There is something distinctly ‘almost’ about BAK. The ground is almost beautiful, the team were almost promoted, the stadium almost empty. These ‘almost’ qualities are indicative of a club with ambition.
It’s impossible to deny this season has been an anticlimax for BAK. Last season’s almost champions fancied themselves to be top contenders for promotion to the 3rd Bundesliga. In reality they have been off the pace this season. Standing in a respectable 3rd place, they are however 17 points adrift of that sought after golden ticket to the dream of Bundesliga football. Their start to the season was much to blame. Six points from their opening five games left BAK in a disappointing 12th place in the Regionalliga Nord. Disappointing enough to cost head coach Steffen Baumgart his job. An understandable decision, given their ambition and the importance of not falling too far behind too early in the season. Maybe it was already too late.
Jörg Goslar hadn’t done a great deal wrong since taking over from Baumgart. He led BAK from 12th to their current 3rd. But despite the vast improvement in form, a couple of stray results along the way left BAK with little chance of promotion. Try as you might, some things are left in the hands of others, and with FC Carl Zeiss Jena looking unstoppable, Goslar’s charged objective was left looking beyond reach. This prompted BAK to focus on their vision of the near future. A vision that varied so significantly from that of Goslar’s, the decision was taken to part ways with immediate effect. If alarm bells aren’t ringing with BAK fans, they have a trust which may be as worrying as the near-sighted ‘promotion at all cost’ vision of the club’s owners. Blind ambition has been the undoing of countless clubs, we can only hope that BAK have more than money up their sleeve to see it through. Patience is certainly not a quality which can be counted as one of their virtues.
BAK were facing FC Schönberg after two straight defeats. The first immediately before the dismissal of Goslar, the second and certainly more unexpected defeat came days after at FSV Union Fürstenwalde. Perhaps a mid afternoon kick-off on a pleasant early spring day was the perfect time to return to winning form? It was certainly the perfect time for a football match. Somewhat hindered by their bizarre lack of floodlights, BAK have to fit all their fixtures in somehow.
The sun, low in the sky, casts an orange glow over the bald brown trees which encircle the Poststadion. If you squint your eyes, or perhaps just don’t look hard enough, it’s all quite beautiful. Pay more attention and the unkempt backdrop becomes hard to overlook. Just like the team, the land behind the Stadium still appears a work in progress. It does provide a handy sheltered sitting area for those who want to watch the match for free, albeit with a bit of an obscured view. A stark contrast to the land directly behind the main stand, which is an unrivaled lower league football haven, with numerous pitches, outdoor training facilities and a small park. A wonderfully maintained family friendly football neighbourhood.
BAK opened the match looking lively and breaking forward well. Tight defending from Schönberg made light work of most of the pressure applied by the home team. BAK did themselves no favours though, as their persistence to stick to short corners saw them waste a some lovely opportunities. Everyone knows short corners are a terrible invention by people who hate football.
FC Schönberg would shortly make BAK rue their squandered chances, as they bundled the ball over the line in an unlovely goal, taking the lead in the 24th minute. Certainly not beautiful, most definitely vital. BAK showed Impressive resilience though, as they drew level five minutes before half time. Orhan Yildirim tidily slotted the ball under Jörg Hahnel and sent BAK into the dressing room with a spring in their step.
After some of the finest baklava I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, the second half got under way, the spring sun no longer strong enough to keep the chill from the air. Schönberg started the second half with a gusto BAK didn’t seem all that prepared for, and once again they took the lead, this time in far less of a scrambled fashion. Masami Okada’s 53rd minute goal was again inspiration for BAK to wake up, this time it would be just four minutes until they were back on level terms. Kevin Stephan’s goal would be the last of the game.
Maybe it was just my baklava sugar buzz wearing off, but the closing half an hour was a disappointingly four affair. BAK came closest to a winner through a header on the far post after a beautifully placed cross. Instead the ball grazed the outside of the post and thus ended anything noteworthy to write about in thirty minutes of football. Perhaps it just wouldn’t have felt right to BAK to score without first going behind, and why would Schönberg bother scoring, knowing full well that BAK would then actually bother playing football again.
And so thus it ended. Points shared and another game BAK should have won, something which reflected on the players as they trudged off the pitch, heads hanging and shaking their heads like far more athletic Churchill dogs.
Whatever the vision the owners have for the future, I can only hope it is more successful than their immediate plans, which clearly need some careful consideration. Still BAK remain one of the more enjoyable Berlin clubs, and should their plans for Bundesliga football not prove successful, they’ll always be a pleasure to visit in the Regionnaliga.