There are areas of Berlin covered in Kleingartens. Kleingartens are basically allotments with a particularly high niveau. Due to the great expanse of land they cover, these areas in other capital cities would be worth hundreds of millions. Here in Berlin, they are owned by your grandparents who live on them for almost half the year, sometimes growing vegetables, but quite often partaking in that most English of pastimes, ‘pottering about‘.
The area surrounding Nordberliner SC both was and is full of kleingartens. Where once habitable huts and glorified sheds stood, luxury homes with vast gardens have risen. The district is in limbo between old and new Berlin. To the other side is Tegeler Forest, a rather vast expanse of beautiful greenery. and home to the tallest tree in Berlin. In short, Nordberliner SC is the greenest football ground you could hope to visit in Berlin, which also makes it the hardest to forgive for playing on artificial turf. We all get it, astroturf may be ugly, but it’s good for smaller clubs with a low budget. But here, in what is basically the middle of a field, digging up the real stuff to lay fake grass seems like an intentional slight to grass.
Nevermind, I got over it before the game began. Nordberliner SC is otherwise a very enjoyable ground to visit, especially for those who like to escape the monotony of living in a city and remind yourself that you’re never far away from areas which aren’t dominated by concrete, plattenbau, or generic high streets. You can also take your dog for a nice walk there, should you be so inclined. As with most lower level football clubs, the ground is scattered with things that once were; basketball hoops, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, a worn out announcers booth, lucky to still be standing yet still graced by someone whose precise responsibility was unclear, and the most German of all outdoor pursuits, a concrete table tennis table. Classic. A quick game of table tennis during half time? Why not.
Norberliner SC is indeed a charming place to spend an afternoon.
As the players made their way on to the pitch, the announcer struggled through the names of SC Staaken team, before rattling through those of Nordberliner SC. A dry run of the pronunciation of any name that isn’t 100% German could have helped, but a nice touch by the home side to introduce the players as they run out. I was distracted anyway by the interesting take on a penalty shootout which was drawing to a close. I’m not quite sure of the rules, but I can report that no one managed to his his arse with the ball. Maybe they were English?
The first fifteen minutes of the match belonged to SC Staaken who pounded forward relentlessly and forced a good save from debutant goalkeeper Fritz Nickel in the opening minutes. The away side were unable to take advantage of their dominance in the opening fifteen minutes and somehow found themselves a goal down after Norderliner’s Justin Hippe caught the defence, all the spectators and myself off guard in the 17th minute. Any hopes that this would put Staaken on the backfoot quickly dissipated as the visitors proceeded to score three goals in fifteen minutes to take a 2 goal advantage into half time.
Though the first half brought more goals and generally better football, the second half was infinitely more entertaining. As every football fan knows, the referee must agree with the fans at all times, and if this rule is broken, the crowd reserve the right to be aghast and somewhat furious. This is where is went all wrong for referee Christoph Beblik, whose failure to blow the whistle when instructed to do so resulted in incredulity from the home fans. The exasperation reached extreme levels as one person’s exasperation led to the scream of ‘Alte Schwede’, the most fantastic of all German expressions.
The officiating did dip into the chaotic in the 70th minute. No one really seemed to know quite what was happening during an extended conversation between the referee and one of his assistants, regarding an incident both of whom seemed to have missed which ultimately led to a red card being shown to Nordberliner SC. This did kill off the game somewhat, as the home side had enjoyed a period of pressure and clawed themselves back to 2:3. The dismissal led to an almost instant goal for SC Staaken and the game descended into an amusing, though less than sporting, affair of challenges that could best be described as late and therefore a flurry of yellow cards.
The final whistle saw if not all, but most being forgotten and the always impressive sporting gestures of hand shaking and back patting all around. SC Staaken had increased their impressive goal difference and Norberliner SC too could take many positives from their performance. Their next league game however will be another tough one, as they take on the only team above SC Staaken in the Berlin Liga, SFC Stern. Staaken on the other hand, meet BFC Preussen, who so far this season have struggled for goals and points, a dip in form after their victory in the Berliner Pilsner Pokal last season. A perfect segue into next weekend’s action.