Green Grass of Home

A few years ago the crows of Pankow came and pecked their way through a beautifully laid pitch in the the Kissingen Stadion, and in doing so subjected two teams to the horrors of AstroTurf. And so since then BSV Heinersdorf and FSV Fortuna Pankow have had a shared aspiration. Not of promotion, though both teams have achieved promotion in recent seasons, but rather an off the pitch ambition. Or more of an off one pitch onto another pitch ambition.

AstroTurf, at this level, is the standard playing surface, but there are a fortunate few who are blessed with access to the real green stuff. Their games may get cancelled far more frequently, but they don’t care. To have a grass pitch is to look down upon those who do do not, and that supersedes all other arguments. Fortuna and Heinersdorf used to belong to that privileged group. Now, because of a few birds, they find themselves amongst the common masses.

Kissingen Stadion is a pleasant venue for non league football. Green in the summer, its trees providing a respite from the intense heat that can come at the end and beginning of the football season. With the arrival of autumn the alleyway of trees give the ground a golden glow as they become no longer refuge from the shade, but rather the increasingly frequent rain. On either side of the rows of trees lies a football pitch. One side is the promised land. Real turf, sliding tackles and muddy legs. The other is limbo. Strange colour schemes, UFC style caging and grazed knees.

So for Fortuna Pankow and Heinersdorf, when their beloved grass pitch was finally brought back into service, the decision was easy and both teams immediately made the hop across to reclaim their status in non league grass pitch posse. Sadly to this there is one drawback, which comes in the form of football’s other great divider; literally. A running track. At every level of football running tracks are undesired. At non league grounds, where attendances are regularly in the tens rather than tens of thousands, their presence is absurd. The move back across to the real pitch also brings with it the return of the terraces, and whist they do give the perception of a real football ground, they will remain all but empty. Whilst the desire of the two teams to get back onto grass is understandable, I can’t help but wonder if some of the joy of spectating will be lost from behind those tracks. Perhaps the lure of the grass made both teams overlook the decent atmosphere their games usually have, in spite of comparatively low attendances?

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Back on Grass

It was a typical late autumn day in the Kissingen Stadion; the fallen leaves not so golden, but rather slowly turning to a dark brown mush. The aeroplanes taking off from Tegel appeared over the rooftops at almost 45 degree angles as they struggled against the wind. The crows circling overhead, threatening to repeat their feat of destruction and shatter the dreams of the two teams once more.

Today’s match saw Heinersdorf host FC Brandenburg II on their recently reopened pitch. So recent in fact that the luminous ‘gesperrt’ signs are still erected around the pitch, to warn off anyone who may be tempted to have a kickabout outside scheduled match times. Heinersdorf are currently sitting at fourth in Kreisliga A, having earned promotion two years ago and finishing an impressive sixth in their first season back in the Kreisliga’s top level. They were undoubtedly favourites against tenth placed FC Brandenburg 03 II.

The game largely reflected the league gap between the two sides. Heinersdorf did fluff a fair few crosses, and needlessly lost possession more than you might expect for a team which sits in fourth place, but it’s important to remember; Kreisliga. The home side’s opening goal came in the 32nd minute through a fine Pascal Rauch strike just inside the eighteen yard box. There could have been a couple beforehand but Heinersdorf were just biding their time, and from the bench Matthias König was waiting…

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Quite happy with that

As the players made their way from the field the light was already starting to fade, as one could expect for this time of year. What one could also expect is floodlights, but their absence was notable, more so in the latter stages of the second half. The running track seems to have lights surrounding it, should the teams continue to play on the grass even as the days get darker, perhaps they could be utilised?

The early stages of the second half was always going to be the best time for FC Brandenburg to get back into the game. If the second half was to be anything like the first, once Heinersdorf got going Brandenburg would have no chance of getting anything from the game. Also to FC Brandenburg’s advantage Matthias König was still on the bench, waiting…

König had been looking dangerous well before he was called onto the pitch in the 51st minute; I’d never before seen a substitute look as though he might score whilst sitting on the bench. His impact on the game was immediate, as Heinersdorf went 2-0 up a minute later, König playing a part in Rauch’s second goal of the game.

There was the brief hope for FC Brandenburg that a point could be salvaged after Samir Bounouar managed a to bring the score back to 2-1 in the 70th minute. It was a small hope which was almost immediately dashed by König, who grabbed his first goal two minutes later. Shortly after his second goal would extend the lead to three and put the match well out of reach for Brandenburg. Other than his two goals, König had been at the forefront of almost every Heinersdorf attack since making his way onto the pitch in the 51st minute and could have easily had a second half hat trick had it not been for some wayward crossing and questionable corners. Regardless, Heinersdorf’s 4-1 victory was well deserved and as the final whistle went it was clear they were thrilled with it. I’ve seen teams celebrate cup final victories with less enthusiasm than Heinersdorf celebrated this win. It was wonderful to see them run to share the victory with their fans.

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Heinersdorf show the fans their appreciation

The final moments of the afternoon truly displayed the relationship Heinersdorf at least have with those who turn out to watch them play every weekend. And whilst I never thought I’d be arguing the case for an artificial pitch over a grass pitch, the separation between the game and spectators ruins something from the match day experience. Whilst for years Fortuna Pankow and Heinersdorf have been awaiting their return to the other side of the Kissingen Stadion, perhaps they could have considered that though the grass is greener on the other side, there are more important things to football than a well kept lawn.