM’. I imagine that’s what all fans want at football. Well said steps!
Within, the whole ‘punk’ vibe was maintained largely through the lack of ‘maintaining’ that seemed present in the bar. It was all very grubby and ‘edgy’, but, you know, in that sort of ‘cool’ way. There was even a little backroom with a few lads chatting and drinking beers around a rack selling random football shirts. I didn’t want to break up their little chat, so I veered away, only spotting a Celtic shirt (not very hipster at all). Plus, I did get a scornful look from one or two when my flash on my camera went off and I clearly revealed myself to be a ‘football tourist’.
With minutes until kick-off, I found myself stood atop the Stehplatz looking down the standing terrace at the ground below me. It’s a bit odd and quirky, but that obviously makes me see it as a beauty. The far end of the ground is your bog-standard, modern seating stand, whilst down one side of the pitch is a more ‘sheddy’ stand with the seating largely consisting of wooden benches. Opposite is nothing – apart from the typical towering Viennese houses looking out over the ground. Some locals had even set up camp on their balconies to take in tonight’s football; the open area was certainly a idiosyncrasy of the ground. Ultimately though, if you do visit Wiener SK, you do really have to go on the open standing terrace with the vocal support of Wiener fans. This was my first game of football on the continent in almost a year and nothing welcomes you back quite like getting a beer at the top of an open standing terrace and trying to clap along to foreign chants as the teams walk out.
The game was a quick starter before dying down. Undoubtedly,the thing that gripped me more was the ritual unfolding in the stands from the Wiener fans. Every time the home team earned themselves a corner or free kick the home fans would pull out their keys and shake them vigorously in the build up to said set pieces. Much to my disappointment, I had no keys on me and I felt shaking my hostel keycard around in the air would make me look like a madman rather than adding anything to the atmosphere on the terrace.
Wiener took the lead, much to the delight to those around me. Although, undoubtedly, there was one man nearby more excited than most. It turns out that PA guy at Wiener SK is they’re biggest fan – plus, he’s blind! Of course, I queried how he does his job to which I was told that there is someone sitting next to him describing the guy. But he loves the job and the club so much that he retains the position. The fans adore him too it seems and he’s apparently renowned for his good humoured announcements (usually semi-mocking his lack of sight)
By now, I had made my way around to the far side of the stand and had befriended some locals. The 4 admitted to generally being Rapid fans, but they loved comng to Wiener fairly regularly too. I queried them on the key-shaking antics and asked them “Why?” to which a “Why not?” was returned. Fair enough. They did explain the several tombstone and grim reaper references around the stand though: apparently there is a graveyard behind the stand. As the graffiti there proclaims: ‘home is where the graveyard is.’
Wiener were looking for their lead, but just before the break Neusiedl would score thanks to a good finish from Patrick Kienzl. A sad end to the half for the home team.
Half time: Wiener SK 1 – 1 SC Neusiedl.
If the end of the half was disappointing on the pitch, it certainly didn’t show in the toilets (bear with me after that statement). Roaming around near the toilet door was probably the smiliest gentleman ever, making sure everyone had paper towels to wipe their hands. Like the blind PA man, this guy is also apparently a bit of a legend. He tried chatting to me and after butchering some German I had to explain that I was Welsh. He began laughing hysterically. Then someone, spotting our chat, started translating for us and literally every statement I said led to him laughing uncontrollably. He was genuinely delighted that a foreigner had come visit his club (I say ‘his club’ – I later learned that he goes to Rapid Vienna too).
The second half wasn’t a thriller, but who cared really. I was having fun amongst the Wiener fans and enjoying my beer and the relentless key shaking. My Rapid Vienna pals too even suggested I add them on Facebook to contact me to help sort out tickets for the much in demand Vienna derby in two months time. I’m holding you to that one lads!
Sadly, for Wiener, their night would end in disappointment as Patrick Kienzl scored a second for Neusiedl; it was his birthday too apparently, so I suppose the home team couldn’t destroy his birthday celebrations.
More keys were jangled, more songs were sung and Wiener had several chances to grab a point. It wasn’t to be though and Neusiedl left north Vienna with the 3 points.
Full-time: Wiener SK 1 – 2 SC Neusiedl.
There was time for one last bizarre conversation with the guy outside the toilets, who was still greeting every single person and smiling and laughing at anyone and everything. As soon as he saw me coming he burst out laughing again and began stopping people nearby to tell them that I had had the audacity to travel all the way from the UK to turn up at Wiener SK (true to an extent I suppose). Such a legend deserved a double thumbs up photo, which took some explaining, but we got there in the end.
I made it back to my hostel, after hopping in a taxi this time after too much walking, and headed for the Vienna nightlife (which was great by the way). However, it was at midnight under the colossal beauty that is St. Stephen’s Cathedral that probably my highlight of the weekend occurred – and a highlight I believe the folk at Wiener SK would be fully supportive of…
As I walked through the tourist-cluttered streets of Vienna under the cathedral towards my next bar, a football came hurtling my way (obviously, I controlled it impeccably). As I searched for the source of the original kick, I spotted three young kids looking my way. The ball was promptly passed back to them to which they passed back to me; before I knew it a sudden game of football had ensued between me and these three kids around 10-14 and clearly of Middle-Eastern descent. Our brief kickabout around tourists in Vienna lasted a minute before Austrians were joining in…and then others…and then others… and so on. For 10-15 minutes people from all ages and from all walks of life – Asian, African, Austrian, Australian, Welsh and more – joined in at least for a bit in this impromptu game of football. Soon, I decided I should go, so approached the kids to shake their hands to thank them for letting me play football with them. They turned out to be Saudi Arabians holidaying in Austria. I don’t care what attacks are made on football at times, I firmly believe that the game of football is the only medium for a moment like this to happen. Random people from all over the world, not having to speak to each other, but understanding each other and having fun with each other with just a football. The inclusive philosophy of Wiener SK couldn’t have been better summed up than with that moment.
Highlights: Vienna was lovely, chilli beer at 7 Stern, great ground, great fans, good club bar, key jangling, kickabout in the heart of Vienna.
Low Points: was ever so very slightly disappointed with Vienna, not a great game.
See all my photos from my first day in Vienna and Wiener SK here.