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A Day Out in Berlin: The Olympiastadion Matchday Experience

On Saturday evening, as some of you were watching Borussia Dortmund ship their third goal of the evening against relegation candidates Mainz, in what can only be described as probably less than ideal preparation for a Champions League final against Real Madrid, I was having fun with friends, drinking from steins so large that some were forced to grip theirs like a sippy cup (luckily I am a fully grown adult so was not subjected to such indignities). It’s hard to say which of us had a better time (it was me). This was day two of a long weekend in Berlin, a tribute to a once proud man now wearing underpants with his soon-to-be wife’s face on them. It was a day in which we had already enjoyed a trip to one of Germany’s iconic stadiums to watch two of German football’s fallen giants in the 2. Bundesliga.
I wouldn’t usually publish the happenings from a stag do here on Fear the Wall, mostly because I have the capacity for shame. Still, a trip to one of Europe’s greatest stadiums to soak up some second-division football in Germany seemed like an excuse for some high-minded content that amounts to little more than “football good, friends fun.” I know that many of the Fear the Wall community may have never had the opportunity to experience German football live, so I thought I’d write about my day and give you a bit of a feel for it.
Fistfuls of Meat, Beer, & Nazi History
While I got an early night because I am soft as hell extremely sensible, others in the group enjoyed some karaoke in a sweaty little room at the very normal karaoke hour, 1am. The early kick-off between Hertha Berlin and Kaiserslautern threatened severe psychic damage, but friendship is nothing if not a painful, tireless slog. Everyone dug deep and set off for the Olympiapark to be among portly men in sleeveless denim jackets.

On the walk up to the stadium, we were greeted by a line of trucks selling German beers, all of which were lager, to wash down some classic German cuisine - big lumps of meat served either with or in a bun (because variety is the spice of life). Ideal for the hungover in the group.
Once inside the stadium grounds, you get a sense of how impressive the Olympiastadion is. It’s an iconic venue for reasons good and bad. The stadium, originally the Reichssportfeld, was built for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, an Olympic Games that would become infamous for the role it played in promoting the Nazi regime and its ideology. The Nazi regime put its stamp on both the Olympiastadion and the surrounding Olympiapark, and much of this remains today.
We entered via the stadium’s east side, through the Olympic Gate (they’ve removed the swastika, probably a good choice). There are landmarks all around the stadium that remind visitors of the stadium’s troubled past, from the open-air Olympic swimming plaza on the north side of the stadium to the statues, sculpted by Arno Breker and Karl Albiker, which were designed to reflect Nazi ideals of “heroic realism.”

The most famous landmark is the Marathon Gate, a gap in the stadium bowl leading right down the pitch, where the cauldron that held the Olympic flame in 1936 sits. The gate also gives a clear line of sight of the Maifield and the 77-meter-high Bell Tower from inside the stadium. Olympiastadion is a remarkable place where modern-day Berlin plays out against a backdrop of the darkest point in Germany’s history. The stadium is stunning, but the place is humbling, and it all makes for an unusual setting for a stag do.
The Juggalos Draped in Blue & White

The Olympiastadion is even more impressive inside. With a capacity of 74,475, it is the third biggest stadium in Germany, behind only the Westfalenstadion (81,365) and the Allianz Arena (75,024). You enter the stadium at the top of the lower tier, much of which sits below ground level. The pitch is 15 meters below ground, intended to create a more intimate atmosphere by putting the stands closer to the pitch and retaining more noise in the stadium’s bowl. The steep lower tier makes the stadium feel grand, and a packed Olympiastadion feels enormous.
Despite neither side having much to play for (there was a small risk of Kaiserslautern slipping into the promotion/relegation playoff spot), both sets of fans were in full voice, and the stadium was close to capacity with 67k people in attendance. Kaiserslautern’s fans are famous for being a rabid bunch. We sat in the Gegentribüne, the other side of the Marathon Gate to the Die Roten Teufel ultras, and they lived up to their reputation. Hertha’s ultras in the Ostkurve were also giving as good as they got. There even appeared to be a Juggalo wing of the Hertha ultras, one of which was wielding a blue and white Juggalo flag throughout the game. Unfortunately, I don’t know the German for Whoop Whoop, so I could not participate in the Juggalofication of German football.

While the atmosphere inside the stadium was raucous, fans were incredibly welcoming. There are plenty of differences between German and English football, but the way German fans seem to welcome outsiders is the one I always notice first. English football tends to be a little more insular (owing to the fact that the English are generally a more insular people), and outsiders are viewed with more suspicion. Instead, Hertha fans were quick to talk to us and share their fandom with us inside and outside the stadium.
German fans also take a much more organized approach to building and sustaining an atmosphere in the stadium. Everything is structured around a steady drum beat, and chanting is often coordinated by a particularly lairy geezer with a megaphone. This guarantees a more continuous wall of noise, but it is a little less organic than the chanting in English stadiums. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but it’s interesting.
Fabian Reese & All of Pál Dárdai’s Children Get the Win

Despite being practically a dead rubber between two teams at opposite ends of the table, the game was played at a decent pace. It certainly helps that Hertha Berlin and Kaiserslautern have good offenses held back by fragility at the other end of the pitch.
We were treated to three goals in the first half; a penalty scored by the 2. BuLi’s top goalscorer, Haris Tabakovic; a spectacular Kaiserslautern freekick tucked in off the underside of the bar by Marlon Ritter; and some excellent combination play between Fabian Reese and Kaiserslautern’s calamitous defense, neatly finished by Jeremy Dudziak, which gave Die Alte Dame a 2-1 lead heading into the break.

The second half was a little less frantic. Still, Kaiserslautern continued to pose enough threat to keep things interesting until Fabian Reese scored a superb solo goal just after the hour, killing the game off in the process. The game finished 3-1 to Hertha Berlin, with the hosts putting up 1.24 npxG (non-penalty expected goals) to Kaiserslautern’s 0.35, but the game felt a little closer than that in the stadium. The fundamental difference between the two teams was Fabian Reese.
After their third goal, Hertha fans kicked off the end-of-season celebrations early. This was the final home game of Hertha’s season, and while they failed in their attempts to immediately return to the Bundesliga, they have built a team that scores loads of goals and has plenty of young talent, most of whom appear to be Pál Dárdai’s children. There’s plenty to be happy about for Hertha fans.
Embracing Our Inner Berliner
The post-match experience picked up where the pre-match left off. The fans were friendly, the beers were lager, and the meat was ill-defined. Everyone was having a good time, and many were partaking in mainland Europe’s favorite activity: pissing in public. I saw so many Berliners relieving themselves within, well, pissing distance of a public toilet that, as a man of culture, I felt compelled to embrace Berlin life.

We headed to a beer hall near Alexanderplatz for the final leg of the Blue & White Juggalo Mystery Tour, where we drank some big old sippy cups full of more German beers (we were even blessed with some Hefeweizens and Dunkels) and ate schnitzels approximately the size and shape of a small dog flattened by a steamroller (a coincidence, I’m sure).
Spirits were high, beers were flowing, and the stag’s dad had made a surprise guest appearance. Everyone was having so much fun we were too distracted to notice the steady stream of English holidaygoers entering the hall. We were punished for our complacency. The groups of revelers singing along to John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads, and Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline should have been sufficient warning. But it was too late. We were now in Germany’s equivalent to Benidorm. The night ended with conga lines snaking around the beer hall and everyone doing the macarena. We had gone full English.

The stag do rolled on for another two days as we soaked up some of the city’s fine arts (a Cher impersonator) and high culture (Dunkin’ Donuts), but the tenuous link between my time in Berlin and this website has already been stretched to breaking point. There’s no need to push my luck.
Football is friendship. Friendship is fun. Everything is content. I hope you enjoyed this retelling of our experience visiting the Olympiastadion and soaking up some 2. Bundesliga football. Now I’ve got to figure out how to turn the wedding into part two.

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