Welcome to Volume One of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and their maintenance.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible.

I was fortunate that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately heightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done, I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a try today. They'll be delighted to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad, Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby as he grows into a young man!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on YouTube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see Volume Two of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


November 2018

Sunday, November 5, 2017

SV Sandhausen (Germany)

Sportverein Sandhausen 1916 e.V. is a professional football club that was formed in August 1916, who represent the small town of Sandhausen; which is located four miles south of Heidelburg in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.

The early years of SVS was interrupted by the outbreak of war, with the club struggling financially once peace had been restored. The negotiations for some land with the Fostamt Schwetzingen was successful, as the club set up a ground on the road to Walldorf, opposite the Wasserwerk.

Initially the club competed in regional C-Klasse football, before winning promotion to B-Klasse in 1924; before rising to A-Klasse in 1929. A league title arrived at Sandhausen the following year. In 1933 German football was divided into sixteen top level regional Gauligas by the Third Reich; with SVS spending time in Gauliga Südwest/Mainhessen.

Following World War Two Sportgemeinschaft Sandhausen was formed. This was a sports association which affiliated handball, chess, sportsmen and singers to the club. Sandhausen progressed to the newly formed Amateurliga Südwest following a local success. This was the third tier of German football at the time.

However, in 1949 the team were relegated down to 2.Amateurliga before the sports association was disbanded. On March 16th 1951, SV Sandhausen became a stand alone football club, with club stalwart Walter Reinhard being elected as its first chairman.

During the 1950-51 season a new sports centre was constructed at Waldsplatz, with Hardt-Stadion the centrepiece; as SVS moved in. The 2.Amateurliga title was won in 1956-57, with the team moving up to 1.Amateurliga Nordbaden.

Theo Machmeier was capped at German amateur level as the team found the going touch; as it was relegated before regaining their position in the early 1960’s. The club welcomed FC Bayern München, Hamburger SV and 1.FC Köln to Hardt-Stadion for prestigious friendly games.

In 1975-76 SVS finished as league runners-up. The following campaign saw the club qualify for the German amateur championships; where the side went all the way to the final before being defeated 3-2 on aggregate to the amateur team of Fortuna Düsseldorf. Solace came through promotion to Oberliga Baden-Württemberg.

In 1977-78 Sandhausen qualified to compete in the DFB Pokal German Cup. FC Traber Berlin-Mariendorf and SC Gladenbach/Hessen were both defeated before SVS went down 1-0 at home to Eintracht Braunschweig in the third round as World Cup winner Paul Breitner scored in front of 15,000 fans.

The team atoned for their defeat in the previous seasons German amateur championship, as they progressed to the final once again. This time there was no mistake as 5,000 supporters cheered SVS to a 3-1 aggregate win against ESV Ingolstadt.

Sandhaused quickly adapted to their position in one of the several third tier divisions, as they went on to become Oberliga Baden-Württemberg champions in 1980-81, 1984-85 and 1986-87 as Gerd Dais banged in the goals.

In 1992-93 a second German amateur title was collected as the amateur team of SV Werder Bremen were defeated 2-0 in Sandausen as the team ended the season as league runners-up. A third Oberliga Baden-Württemberg championship was won 1994-95.

By now the Oberliga had become the fourth tier of German football following reorganisation, but Sandhausen’s title win elevated them to the third tier Regionalliga Süd. However, the step up proved too far and the team were relegated twelve months later.

SVS returned to be in contention for honours back in the Oberliga; as Slavisa Staletovic became the league top scorer in 1997-98. After finishing as runners-up in 1998-99, Sandhausen won the league for a fifth time in 1999-00; but missing out on promotion after a play-off with SSV Jahn Regensburg.

The team continued to knock on the door when it came to final top league placings, before a plan was announced in 2006 to merge Sandhausen with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and FC Astoria Walldorf to create FC Heidelberg 06.

The idea was rejected by Sandhausen and Walldorf. There was also the problem of finding a suitable site for the new stadium in Heidelberg. SVS carried on and won another Oberliga crown in 2006-07.

This time Sandhausen were promoted to Regionalliga Süd, where a top half finish granted the club a spot in the newly formed 3.Liga for the 2008-09 season; where Régis Dorn finished as the league’s top scorer in 2009-10, while Roberto Pinto pulled the strings in midfield.

SVS won 3.Liga in 2011-12 to claim promotion to 2. Bundesliga as Frank Löning topped the goalscoring charts at Hardtwaldstadion. Former player Gerd Dais was replaced as head coach by Hans-Jürgen Boysen as the club narrowly avoided relegation in 2012-13.

Alois Schwartz became the new team boss in May 2013 as the club took on work to extend the capacity of Hardtwaldstadion. The team consistently finished in the bottom half of the table while retaining their status with relative ease.

Schwartz departed to 1.FC Nürnberg was replaced as head coach by Kenan Kocak in the summer of 2016 as the new man took the team to tenth place in 2016-17.

SV Sandhausen will play in 2. Bundesliga in 2017-18 season.

My visit

SV Sandhausen 1 FC St Pauli 1 (Monday 23rd October 2017) 2. Bundesliga (att: 8,514)

It was the final full day of my latest German adventure before I returned home the following morning. Frankfurt had been good to me, but it was time to move south. I took a decent walk most of the way to the station to try and freshen up before lunch.

I wasn’t feeling 100%, after once again trying the local applewein the previous evening. Would I ever learn? The stretch did me good on a cool but pleasant morning, before I grabbed a snack and found the bus station.

Again, I chose the budget option of the FlixBus for €9 for the two hour journey. I drifted in and out of sleep while listening to TalkSport on the journey to the town of Heidelberg for my overnight stay.

I’d soon sussed out that the number 21 tram would take me close to Hemingway’s Pub & Hostel; where I’d pre-booked. Sure enough, I was soon alighting at Bismarckplatz before walking around the corner and checking in.

My room cost €55 in an admittedly expensive tourist destination; but I expected a bit more than the basic top floor accommodation with a shared bathroom. I decided to go and explore the town on foot.

Heidelberg was very pretty, sitting on the banks of the Neckar, with historic buildings and a dramatic castle on the hill overlooking the old town. The places I fancied for a drink were either busy or closed and I certainly didn’t fancy anywhere too touristy.

Instead I did all my sightseeing and walked across the river before taking the bus back the mile or so to Bismarckplatz to grab some food and drink and then head back to have a siesta before heading out to the match.

Sandhausen is a small town about five miles from Heidelberg. There were several options to reach the stadium, but I opted for the direct 780 bus. It arrived late; no doubt owing to match traffic on its previous run. I managed to get a seat for the longer than imagined ride.

The roads approaching BWT-Stadion am Hardtwald were not built for large crowds. Cars were parked wherever they could find a spot, while many others walked up. Our driver wouldn’t open the doors, despite pleas from both sets of fans on board as we neared our venue.

Eventually, he relented so that we could walk the last few minutes. I was unsure of where I wanted to be, until I found a stadium plan. My gate was just the other side of the clubhouse and by the souvenir shop.

The stadium had obviously been built bit by bit. I picked up a free A4 sized programme on entry, before walking along several fenced in alleys behind a stand and the sports centre. Eventually the area opened out and I saw signs to my block.

I’d bought and printed my €13 ticket online in advance before I set off from London for a terraced place behind the goal. Before finding a spot I decided it was time for a beer. Rather frustratingly refreshments were only available by purchase on a club card.

Eventually I found the counter selling new cards, with the fella doing the vending being very helpful and speaking English. The card would cost €10 but it was returnable after the game. I put a further €10 credit on it.

Beers cost €3.50, with bratwurst €3. This was ideal for my needs! I bought a beer and went up into my block to take in my surroundings for the evening, to discover that BWT-Stadion am Hardtwald was like many lower division grounds as I grew up in England.

The Main Stand was in three separate builds behind an open terrace; with the open section the far side of the players tunnel being converted to seating. The centre and far stand both had seats, with the one nearest me covered terracing.

The far end was a single tier seated stand with corporate facilities in the corner. The far touchline had seating at the back of a paddock of open terracing, while the section that I was in was covered terracing; divided between home and away fans.

As usual St Pauli had a large following; although I was particularly impressed for such a long distance on a Monday evening, with the game being shown on live TV. Their fans filled their section behind the goal as well as taking many places up until the half way line down the side.

My view wasn’t bad at all, but it was blighted by the sound of the leader of the songs screaming into his microphone to try and enthuse the home fans into song. I don’t mind the culture; abroad anyway, but some try just too hard.

In fairness it did need someone to try and spark some excitement, because there was precious little out on the pitch. Both sides were just a few places from the promotion places; although I did struggle to wonder how?

The visitors looked more likely to score in what was a dour opening period. Their diminutive midfielder Waldemar Sobota was worth watching as he pulled the strings. They came closest when Bernd Nehrig fluffed an opportunity just before the interval.

I’d left my intended place and watched some of the game from the side open terrace. The din and ranting was just too much. At half time I went for a beer and banger double; with the bratwurst being more like and English sausage.

I’d got my car deposit back and taken up a place back on the open terrace near to the corner flag in the hope that the action would hot up. Philipp Förster tested St Pauli keeper Robin Himmelmann with a low shot, while Lasse Sobiech’s header was easily handled by SVS goalie Marcel Schuhen.

Substitute Richard Sukuta-Pasu set up Philipp Klingmann, but the home side’s full back found the side netting with his shot. It would be Sandhausen who eventually took the lead on eighty minutes.

A corner was half cleared by Christopher Avevor to the edge of the box, where a low shot from Manuel Stiefler took a deflection off Sami Allagui to find the corner of the net. I had to watch the goal by replay on the scoreboard as I was in the loo when it went in!

That looked for all money to be the winner, but St Pauli continued to try playing football against the resolute Sandhausen side. Sobota had been my stand out player all evening, so it was fitting that he crafted the last minute equaliser.

His pass into the area found Jeremy Dudziak in the area; who crossed low for  Jan-Marc Schneider to control, turn and fire past Schuhen to make it 1-1. After five minutes of additional time, referee Markus Schmidt brought proceedings to an end.

I’d positioned myself near to the exit and was soon on my way and outside to where there were several buses lined up. My first thought was to take the shuttle bus to St. Ilgen/Sandhausen station and then take the train to Heidelberg.

However, I’d vaguely read another option to a place I’m sure was called Leiman and then catch a tram. I came across a bus with that place among its destinations, so I jumped in board. It was all a bit of a risk as I couldn’t check owing to having no phone coverage.

It was all a bit of an adventure, but I must admit to being relieved when my map App kicked in and we started to take turnings in the right direction with passengers still on board. Sure enough, we were dropped right by the tram terminus.

There was still over twenty minutes before the number 23 turned up, so I went to try and get a beer. The service in the place I chose wasn’t forthcoming, so I walked out. However, it turned out that their ignorance would do me a real favour.

Further up Römerstraße I found a brew pub and had time to enjoy a fine large dunkel dark beer, while being served by a not unattractive waitress. The tram took me all the way back to Bismarckplatz.

There was still time for a couple of nightcaps at Hemingway’s before I went to bed in readiness for an early start the next day, as I took the 7.50am FlixBus to Stuttgart Airport in time for my lunchtime flight back to Heathrow after four magnificent days once again in Germany.

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