Cup final day! Much like derby day, form tends to be irrelevant for a cup final. The problem being that two teams in a cup final have of course enjoyed a good cup run, and the form going out of the window leaves behind nothing but quite a poor game of football. But luckily there is always the pomp and circumstance to keep us entertained.
As well as the 3874 spectators, for the first time the Berliner Pilsner Pokal final was televised live across Germany alongside the all the other regional cup finals. A fantastic way to raise the awareness of amateur football; good job Germany. The sun also made a dramatic appearance to allow for the classic sight of inebriated football fans taking of their shirts and slowly getting burned over the course of the day.
Making their way around the pitch were also the three mascots of the day. The mascot of the Berlin Fussball Associated (BFV), Icke, was proudly displaying the impressive new trophy which was up for grabs. Alongside Icke was the Berliner Pilsner bear, which can usually be seen on the bottles of beer, depicted merrily carrying three beers on a tray above his head. However, when you meet him in person, he is somewhat closer to a nightmarish satanic incarnation of a bear who has been sent to terrify children and do other horrific things such as intentionally spill your beer. Luckily he seemed to disappear before kick off and not return for the rest of the afternoon. Somewhat more present was the mascot of BFC Preussen. For almost ninety minutes an eagle could be spotted circling Jahnsportpark, rousing the Preussen fans and taunting those of Lichtenberg. I like to think the Lichtenberg fans would have held back slightly on their displeasure if they had realised that beneath the mask and wings, was a boy who couldn’t have been more than twelve years old. It wasn’t until the 30th minute that I realised that myself, and it made his command of the crowd even more impressive. Certainly the youngest 13th man I have ever seen.
As the match began it was very quickly clear that my expectations of the afternoon were not to be met. That is, a relatively straightforward Lichtenberg victory. Within the first five minutes Preussen had already managed to get the ball into the back of the net through the familiar name of Rene Robben. The Preussen fans, of course ecstatic, renewed their support for their ‘Robben for Germany’ stance. But the goal was disallowed and Robben would have to wait a bit longer for his call from Jogi Löw. A couple of wasted chances for Lichtenberg, most notably from Brechler, would become all the more painful in the 19th minute when Robben got another chance, this time from a corner, and as the ball crossed the line there was no flag to save Lichtenberg. 1-0 Preussen.
Lichtenberg didn’t fully turn up for the first half. A slightly increased presence after they went a goal down certainly didn’t bring a great many chances and left Preussen by far the stronger team going into the break. Indeed Preussen should have gone 2-0 up shortly before the break, but Robben was unable to take advantage of a terrible error from Lichtenberg and they had to settle for a far less comfortable lead on 45 minutes. Maybe that would help spur on Lichtenberg and make for a more impressive second half performance.
The half time break could have been very informative for me, after a handful of the Preussen contingent tried to give me an abridged history lesson of their beloved club. They were most definitely a friendly group, whose enthusiasm for Preussen was matched only by their inebriation. Sadly my understanding of drunk German isn’t all that fluent, and I didn’t really get much after ‘BFC Preussen, 1894’. I had hoped that SV Lichtenberg had heard more memorable words from their coach, Uwe Lehmann, as the second half got underway.
When the players had made their way back on to the pitch, Lichtenberg began 45 minutes of pushing forward whilst Preussen attempted to absorb the pressure. Attempt, and succeed. Sitting back, parking the bus, whatever vernacular you prefer, as a fan it’s a rather terrifying thing to witness. Your precious lead continually under threat. I felt for both sets of fans in the second half, and the last ten minutes moreso as the Mateusz Mika’s 18 yard box became an area of constant activity, with crosses and shots flying in from almost all conceivable angle. To no avail though, as this would be a day in which Lichtenberg would simply not be able to find the back of the net. For all their pressure, they produced few shots on goal and even those didn’t particularly challenge Mika. The closest chance came in the 94th minute as Gelicio Banze shot just over the crossbar to the relief of everyone not wearing red. Very shortly after the final wasted chance, referee Jacob Pawlowski put Preussen out of their misery and into raptures, and Lichtenberg simply deeper into their misery.
The emotion on the pitch was clear as Lichtenberg seemed unable to believe they had been unable to turn their possession and pressure into a victory. For the Preussen fans and players it was of course elation. The players immediately made their way to celebrate in front of the fans, with captain Abou-Chaker leading the way. Even the junior mascot got involved amongst the players for the occasion.
The medals were handed out, both winners and losers. The losers medal always seems to make the defeat worse. To be forced to walk passed the trophy you failed to win can’t be easy, to be forced to be part of a ceremony when you may not particularly want any attention seems harsh. But Lichtenberg of course played their part so that Preussen may be allowed to lift the cup, and do the obligatory kissing of the cup and more importantly drink beer (I wonder which beer?) out of a massively oversized boot. This is a wonderfully German way to end the cup final.
As I made my way out there were still the ‘Robben für Deutschland’ posters left hanging. The German squad for the 2016 European Championship contains the most ever non Bundesliga players. I haven’t checked it yet. Maybe.