Holger-Blichmann-Pokal Final 2018
Urbanspor 361 (0-3) RBC Berlin
The Berlin Freizeitliga season is drawing to a close in some style this year, with down-to-the-wire title-chases in the top two tiers keeping members of the FZ community frantically refreshing the Bloody Hell Magazine stats pages all weekend-long. Neck and neck in the Verbandsliga FZ are Urbanspor 361 and reigning champions RBC Berlin, who are due to face each other in Kreuzberg on Thursday evening in a game that is likely to determine this year’s league winners. It was perhaps fitting, then, that the two strongmen of the 2017/18 season both also made it to the final of the Holger-Blichmann-Pokal, the ‘FA Cup of the Freizeitliga world’, on Saturday. The fact that the final was taking place just five days prior to the crunch league meeting only added to the spectacle, and made it the perfect occasion for this reporter to make his Bloody Hell debut.
Some quick background, then, for those of you unaware of these two Freizeitliga titans. Marzahn-based RBC have established themselves as the dominant force in FZ football in the last couple of years and came into this week knowing that a repeat of last season’s league/cup double was well within their grasp. Urbanspor, former Verbandsliga FZ champions themselves, have re-emerged as strong contenders this season after a quiet few years and were looking to break the neon lime-and-black (possibly the only way to describe the colours of the RBC kit) monopoly on all things Freizeitliga.
A sun-drenched Stadion Wittenau was the venue, with the importance of the game demonstrated by the above-average attendance (at least 60, plus three dogs) as well as the presence of actual linesmen provided by the Berliner Fussball Verband which, as every Freizeitliga player knows, is a clear indication that you’ve ‘made it’. The beer was flowing, the sun was shining and some random guys with a Uruguay flag started an impromptu party behind one of the goals. The stage was set.
In a clash between two such closely-matched teams an early breakthrough was always likely to be crucial, and the game had barely settled into a rhythm when RBC won a free-kick on the edge of the Urbanspor box and their outstanding captain Artjom Strel fired in a low strike that was just too hot for Urbanspor keeper Jan-Friedrich Suhrmann to handle, his despairing hand palming the ball into the net. One-nil, and RBC manager Ronny Range and his excessive number of assistants, physios and water boys roared their approval.
The importance of that goal was emphasised by the rest of the first half an hour. Urbanspor looked marginally the more slick and cohesive unit and forged the first chances from open play, but found themselves kept at bay by a series of sensational stops from Kai Rickmann in the RBC goal. Tino Vollmer had a crashing volley tipped wide, the lively left-winger Jarred Hartanto was denied from close range and then midfielder Johannes Riemann watched in disbelief as his powerful effort was pushed wide, a stunning acrobatic save that truly belonged in a cup final.
Despite this string of chances, the game remained in the balance. Indeed, the opening exchanges suggested two teams with huge amounts of respect for each other, and it needed a flashpoint to stop the game meandering towards half time. It arrived in the 31st minute when Leroy Range was booked for a crunching studs-up challenge, and the levels of intensity that were expected had suddenly arrived.
Shortly before the break came two more match-defining moments. Firstly Strel doubled the RBC lead – another free-kick, but this time further out, sweetly struck over the wall and down into the bottom-left corner of Suhrmann’s goal. An instant riposte was required and Urbanspor could – and should – have had it. A ball into the box was beautifully taken by Florian Schwab, who did all the hard work but then somehow contrived to shoot wide.
Half-time and two-nil down, Urbanspor had nonetheless carved out a number of chances to give them hope for the second half. Ultimately, however, that was as good as it got. There was no second-half wind from the men from Kreuzberg, whose attacks were constantly snuffed out by an organised opposition defence expertly marshalled by Frank Lingelbach. Despite seeing his team in control of the game, RBC manager Range’s constant chirping at referee Thomas Sohr saw him ‘sent to the stands’, which in Freizeitliga terms pretty much meant moving behind the railings and continuing his tirades as before from two metres further back, as one of his 34 assistants took over in the technical area.
As those of us who whittled away the hours at university playing the classic internet game Roberto Baggio’s Magical Kicks will know – regularly finding the net with direct free-kicks is the ultimate way to win trophies. The RBC boys took heed of this mantra as they added a somewhat more-fortuitous third, a long free-kick from Alexander Kunz floating over Suhrmann and into the net. Game over, but not long after Strel was at it again, smashing yet another free kick onto the angle, narrowly missing out on a cup final hat-trick as well as his first (although he probably doesn’t know it) Baggio Passion Cup.
Over as a contest, the game drew to an underwhelming conclusion, although credit must be given to Urbanspor who pushed hard right to the end despite only having two subs on a blisteringly hot day. The final whistle blew and the RBC celebrations kicked off. Pre-prepared ‘RBC Berlin – Pokal Winners 2018’ t-shirts were almost immediately being handed out from their bench, a signal of a team that is supremely confident in its own abilities. It also raised the question of what would have happened to the t-shirts had the result gone the other way, an irrelevant hypothetical that probably didn’t matter one jot to the victors but for some reason was all this reporter could think about.
Regardless, RBC go into Thursday night’s league clash full of confidence of completing a second straight double, whilst Urbanspor will hope to take their second shot at toppling the Freizeitliga kings. Any FZ fanatics in the area can make their way to Görlitzer Park expecting another hard-fought 90 minutes.
Urbanspor 361 – Suhrmann, Riemann, Schwab, Weist (C), Kowalewski, Akgül, Vollmer, Metten, Vendramin, Bach, Hartanto (Subs: Hansing, Danielmeier)
RBC Berlin – Rickmann, Albrecht, Lingelbach, Dobbrunz, Range, Kunz, Strel (C), Rohde, Schröder, Scholler, S. Röthig (Subs: R. Röthig, Weis, Bingöl. Not used: Morgel, Wolff)
Goals: Strel 5’, 41’, Kunz 73’