We are avid soccer fans, not only playing/coaching locally, but watching internationally. Rainer’s club in the Bundesliga is Kaiserslautern, and we watch online. (Thank goodness for the internet! Being a fan is far better these days.)
Yesterday evening we were at a match. What follows is Sandra’s account of our night:
You hear a pounding but whether it is the sound of your heart or the sound of drums you don’t know anymore. You look across the field at an arch that only hours before you walked through on a tour…
In that arch you see the players and as they walk out onto the field you think about the number of times you’ve sat at home and seen exactly this. You realize that though you’ve seen it you’ve never heard it. The sound on your left is deafening. A chant rises as the fans see their team, many voices forming the heart of the Betze. The chants soon turn to whistles as the curve realizes that their team will start on the other side of the field, and they hate that. In the moment before the ref starts the game you look around you at over 41 thousand people. You look at the small contingent of fans on your right cheering for the other team. You look behind you at all the people who sport scarves each with a devil on them. Next you look across and see that all the rich people have left their buffet and have filled in their seating block. Then you look at the West Curve….
Thump-thump.. Thump- thump…
Looking at the West Curve you know that half the people in the stadium are there, scarves raised in salute. It’s a Monday night… The fans hate Monday nights. They will all have to be at work in ten hours. But they are here now in support of their team. Each wearing their own armor, something that has formed around them during the hundreds of games they’ve seen. You think about how badly the team has done lately as you hear the song rising over the stands, sung by people who would sing it in pouring rain. As you look back at the ball at the half and take a deep breath, only one thought crosses your mind: “F$ck, they’d better win….”
Your team comes out strong. Within moments comes a shot from right in front of you and you think it’s in…
Half the crowd is on their feet… You need this, you need this! But it’s off by only a foot.
Then the first foul comes. It’s a dirty one by the other team and your player stays down…
And you stop breathing. You had forgotten what’s about to happen…. Never… Never have you felt hate like this: it’s not just a sound but a feeling that hits your whole body. The whistles are worst and they come from everywhere…loud and shrill, you can’t get away from them. And it’s not just whistles. All around you people yell things at the ref. In that moment you ask yourself, “How can anyone play badly in front of this?…. Why would you make this beast angry?”
Over the course of the next hour they play like you want them to, like you need them to. They fight when they lose the ball, and they take shots…. No shots go in, but they are fighting! You don’t want to lose but even if they do it would be ok so long as they keep going like this. The Curve likes it when they fight. Never silent, the cheers reach new heights every time a forward runs for a through-ball, even one they can’t possibly get to. But here’s the thing: sometimes they do get there… And your heart stops as the cross comes in, this time only to be deflected by a defender.
Only once you truly think you’re going to lose. In a moment that seems to take forever the striker runs at the goaltender. From where you’re sitting you can see that there is no defender in the way… The shot comes… But the goaltender gets his leg there in time.
When it’s all over, it’s 0-0. You know you were clearly the better team and should have won. But you didn’t lose.
You realize just how much you love watching soccer. First off, the game is faster live. The ball seems to bounce more than it does in your usual zoomed-out view. It looks and feels more like the sport you know and love. The chanting of the fans is a thing of awe, both beautiful and terrifying.
Your choice is made… Season tickets and biweekly flights is too much… So you’ll just live in Germany, the Betze is in your blood.