When the cheer rang out from the Staaken bench at the final whistle I was suddenly reminded I was at a competitive football match.
I had arrived at the Werner-Seelenbinder-Sportpark expecting so much more; too much. With SC Staaken all but mathematical champions of the Berlin Liga, and a matchday which saw all top four clubs facing off against each other, a Mahlsdorf defeat and a glorious away win for Staaken against Tasmania wasn’t so far fetched, surely? Yes, yes it was. Still, few could have predicted the largely mundane spectacle the crowd would be subjected to.
This was somehow my first visit to SV Tasmania’s pleasant little ground. It was almost two years ago I had been told to get myself to a Tasmania home game, and enjoy the surroundings. Through circumstance and somehow always discovering a more appealing fixture, the Werner-Seelenbinder-Sportpark had eluded me. I was not disappointed.
The lane leading up to the ground, lined with trees, draws focus directly to the ground and somehow evoked a feeling of a miniature Wembley Way. Very miniature. Still, the Werner Way, or Verner Vay as it would be, is a lovely first impression for a Berlin Liga venue. Nestled into the south-east corner of Tempelhofer Feld, the land feels like an annexed corner of the old airport. I particularly appreciated the large ‘BER’ banner hanging from the end of the pitch which faces Tempelhof. The airport which closed facing off against the airport which will never open. Wonderful juxtaposition.
Through the turnstiles, one is immediately greeted with the usual fare of bratwurst grilling and brands of beer you wouldn’t usually buy unless you have no choice because it’s all they have. An enjoyable addition to this is the vending of pins from assorted football clubs. I used to collect these as a kid, and had I had the foresight to show up with more than 7€, which was luckily enough the exact gate fee, I would certainly have indulged. Yet another inconvenience of Berlin having only about four ATMs in the entire city.
Whilst it undoubtedly loses the effect during the winter months, the Werner-Seelenbinder-Sportpark is pleasingly enclosed by trees, creating an ambience not often felt in many lower league grounds. The outside world is cut off, and here there is only the football (though today there was barely even that).
For all it would be easy to ignore the game I was there to see, and instead concentrate on the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in the Tasmanian den, the inaction on the pitch was extreme enough to be noteworthy.
Almost directly from kick-off there was an alarming lack of urgency from both sides, though eminently from the soon to be champions, SC Staaken. Let’s face it, they have already as good as won the league, so why should they bother to try. That was at least the discernible message their performance gave. It wasn’t so long ago that the race to be Berlin Liga champions looked like it may go down to the wire, but a couple of draws from Eintracht Mahlsdorf, against teams they should have been well capable of beating, saw the title chase peter out as SC Staaken just kept on winning.
It was at around the fifteen minute mark that I started to wonder why nothing had happened. The ball would intermittently arrive in the Tasmania half and possibly make it to within a few yards of the eighteen hard box, before being summarily cleared. On the odd occasion an attempt at a cross or shot was made, it was so far off target that it would be fair to wonder whether this was the same Staaken who had completely dominated the Berlin Liga this season. Their fans too, sat patiently in the stand, enjoying finally having a proper day of sunshine on the weekend, showing no signs of concern as to the lacklustre display on the pitch. When the only goal of the match arrived in the 44th minute, it was somehow fitting that it came via an own goal. But credit where it’s due, it was almost the result of one of the few dangerous crosses of the half. One goal up without coming out of second gear. Impressive in a somewhat uninspiring manner.
At half time I took my leave of the direct sunlight and sat in the shade, I engaged in a conversation about wonderful attacking football, which whilst wonderful to watch, left the teams who played it trophyless. A fine respite from the current day’s football. In fairness, this is no reflection of Staaken’s season as a whole. The league leaders have thus far amassed a goal difference of 76, scoring 100 goals along the way. It’s an impressive feat, and when they do inevitably become Berlin Liga Champions, It will be thoroughly deserved. This match however, will hardly count upon the highlights of their tremendous season.
For the best part of the second half it was the same story. The have could surely only get worse when news that Mahlsdorf had taken a comfortable lead against SD Croatia. Whatever the result here, they would have to wait another week to become champions.
As the game reached the seventy minute mark things started to happen. Staaken’s attacks, though still resulted in shockingly wayward deliveries, were thwarted also by the referee’s assistant, whose flag stayed up for so long it began to look like a medical condition. As the frustration within the Staaken ranks rose, with yellow cards threatened, but never produced by referee Rasmus Jessen, Tasmania took control of the final minutes of the game. Despite a few corners won, the match ended with no change to the scoreline since the 44th minute. Staaken edged closer to their inevitable title.
Next weekend’s encounter between Staaken promises to be quite the match, but don’t listen to me, that’s what I thought about this game. The Berlin Liga may well be ending with a whimper, not the bang it looked sure to be.