Sunday 28 March 2021

Travels in Germany: Füchse Berlin and the Time I Missed the First Half of Their Match Because I Went to the Wrong Ground

On a trip to Berlin a few years back, a Saturday afternoon flight home stopped me from catching any of the numerous local weekend football fixtures apart from, after studying the various fixture lists, a lone Friday night sixth tier Berlin-Liga match. The match in question was between a team called Füchse Berlin and the infamous Tasmania Berlin who I now know are famous for completing the worst season in Bundesliga history (You may have heard of them, I've written about them a few times before).

Pronounced 'Fookser' which translates as 'foxes', Füchse Berlin are a small-time team who are difficult to fathom out even to the point that it's unclear if Füchse Berlin is even their actual name. Based in the Berlin suburb of Reinickendorf in the west of the city, search for them online and depending on where you look they are also known as Reinickendorfer Füchse and Füchse Berlin Reinickendorf. To confuse matters further, Füchse Berlin is also the name of a top flight handball team. However, it actually turns out Füchse Berlin Reinickendorf/Reinickendorfer Füchse (I'll call them the latter from now on as that's what it says on the scarf I bought) are actually part of a sports club which, with over 3600 members, covers far more than just football. The aforementioned Füchse Berlin handball team, once part of the club, are, however, nowadays a separate entity though still have close links with the sports club.

In terms of footballing history, after the creation of the Bundesliga in 1963 Füchse joined the new, at the time second tier, Regionalliga Berlin but did not sustain themselves at that level. The club were before long relegated and have played outside the top two levels ever since. During those years outside the higher echelons of German football, their best performances came in 1989 and 1990 when they won consecutive, then third tier, Amateur-Oberliga Berlin titles. Sadly, on both occasions they missed out on promotion to the 2.Bundesliga by losing in the resulting play-offs. The club have twice won the Landespokal Berlin (regional cup) and three times participated in the main DFB-Pokal with one lone first round victory to their name.

As for my visit to see Reinickendorfer Füchse in action, well it turned out to be a rather eventful one with finding the right ground rather problematic. 

Whilst Füchse's website even when translated into English was almost useless it did, however, give me details of their home ground - or so I thought. Google Maps (other mapping services are available) gave me accurate directions and I arrived there half an hour before kick-off with everything initially seeming fine, albeit a little quiet. 

I had turned up in the middle of what was a quaint residential area and I found several football pitches and some tennis courts but whilst there seemed to be players warming up next to the main pitch there was a distinct lack of supporters about. Despite posters up advertising the match, I knew something was amiss when as kick-off approached the aforementioned players were still training/warming up and there were still no spectators around. The specified kick-off time came and went with still no match taking place so I checked my phone and a German site listing the league fixtures claimed the match had already kicked off. The site in question also had live updates from said game so yeah it had clearly kicked off somewhere just not where I was! At the time I wasn't aware of the groundhopper app nowadays known as 'fubology' but it might have come in handy.

I frantically searched online using my phone to try and find out where the match was actually being played and whilst doing so was accosted by two lads who, speaking perfect English, introduced themselves as a German groundhopper and a Finnish guy studying in Berlin. The two men I had just met had made exactly the same mistake as me and turned up at the wrong venue. At least I wasn't alone in doing so! One of my two new friends was thankfully able to find directions to the correct ground and I followed the pair to a nearby train station where I was promised it was only two stops to the correct stadium.

After some great banter on the station platform, where the conversation at one point rather surprisingly turned to the not very Germanic or Nordic sport of cricket, we were finally able to board a delayed train and eventually reach our destination. Unfortunately, the aforementioned delay saw us enter the ground just after the second-half had kicked off. Arriving so late, however, saw no one charge us an entrance fee so it wasn't all bad.

The original so-called ground we'd turned up at consisted of one lone terraced section on one side of the pitch and certainly did not feel suitable even for sixth tier football yet this alternative venue was barely any more befitting. After buying cheap beers in the clubhouse we headed out onto the terracing in front of it. These several rows of terracing ran along the length of one side of the pitch and many people were stood there enjoying the action, whilst behind one goal a grassy bank was also populated by supporters. Most of the rest of the ground seemed to be surrounded by trees in what was a rather scenic setting. In all there were probably a couple of hundred people in attendance at the ground which I later discovered was called Wackerplatz and the former home of a now defunct side called SV Wacker 04 Berlin.

Although I remember the fantastic football craic with my two new pals more than the actual match itself, home side Füchse scored late on what, judging by the euphoria around us, seemed to be a winning goal (a check online later showed that yes it was, in fact, the winning goal with a final score of 3-2 and the other four goals evidently coming in the first half before we arrived).

Game over and we headed back for the train. After the local amongst us departed a few stops down the line, me and my new Finnish friend ended up having a lovely pork schnitzel takeaway before exchanging social media details and then heading our separate ways.

That win, it turned out, was much needed for Reinickendorfer Füchse as the club would end the season just one point above the drop zone. The following season it was even closer with only a superior goal difference stopping them from going down. The league has since been interrupted by COVID and I have yet to return to Berlin, but one day I hope to go back and maybe I'll get to watch Füchse again - let's just hope that in the meantime they don't move grounds without telling me!

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