Schalke 04 – Werder Bremen

To say goodbye to my good friend Jelle before leaving on my one-year trip, a little city trip had to be planned. Not a regular city trip, visiting a foreign soccer-match is the way we say goodbye. We’d already been to England, Spain and Italy, so a ‘Bundesliga spiel’ seems a logical choice!

We wanted to see one of the bigger teams. A big stadium, not too far away and with a Dutch former Ajax striker, Schalke 04 was our pick. Schalke 04 is connected to Twente in the Netherlands but thinking out of the box is not a crime. We used to follow Ajax back in the days and this was our first match in Germany. We drove to Gelsenkirchen, an not-too-big-industrial city and home of the Veltins Arena. We checked in at the Maritiem Hotel with an average view…

But, we came for the match and to have a good time so who cares about the view. We enjoyed a decent lunch before heading towards the Veltins Arena, the modern big stadium of Schalke 04. Small trams were loaded with fans. Almost every single one had a pint of beer and was dressed in blue and white, the colours of Schalke 04. Windows couldn’t open, so we were quite relieved to leave the tram after about 10 stops from the city centre.

Despite of being really modern, the stadium looked beautiful. The Veltins Arena can host around 62.000 people and we were two of them. We soon noticed that local fans and the ones of the away team, Werder Bremen in this case, were mixed. This was odd for us because in the Netherlands this is simply not possible. The fans of the away team are guided towards their section inside the stadium completely separated from the home fans in order to avoid a big clash and fights. In Gelsenkirchen it was very peaceful. We soon heard Dutch being spoken. Schalke 04 is quite popular with people from the Eastern part of the Netherlands as Gelsenkirchen is not too far across the border. Entering the stadium we lined up at the gate and the only people trying to jump the queue were our fellow countrymen, how typical…

Once inside we ordered a Veltins, we simply had to acclimatize. When we set down at our seats, we soon noticed we were not the only one with a drink from the brewery who sponsors the local team. The Schalke fans know how to drink…

The stadium was sold out and the match was about to begin. Three Dutch players were in the starting line up, Eljero Elia (Werder Bremen), Ibrahim Afellay and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from the home team. Huntelaar was our favourite player because he played at Ajax some years ago. The fanatical Nordkurve tried to impress the others inside the stadium just before the kickoff!

The atmosphere was great at the start of the match with many fans singing and shouting but soon turned around when Werder scored the 0-1. The level of play was quite depressing and we wondered what we were doing here. Soon after the interval all Dutch players were taken off the pitch and Schalke started to play better and better. The equilizer meant the fanatical ‘Nordkurve’ started to explode!

After some chances for both sides, Schalke took the lead in the 69th minute. The fans took some more beers and tried to relax a bit. This was quite hard because big chances kept on coming for both teams. Just when we thought victory was secured, Werder Bremen had a huge chance to equalize but the ball was saved on the line by one of the Schalke players. That save immediately meant the end and a narrow victory was a fact!

We walked back from the stadium because the trams were too full. It started raining pretty heavily and we decided to take a taxi to the city centre. The day victory had to be celebrated with some decent food. After some suggestions by the cab driver, we decided to go for a steak. The restaurant looked ok from the outside but once entered the interior was not the most promising. An alternative was not nearby so we had to give it a go. Service was limited and the atmosphere was a bit depressing. We got our nice portion of tender meat together with some potatoes and broccoli and guess what, it was a superb meal!

All in all a nice trip to one of Germany’s most popular soccer teams. After enjoying a great breakfast buffet at the Maritiem hotel the next morning we drove back home.

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