Dienstag, 15. November 2016

Warum Bullen ein rotes Tuch für mich sind

Über Red Bull Leipzig wird derzeit viel geschrieben und geredet und das ist auch gut so. Nichts wäre schlimmer als so zu tun, als sei dieses Projekt, das sich als Verein ausgibt, einfach ein normaler Aufsteiger, der sich sportlich sehr gut präsentiert.

Kritik an Red Bull Leipzig macht sogar die ansonsten auf einem höheren Niveau angesiedelte FAZ an der angenommenen Traditionslosigkeit des Projekts fest. Das ist ein Irrtum. Es geht nicht darum, dass Red Bull Leipzig nicht schon 19xy gegründet wurde und keine Fans hat, deren Väter schon zu den Spielen der "Bullen" gegangen wären. Es geht darum, dass Red Bull Leipzig eine bestimmte Tradition nicht hat - die des Fußballs der den Fans gehört.

Als ich im Alter meiner jüngsten Tochter war, hatte ich genau zwei Möglichkeiten, an Bilder meiner Lieblingsspieler zu kommen: den Kicker und Panini. Wenn ich das Logo meines Vereins auf irgendeinem Gegenstand des täglichen Gebrauchs sehen wollte, nahm ich einen Filzstift und malte es dort hin. Wann immer ich meiner Vorliebe für einen Verein Ausdruck geben wollte, musste ich etwas tun. Ich musste meine Fantasie, meinen Grips und meine Kreativität benutzen. Ganz zu schweigen von meinen Filzstiften. Und alles, was ich damit ausdrückte, kam von mir. Nichts davon war made in China!
Wenn ich heute das Logo meines Vereins auf einem Gegenstand des täglichen Gebrauchs sehen will, gehe ich in den Fanshop oder bestelle es im Internet. Es gibt dort schon alles. Nichts davon habe ich selbst gemacht. Keiner dieser Gegenstände drückt meine wirklichen, persönlichen Gefühle aus und sie sind ALLE made in China!

Das ist nicht nur im Fußball so. Für Filme, Bücher, Philosophien gilt das nämliche. Ich muss weder meine Fantasie, noch meinen Grips, noch meine Kreativität und schon gar nicht meine Filzstifte anstrengen, um irgendein Gefühl, eine Überzeugung oder eine Vorliebe für andere sichtbar zu machen. Ich kann das alles KAUFEN.

Und genau das ist es, was Red Bull Leipzig in der Bundesliga, dieser für alle sichtbaren Bühne der Gesellschaft, tut: sie nehmen unsere Gefühle und verkaufen sie uns. Alles, was ich noch bewegen muss, um etwas sichtbar zu machen, das individuell, persönlich und echt sein sollte, ist mein Zeigefinger, um auf Kaufen zu klicken.
Genau an dieser Stelle verwandeln wir uns endgültig in Homo consumens. Wenn wir DAS mit uns machen lassen.

Red Bull Leipzig hat keine Fans sondern Kunden. Und machen wir uns nichts vor - wir sind alle auf dem Weg dorthin. Aller unsere Gefühle für unsere Vereine lassen sich verkaufen. Auf Adventskalendern. Auf Babystramplern. Auf Oktoberfestdirndls! Alles gibt es mit dem Logo meines Vereins. Red Bull hat das nicht erfunden. 
Aber Red Bull führt uns unmissverständlich vor Augen, wie weit wir auf diesem Weg schon sind. Das Motto dieser Gesellschaftsform lautet: Ich konsumiere, also bin ich.

Red Bull Leipzig ist nicht der Tod des deutschen Fußballs, oh, nein. Red Bull Leipzig ist nur das Symptom. Das mit Brausemillionen zusammengekaufte Team ist nicht die Pest, sondern die Beule. An der Art, wie sich das Projekt der Öffentlichkeit präsentiert - als die schöne, neue Fußballwelt - ist überdeutlich zu erkennen, wohin unser alle Reise gehen soll. Wir dürfen alle ganz verschieden sein, solange wir unsere Verschiedenheit beim selben autorisierten Händler kaufen. Wir dürfen fühlen, was wir wollen, solange es eine Bestellnummer im Katalog hat.
DAS ist das Gefährliche an Red Bull Leipzig. Und das ist der Grund, warum die kreative Kritik am Limonadenprojekt nicht verstummen darf. Sie steht stellvertretend für eine andere, größere Kritik: der Mensch, als Person, in seiner Individualität, mit seinen eigenen Erfahrungen, Gefühlen, seiner Geschichte ist keine Ware. Es gibt Dinge, die sind weder verkäuflich noch käuflich. Fansein darf keinen Strichcode tragen. 
Wir sind Fans, keine Kunden.

Meine Gedanken auf Englisch:http://www.unusualefforts.com/modern-football-fandom/

Sonntag, 22. Mai 2016

Night blazes like Day

Our heroes are expected back
any time now, any minute
we are waiting
those of us who went with them to Stuttgart
ailed with them, fought and prevailed with them
Soared with them on to a glorious 3:1;
those of us who stayed home
watched and worried
and finally were
the first to carry the news to the city:
Mainz 05 will play Europa League!

Now, our heroes are expected back
any minute the big, red-and-white bus
will swing round the corner
come to a standstill in the milling of fans
waving and shouting their pride.

We are wandering, watching
comparing watches

passing rumours
as dusk falls
lighting cigarettes, lifting beer bottles
beacons to call them home.

As the bus crawls in
floating on raised heads and hands
the flares light up
and the crackers rent the silence
red and golden and white
searing the eyes and tearing the night
smoke rising as from a pire
burning to ashes our fears and frustrations

night blazes like day
Mainz 05 will play Europa League!

Tumbling from fire and glory
to wine and song
we shout them on our shoulders
their way up the stairs
Schmidt and Latza
Baumgartlinger and Bell
Bungert and Bengtsson
Donati, de Blasis and Frei,
Clemens and Malli
Onisiwo, Moritz
and Karius hailing the fans
Brosinski and Curci
and Cordoba Jhon Cordoba
balmed forever in a moment of glory
framed in smoke and froth
of flying beer.

Caught in a moment of jubilation
fans and players alike
dangling from whatsapp and instagram
defying the limits of a duller tomorrow.

Mittwoch, 27. April 2016

There and back again – a  Groundhopper's tale

I'm normaly not a groundhopper, a football fan visiting the most exotic venues just for the love of unintelligible languages, undisgestible food and hilarious tales about getting lost on the way to a stadium. I was born to follow and I follow my clubs, Mainz 05 and Paris Saint-Germain plus the Brazilian national team (I never said I was normal!) to some extent and to some places.
But this time and last weekend in Paris I  had an evening off and decided to treat myself to a French Ligue 2 game and that's where my groundhopper's tale begins.

Paris FC, actually something like PSG's step-brother or maiden mother, did me the favour to play local rival US Créteil in a tight battle against relegation. Paris FC occupied the last place in the table, Créteil the last but one.

I emerged from the Métro to the view of a spindly legged concrete bowl proudly sporting a banner in dark blue and black with a stylised Eiffel Tower: Home of Paris FC.

This suburban concrete charme prevailed on the inside of the stadium. 

To my surprise I wasn't the only foreigner wanting to see the mighty Paris FC. Some young men joined me in trying to come by the information where and how to get a ticket. There weren't that many possibilities, really, but one of the boxes was obviously open only for youth teams coming to see the match, another one only took credit card ...Well, we made it inside and were told to pick a place, any place in the stands. So I dived into the concrete bowl.
There were children playing with some toys obviously put there for their use. Like in Sunday School.
There was one counter offering sandwiches, soft drinks, water and – hoorray! - chips (glutenfree!)
There was a stadium speaker, doing a carioca on the pitch and announcing everything from the players to the flood lights going on like he was at Parc de Princes or Stade de France, Paris' real big venues. Football temples.
There were Ultràs prepating for a tifo.
There was everything football needs.

I'm a secrete admirer of everything ultrà, so I occupied a seat at the back of the block where the black and blue hoard mingled and were in the process of inflating blue and white balloons. More than 99 of them.


A steward spotted me there and approached me, his brow signalling worry. „Madame,“ he began and switched to English, when I produced my best nondescript foreigner's face, „this is where the Ultràs are.“
I'd noticed.
„Are you sure you want to stay here?“
I was.
I reassured him that I was familiar with Ultràs, knew how to handle them and would keep my distance. He was relieved. „Ah, you're a football fan. Yes, keep safe, they can be … pushy.“
Yes, they can.
I thanked him for his concern and prepared myself for the game.

Before the actual match a parade of youth teams marched in to triumphant music. Obviously they had been doing very well, each team was carrying trophies, and were to receive their well merited honours. I marvelled at the many girl teams and among those at the obvious number of Muslim girls, wearing elaborate headscarfs. In Black and blue, of course.
It were exactly those girls who climbed up into the stands next to me when the game began and started supporting them with a fervour short of nothing I was about to see the next day at Stade de France when PSG played OSC Lille in the cup final. Come to that, I wouldn't see many fans dancing on the seats at Stade de France.

The support was all hand (or lungs) made. 100% passion. 100% percent Paris. Unwaivering chants. Nonstop drums. Blue and white balloons waved (and later popped to make up for the lack of explosives).And an unmistakeable attitude.



Since it was a derby of some sorts, several stands were mixed scenes, but there was a large block of definite US Créteil Ultràs situated right across the concrete bowl, as far away from the PFC Ultràs as was strategically possible and advisable. They stripped their chests bare as soon as the game began and when Ultràs striptease they mean business.

Since there was no alcohol sold at the stadium, the fans had to fuel their passion simply on adrenaline and they managed to. When Créteil equalised and thus doomed Paris FC to go back to the National League, France's third tier, some guys to my left said something intensely displeasing the PFC's capo. He threw them both bodily from the stands.
They remained unharmed, but proceeded to pay back the attitude. Stewards intervened and suddenly all the PFC's Ultràs left the block to join the brawl rather than support their team.
Priorities! USC Ultràs on the far side of the stadium gloated.
The girls in the stands kept their agitated distance.
Somehow the whole thing inflated. Stewards, Ultràs, rogue fans and Muslim girls all returned to their seats. Meanwhile the attitude had meandered to the pitch where the players staged a small brawl of their own. The referee marched in and booked the contestants. Continue playing, si'il-vous plait!

The game was a typical 2nd tier match. Some good football, some abysmal one, much mediocre display, but all in all – what do you expect? Ten-a-side kicking a ball, with their feet and heads, running and flying and passing and diving for control of that round sphere that evaded and lured them and gave itself over to them them again like a capricious Parisian beauty. All you need to fall into poetry and song on a cold and windy night in Paris. I sang „Allez, Paris FC!“ with the rest.

I left the stadium with the vague feeling that, according to what my beloved and spoiled and pampered PSG had shown me over the last weeks, this may very well turn out to have been the more entertaining event of the weekend.
(It wasn't. But that's a different story)

When I left the stadium, fate caught up with me in the form of a French lady, maybe some years my senior, who asked what had been going on in the stadium and was aghast when I explained her with radiant eyes that a football game had taken place and I had actually been there. She couldn't believe it.
„You? A Woman? A woman YOUR age?!“
Merci beaucoup, sister!
She offered to pray for me and earnestly begged me to wear a Wondrous Miraculous Medal in future when visiting such dark and demonically infested places.
She was quite charming, actually, after an hour's talk, so I might. I have such a medal at home.
While I was telling her that I indeed am every bit as catholic as her, police escorted USC fans home long after the match had ended and PFC fans had dispersed.
„They are good lads, really“ I told her.
Madame the French lady looked unconvinced.

I went back to my hotel. It was freezing cold and my fingers were numb, the cold part of my body. It hadn't felt that cold in the stands. I had been watching a game in which I didn't know any player or much about the teams save for what I had checked with wikipedia right before the match. I had thoroughly enjoyed it. I really must love football.

Montag, 28. März 2016



Testgames are those meaningless friendlies played on a weekday's afternoon. About fivehundred people assembled, students and pensioners, grandparents with children considered too small for the „real thing“of a Saturday's 34.000 crowd. A handful of away-fans.

You can study every face, hear every voice.

Suddenly a single voice matters – like allegedly in elections – and the echo from three empty stands not even opened for the event, make it carry over a roughened up pitch which isn't subject to daily careful care with top league legs skimming over it in mind.

That single voice carries over the pitch in a clearly audible „So, what?“ when the first goal is conceded.
Laughter from 499 throats is iwhoseue reward.

Normally support chants do not emerge from single voices. They start at 100, slowly revving up volume. And they die at fading down to the original 100 again, not able to stand the prospect of silence a mere 100 voices among 34.000 too closely resembles.

Yet among 500, 5 make a choir. The same weighing silence that makes me fall mute when I suddenly realize I'm only one of 100 in the big theatre, now buoys me up into a defiant shout of „Auf geht’s Mainzer, kämpfen und siegen!“ The sound of my own voice, otherwise intimidating, suddenly rings strong and authentic in my ears.

At testgames every voice is needed and allowed to ring.

Testgames disperse the crowd and give the individual back her dignity
Defiance gets even more pronounced in the away-fans's voices. Separated from home-fans out of habit or necessity sparked by the opponent's name and nature (Karlsruher SC, about whom neither a charleslemagnian greatness nor a particular need for quiet can normally be noted), they sparsely people the opposing stands. Banners displayed and shouts greeting the deserved lead are answered not with the usual wave of insults and explicite suppositions about maternal profession, but rather with a grudging respect. For having turned up at all. On a weekday. For a testgame.

Die-hard recognizes its equivalent.

Another attack dies in the boots.

„Sub him!“ shouts individual dignity.

What is normally drowned in the presence of 34.000 here stands out in simple ingenuity. The witty, the spontaneous, the fit-the-moment remark, normally lost to the crowd and forlornly typed to some overseas Facebook friend lest it be lost for eternity (thus the next almost-goal being lost on the typer). „Hey, ref, we know your barber!“

The collinaesque ref doesn't respond. The 499 do. Moments of acknowledgement.

On the pitch the players are displaying various degrees of meaningless. Those whose starting place is relatively secure treat the ball with a certain air of surprise should it come their way. „You here? What shall I do with you?“
At one moment a player kneels down to retie his boots. It takes him almost two minutes and he rises to a standing ovation.

Others who are struggling to find their way – back – into the starting eleven are weaving in and out of the game with the clear demeanour of men on a mission. Impress the coach or die trying!

There is Danny Latza, all knowledgeable concerning his qualities. When he stands at the centre spot, hands on hips, chin up, shoulders lowered, self-confidence personified, the message is clear: leave me out at your loss.


On the other hand Pierre Bengtsson struggles along the sideline as if he felt the margins were his natural habitat. His gaze is turned to the ground more often than not. The ball once off his foot obviously feels abandoned and trails across the line into the nothingness of out. I feel compelled to shout something encouraging especially for him but don't trust my voice to reach him. It's easier to reach the 499.

Anyway, I don't speak Swedish.

Sub-keeper Gianlucca Curci, keen to prove first-league qualities by expressing first-league temperament causes and then protests a penalty with flying colours. As fans we hide our faces in shame over the sudden appearance of a fully fledged Thespian in a Punch-and-Judy show. He'll stay sub-keeper for some time.

Both coaches take advantage from the testgame to test. The whole squad shifts and varies over the 90 minutes. Most players,despite their rare appearance on first league team sheets are known to the fans and greeted amiably. In some cases we are mystified by shirts sporting only numbers, no names, indicating the wearer's insignificance.

This is an illusion as one Aaron Seydel unveils in a beautiful goal (assist Philipp Klement) to make it 2:2 at full time. As becomes a testgame both teams remain undefeated and on friendly terms.

I leave the stadium curiously satisfied.

This was all about me and football today. Neither DFB nor DFL nor FIFA nor, for that matter, the media had much to do with it.

And only those present know its reality.

(Mainz 05 played Karlsruher SC on Thur 03/24/16 in a friendly at Bruchweg Stadium, Mainz)

Dienstag, 1. März 2016

How to support a plastic club

You shouldn't, of course.
Plastic clubs are a waste of passion. They have money in abundance, so they can buy their fans as well as their players. They don't need you, your enthusiasm, your voice, your flag, your love. They're just after your money.
In Bundesliga Bayern Munich is the plastic club par excellence. Even their own fans hate them. Or so I've been told. Like Barcelona they have their most enthusiastic fans on the internet or the other side of the globe.
But - fairness first - Bayern isn't really a plastic club. They have tradition, were founded in 1900, worked their way up in Bundesliga and in Europe until they became plastic enough to set up an office in New York. If they're plastic, they're oak effect.

A plastic club is a mockery of the real thing. Anybody with a bank account and an ego huge enough can manufacture one. You are a Russian billionaire, a Qatari sheikh or a German software developer bored and looking for a new spare time activity which is tax-deductible (at least in the beginning)? Why not design a football club? Buy the best! Player, manager, venue, colours, logo, merchandising, fans ...China makes it possible for you in no time. You can even chuck your aged players there in the dusk of their careers. Plastic clubs are global players.

Plastic clubs don't have fans, they have customers. These people expect the club's owner to arrange for good weather for matchdays, special program for the kids, and a good result should be guaranteed anyway. You don't pay €50 a seat to see a draw.
Plastic clubs have plastic fans. They don't want the other kind. They don't want fans who start yelling on top of their lungs when things go wrong on the pitch or climb the fence when they don't. They don't like passion shown so blatantly. They don't want love, they want entertainment.
So, there is really no reason why anyone who calls himself a football lover should support a plastic club.
Except it happens.

It grows on you. Creeps up in the night like a cold. You sneeze once the first day, twice the next. Soon you'll start looking for a hankie.
First you start noticing their results, then reluctantly stream a match, but tell yourself you're just casually interested. Or you like to watch good football for a change since your local team breaks the european record for being bottom of the table with hardly any points. Or you just want to see if they're really worth the millions they have cost.
And then you see them pay. You realize there IS something of higher class to this team. They are paid in a month what your team invests in one year, they are evil, they are nouveau-riches, but they do play a fucking good football.
You're not yet a supporter, by no means. You just took the opportunity to make up your own mind from watching them play yourself instead of listening to Twitter comments. You're being objevtive. You still hate them. At least when asked.
Then comes the day you first realise a small drooping of spirit when you hear they lost. When you first encounter difficulties joining the others in joyful ranting. Ha,ha, the plastic club has lost! There's still justice under the crossbar. And you find yourself worrying whose fault it was.
Take an aspirin. It will get worse.

The day you're on your way seeing them play life for the first time is the day you are lost. 

You will realise that the plastic club is all the evil things you know it to be, but it's also a very real football club.

 Its players run and sweat and swear and celebrate like yours at home. 

And the plastic fans are more different than they look from afar waving their sponsored flags. There are gnarled old fans who were there before the sponsors came, and kids just shy of toddler-age who blurt out the names of the players in alphabetical order, shiny eyed and in an obscenely expensive shirt, but the shine in the eyes is priceless and genuine. And you remember the fair-weather fans at home who leave the stands at a comfortable 3:0, who don't even sing when the team is winning, and realize that sometimes the plastic is not in the clubs but in the people.

One day you will catch yourself saying „we“ when you speak of the plastic club. 

You nervously touch your arm. It's no more plastic than before. You're still a football fan made of flesh and blood, and you just found yourself supporting a plastic club.

Allez Paris Saint-Germain!

Freitag, 1. Mai 2015

Why Americans don't understand football

To all my American friends and readers - I really, truly, honestly don't mean to offend you. This was the result of a challenge I accepted during the WC 2014 to name a reason why football still isn't what Americans think of when they hear "football". Since the WC 1994 in the U.S. a significant rise in popularityfor soccer-football in Baseball's own country has been predicted annualy. As I've been told by nieces and nephews who spent months and years in that beautiful country, soccer is a girl's sport there. Something no real Bundesliga-fan can interprete as a "significant rise in popularity". 
So when during a boring game last summer - I THINK it was Iran vs. Nigeria - I and some Facebook-cronies wrecked our brains in finding an answer to the big WHY. Why, if players like Beckenbauer, Pelé, Steven Gerrard and Kaká are served to the American people on silver plates (carrying them off, afterwards, as part of their salary), is it still not sport number one in the states?
Here's my attempt at an answer:

Why football is for the World and soccer just for Americans.

So Americans have to be kept out of football. I'm all for that and here are the reasons:
    1.They already have a game called football and it's absolutely enigmatic to everyone else on the globe. Players can hardly be distinguished due to helmets and bars in front of their teeth (afraid of biting?) This is probably to disguise a player's identity. While in football/soccer every player wears a shirt with his name and a number on it and no disguise is permitted, American football players resemble scret agents wriggling their way into the rest of the world's cell phones. I bet Edward Snowden never got picked for his high-school's football team. It would explain a lot.

    2. Football(soccer only to a despicable minority) is about sex. Of course, it is about sex, what isn't? Ah, yeah, american football isn't. Imagine kissing a guy with a cage fit for a guinea pig in his face. And you can't see what he's REALLY built like either. Statistics say that FOOTBALL (soccer) is hugely popular among American women and I can fully relate to that bebause you can actually see the players. And mostly enjoy the sight. Now, as everybody knows, Americans are afraid of sex. They do it, yeah, but do they enjoy it? Like the French who made an art of it? Like the Italians who sing about it? Like the Spanish who turn it into a corrida? Like the Brasilians who make it into a dance and a national symbol? Nope. They don't. So they just don't know what it is all about and can sit in the stands (pun intended) consume their coke and popcorn and watch American Football (or worse: Baseball, a game in which nothing ever happens).

    3. They think they can win everything. Americans think they won over England in using the language. Purrrlease – you want to say this is English they speak between New York and Washington? In Texas? In the rural regions of North Carolina? It's not. They don't own the language and they won't own FOOTBALL (not soccer). They think they won over Italy in creating something that's now called American Pizza. It consists of dough piled with molten cheese and fatty sausages burried within. Any decent Italian Pizza breaks down in hot opera-like tears when compared to that food. They think they won over everyone in creating McDonalds (I seem to remember the original scottish clan of that name was wiped out some time ago). While McDonalds is a beautiful place to feel at home and eat something that always tastes the same no matter which country you're in, this is not a victory! It's a thorough defeat of any remaining taste-bud in a human gum. Football (did I hear someone call it soccer?) on the other hand is a question of TASTE. We have vocabular like „Sugar-pass“, „Banana-Flank“ or „Cream-Goal“. Not to mention it is closely linked with consuming quantities of first-class German beer (NOT Budweiser!) And since you can't play it sitting down and there are no commercials interrupting the game, Americans will never win in Football.

    4. Football is real! It's the whole, damned f...ing real life rolled into 90 minutes (and often more). It's a place where people – no matter which sex, sex-preference, race, colour, number of tatoos, age or status of marriage – scream and shout, laugh and cry, jump up and down and hug, dance and eat and drink together. It's a conservation area for humanity, hate and love, war and peace, the best and worst in mankind. It's the least close thing to Hollywood you can imagine.For all the above reasons Americans must be kept out of Football. I don't think there's much reason to stress the point, though. Most of the members of the American team in 2014 World Cup are of European, Asian, African or even Native American (!) origin. And coached by a German. So, whatever they win it won't be an American victory. They may have won the war, but to win in football you have to be real. Here and now. And – honestly – how can a game be real that's called „soccer“ (succour, socks, sick, suck)... (btw: I like America, but I like football more).

Samstag, 25. April 2015

When Friday comes ... (Bundesliga in the style of James Montague)

Spring in the Mainz area is a plesant time. An abundance of trees and rapeseed, blooming like they'd get paid for it, accompany the way to the stadium. The fans travel the distance on foot or by bike. Busses carry them within sight of the brand-new arena coated in the club's red and sporting the main sponsor's name.
Fan-made graffitis are another note-worthy sight on the way. They shout the name and year of founding of the club I'm about to see play to the world: Mainz 05. FSV, Fußballsportverein Mainz, founded in 1905.

The crowd are equally pleasant minded. Two hours before kick-off fans and spectators of all ages, weights, sizes and temperaments mill around the stadium. Beer and Curry-Wurst add to the festive mood and are available everywhere in and out of the gates. Inside you have to pay by debit-card. I join one of the queues for „Aufladen“ and upload 10 Euros on my shining, red „Fankarte“. I will need them, the prices range around 3 Euros for beverage. I pay 6,70 for an apple-soda and some french fries.

Before the game fans in the opposing clubs's attire mingle freely without a trace of aggression. The bright blue of Schalke 04 and the red-and-white of Mainz 05 mix over plastic cups and passionate discussions. Mainz is 11th in the league and still tinged with a slight fear of relegation. Schalke exited from the Champions League and aspires to go back to European level asap. The  05- fans I meet are hopeful but realistic. "Schalke is favourite, of course. But a draw would be fantastic."

Football in Germany is big business. Inside the gate a well organized fan-shop sells everything a Mainz 05 logo can be placed upon. Caps, scarves, cups and plates, wallets, shirts and garden-gnomes ... you name it.
What they don't sell is batteries. My camera's expired shortly after I enter the stadium and I realize I have to rely on my mobile from now on. Reduced quality inevitable, but the exitedly-friendly atmosphere is catching, I grumble very little.
Twenty metres to the left the USM, the Ultraszene Mainz, have their booth where they sell  their own stuff. No garden-gnomes here but scarves and buttons dedicated to the Ultrà-movement, magazines and stickers.
"We are special", Norman tells me. "We don't wear this stuff you can buy over there. It has the sponsor's brand all over. we don't support entega, we support Mainz 05."
Norman is in his late twenties and a prominent figure in the USM. While we are talking people come by, clap his shoulder, wave a greeting. He nods and smiles in return. Most are like him, twenty- or thirtysomethings. Some are much younger. Boys and girls of about 16,17. They are the "Subciety", the Ultrà's youth academy . It's their job to sell the stickers and buttons at the booth. They act very polite around "their elders", none of them looks drunk.

Elsewhere they do. It's clear that beer has been flowing for some time before the match.

I meet Uwe who is on his way to put up his fan-club's banner near the pitch. His gaze is slightly unfocused, but his good mood is highly visible.
"I was at the university", he tells me, "and seeing what a gorgeous day it is I told me mates to come around for some beer at 4:30. We have been sitting outside in the sun since then, but we still have some crates for after. We'll have to celebrate keeping the league!"
Uwe is confident Mainz can beat Schalke. "They've been really poor lately and we won away to Freiburg last Saturday, that gives the team a hell of a boost."

The stadium seats 34.000 and most of them are already there. The game is sold out due to it's being a Friday night in spring, which means fine weather, no rain, no mud on the roads to the stadium, the team has been playing well, lately, under a newly appointed manager and the club has put some effort into luring people to the stadium like special sales for families.
Tonight's game is a "top-game", thought. Tickets have gone up for the occasion.
I'm in the happy position of having a seasonticket to the stands. They fully deserve the name because you really do stand there. German football stadiums still haven't joined the all-seat-politics of the English FA and the south stand is packed with fans in red-and-white. Opposing kits are not allowed here, it's the "red wall", the home of Mainz 05 supporters. Down low next to the pitch, which is sto respofforespondingt spanning from the ground almost to the roof to prevent objects thrown reaching the players, Norman and the Ultràs are preparing for battle. They have two leadsingers with megaphones and a drummer to keep pace to the songs. Banners and flags are everywhere, most of them handmade to superb standard. Red, white and gold are prevalent and the ancient heritage of the city of Mainz even shows in a group of fans showing a large banner with the letters SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus, Moguntia. They shout the ancient name of 2000-year old Mainz with much fervor. "Mo-gun-ti-a!!!"

I have to climb up the stairs right to the top trying not to knock over beer-cups. Stewards in yellow vests are keeping the stairs clear of fans by the use of grim faces and expressive body language. But the fans are good humoured and scramble out of the way only to come back to their positions once the steward has patroled away.

Opposite the Schalke 04 fans have their lair and make ready to produce a tifo. I share a cup of beer with Marvin and Julian, two young and high-spirited supporters balancing next to me on the top of the stairs while the steward is busy elsewhere. "Schalke fans are great, usually" Marvin says. "They'll be sure to give us a show. and look how many they are." It's true, the away-block is packed and there are still people coming in. It's a four hours ride from Gelsenkirchen-Schalke and it's clear the blue-and-white crowd have high hopes for their team tonight. 

A number of rituals have to be observed before the game starts. The stadium commentator cracks jokes and repeats the names of sponsors in a steady rythm. He hails every stand   to responding shouts and includes disabled persons in a commentating climax, making sure both teams would be absolutely unable to go to a decent game without them. The Ultràs are getting impatient and start a chant of their own "Mainz Null-Fühünf!"
After several songs with the fans passionately joining in highlighted by "You'll never walk alone" with scarves raised the teams enter to a deafening mixture of music and roar. The Schalke supporters rise to the occasion with a sea of blue and gold flags under the cover of which some flares are lightened. 

"This is forbidden" Julian explains. "Mainz 05 will have to pay a high fee for  this. They should prevent stuff like this from even entering the stadium. But It looks great, doesn't it."
The sparkle of gold under the flags and the slowly dispersing smoke over the stands certainly add to the evening's atmosphere. Nobody pays much attention to the commentator mildly reproaching the supporters for this act of rebellion. Compared to what I have seen in stadiums elsewhere in Europe, mostly to the east, this is a very harmless affair, anyway.

The game itself looks like a harmless affair, as well. Schalke clearly superior drives the ball onto Mainz's keeper Karius with much gusto - only to see their efforts come to nothing by two outstanding saves from the young keeper. The crowd cheers, first in shock, then in awe. I hear one of the boys beside me mumble "if we score tonight it will be by coincidence."
Before me two elderly fans are standing. Heinz and Hans, they may be father and son, early fifties and mid-seventies. Both are wearing Mainz jerseys and caps and Hans is passionately disapproving with almost everything the players do. "This is so poor!" he screams at the players 100 metres below. "Don't  you have any eyes. You just gave this ball away for NOTHING!." His beefy arms are working like a windmill to make his point.
It takes Mainz 20 minutes to come dangerously to the opponent's goal for the first time. They are spirited, no doubt, but run high risks when in possession of the ball which makes Hans' face turn purple. But after half an hour a deftly turned in corner by 05's golden boy, Johannes Geis, earns a finish from CB Stefan Bell and it's 1:0 for Mainz. A jingle announces the home-goal and crowd and commentator plunge into a well rehearsed antiphony. "Mainz ..." - "One!!!!" - "Schalke ..." - "Nil!!!!" - "Danke!" - "Bitte!"
After the second goal he will double the "Danke" as will the fans their "Bitte".
Schalke are nonplussed by the host's lead. They are clearly the better side, more controlling, build up the better pressing - but they are one goal down, and within some minutes it's two. Another corner, from the right this time, another assist by Johannes Geis and another finish by Stefan Bell. The south stand is having a field day.
At Half Time people are collapsing out of exhaustion and beer consumption while others are rushing down to get fresh supply. The queues at catering are long, some will not make it back in time for the second half.
A quiz takes place on the pitch to entertain the crowd. It includes some kicking balls at the goal, too, and the winner ends up with a Samsung tablet worth 400 Euros, the commentators audibly emphasizes. He also announces several sponsors doing special sales and will be offering bicycle checks for free to fans the next matchday.
Flooodlight has been turned on by now and the game resumes action.

Behind me a couple of Asian fans, Japanese or Korean judging by the fact that highly efficient and popular Mainz players Shinji Okazaki, Ja Cheol Koo and Jo Hoo Park hail from those countries, are clutching their iPhones like Hans and Heinz their beer cups. Heinz tells me that there are many fans from Asia in the stadium, now, since the Asian players have become so good. "They come from Frankfurt or Düsseldorf", he tells me. "Many Japanese business there, and they just LOVE Okazaki and Koo."
They have reason to, tonight. Although still being inferior in technics Mainz 05 manages to keep Schalke 04 away from their goal with a mixture of fighting spirit, excellent positioning and sheer luck. And each time a shot of theirs hits the bar, narrowly misses the goal or is prised from their feet by a Mainz defender Schalke's confidence visibly drops. 
Hans is still yelling abuse at his own team. Some of the credit must go to the pitch, though, which seems to be very slippery. That doesn't keep the hot-blooded fan from screaming "Du Flasche!!!!" at the top of his voice when Mainz forward Yunus Malli lands flat on his belly for the third time. Being called "a bottle" is serious abuse in German.  
With ten minutes to go and Schalke's finishing now bordering on pathetic, fans in the grandstand start leaving to the jeering of the "real" supporters who clearly are going to savour this night to the dregs. After two minutes of injury time gallantly controlled the players raise their arms in triumph: Mainz 05 has defeated Schalke 04! 
Julian and Marvin have left with the final whistle, but Hans and Heinz and several thousands more stay around to a joyful and vociferous celebration. Brace-scorer Stefan Bell is asked to climb the fence to lead a ritualistic chant with the fans, Heinz explains to me. "They are doing the Humba!"
Seeing my slightly perturbed expression he adds: "It's a carnival song. Humba Täterä. The player says a letter and the crowd repeats it. Listen!"
Sure enough, Stefan Bell, balancing on the platform with Norman and the Ultràs, intones the first letter of the word "Humba": Give me an H!"
"H!" roars the crowd.
"Give me a U!"
"Give me a  Never-second-league!"
This is a creative addition by Mr.Bell and the fans love it. "Never-second-league!!!"
Having spelt the whole word fans and players plunge into singing the full song "Humba Täterä" which is loud and joyful and nonsensical as befits a carnival song. The fiesta being in full swing I try to find my way down to the exit without slipping on smashed plastic cups. I also try not to imagine what it would be like to stumble now and roll down the about 40 concrete steps.

Outside the night is flashing red-and-white from the stadium, blue from revolving lights on police cars and awash with joy and party-spirit. I don't see many Schalke fans. But I hear they were not happy with their team's performance, not at all.

"Now, if Hamburg beats Augsburg today and Paderborn Bremen we may even go to Europa League, still" a female fan rhapsodizes, but her friend beside her is less enthusiastic. "Oh, no, not Europa. We were so poor last time, we'd be the laughing stock again."
Tonight the laughing is on Mainz's side, though, and the fans vanish into the night, heading for ther busses waiting for them in line. It's no mean feat to transport 34.000 people from the middle of the fields to the main station, but if anyone can do it it's a middle-sized German club known for its notoriusly good spirits: Mainz 05 - the Karnevalsverein.