"An Englishman in Recklinghausen"

This essay comes from U.K. resident David Potts, who for some odd reason became obsessed with the town of Recklinghausen and it's football clubs. I'm not sure that the Recklinghauseners are prepared for the inevitable waves of English hooligans who are sure to invade their stadiums, but readers of the Abseits web site can feel secure in the knowledge that there is at least one person out there who is in more desperate straits than themselves....

- The Editor

My love affair with the unremarkable German city of Recklinghausen started some time in 2001, as a result of reading a German football publication called "Die Regionalligen 1999-2000"! Skimming through it, I came across the final league table of the Oberliga Westfalen. Suddenly, there it was….."SPVGG Blau-Weiss Post Recklinghausen"! The name sprawled lazily across the page. Reading further, I noted that they had resigned from the league mid season as a result of financial problems, and were to start the following season 3 levels below, in the Bezirksliga Gruppe 12. I had to find out more………….

Then (and to a lesser extent) today, Blau-Weiss' internet presence was poor. I did manage to find a name and email address, and promptly sent off a rambling message asking for information on the club, and asking whether I could buy a replica shirt (aaah the innocence of middle age). Amazingly, I received a reply! Disappointingly, replica shirts were not available, although I did learn some interesting facts and received an invitation to meet up with my new friend, if ever I visited Recklinghausen. A couple of lapel badges arrived in the post subsequently. That was it………I was hooked!

Despite not renewing contact with my friend, a warm Monday evening in April 2002 found me at Lange Wanne (Blau-Weiss' basic city owned municipal stadium, to the north east of the city centre). I'd managed to blackmail my long-suffering girlfriend Gemma to accompany me, by visiting most of the lady's clothes shops in Recklinghausen. We arrived to find to our surprise that a game was underway! Sadly, it was a junior match involving kids whose age must have been 10 or so. How I envied them their blue & white striped shirts with the words "Blau Weiss Post" emblazoned across their backs! We spent 20 minutes or so walking round the ground taking photographs, watched by suspicious parents! Before leaving, I (unsuccessfully) tried to prise a poster which listed the Association's rules and regulations from the hut that served as the changing rooms. I'd do almost anything for a souvenier!

On our return to England, I undertook to find out more about the "footballing hotbed" of Recklinghausen and it's clubs. The internet revealed that there was FC 96 Recklinghausen, Eintracht 83 Recklinghausen, SU Wacker Sud 81 Recklinghausen, SV Herta 1923 Recklinghausen, SPVGG 95/08 Recklinghausen, PSV Recklinghausen (the police team) and many, many more. For some reason, I only seem to like the teams with the word "Recklinghausen" in their name. Apologies therefore go to SV Hochlar 28, FC/JS Hillerheide, Genclikspor, SG Hillen, SW Rollinghausen and others! FC 96 were my next target! They were formed as recently as 1996 from a fusion of other clubs and played in the Bezirksliga (level 7) at the Hohenhorst Stadion. Their club colours were the traditional yellow and green of the city of Recklinghausen and yes, they had a half decent internet site!

Almost exactly a year later back in Germany, Gemma (allegedly) feigned illness and took to her bed in our hotel in Dusseldorf whilst I set out to Recklinghausen alone. The Hohenhorst Stadion is situated to the south of the town centre, a forty minute amble from the main railway station. I did have a bus timetable, but the masochistic side of me won out. To my surprise, I soon came across "Bruchweg", the home of SV Herta 1923. A reserve game was taking place on the artificial pitch adjacent to the playing field. Herta, resplendent in white shirts, blue shorts & red socks, were taking on SV Horneburg. I took some photos (later to find that all the pictures I thought that I'd taken that day hadn't materialised), noted the attendance (15 or so friends and family) and then moved on after 20 minutes to my ultimate goal of FC 96 vs Hochlar 28. Again, to my delight, a game was underway on the artificial pitch next to the stadium. FC 96's reserve team were playing Eintracht 83. FC 96 wore an emerald green and yellow kit, Eintracht were clad in white shirts, red shorts and white socks with the words "Eintracht 83 RE"on their backs. As is common in Germany, they seemed to be a mainly Turkish team. I made a mental note to find out more about them on my return home. The crowd was a slight improvement on the Herta crowd (about 20). After half an hour, I entered the Hohenhorst Stadion through an open gate in search of German sausage. Several minutes later, I was accosted by an elderly gentleman who asked me for my ticket. Did you have to pay to watch 7th division football I wondered. It transpired that you did. I paid the required amount and then managed to make myself understood in asking whether souveniers were available-"nein"! He didn't seem to believe that I'd come to watch FC 96 and proceeded to inform me that the American Football team (the Recklinghausen Chargers) who also play at the stadium, weren't at home that day. I assured him that FC 96 were the reason for my visit and then proceeded to find somewhere inconspicuous to stand. The crowd was approximately 100. The stadium announcer (a novelty at this level of football) failed miserably in trying to whip the fans up into a frenzy. Bafflingly, the home side played in an all white strip. The stadium consisted of a steep grassed bank on 3 sides with a main stand (much as you'd see at a dilapidated athletics stadium in the UK) spanning the whole of the remaining side. I stayed until half time, "liberated" a poster which was attached to a window and then retraced my steps back to Bruchweg, where I watched Herta's first team play from the pavement (in fear of any further misunderstandings with gatemen!), got bored and returned to a vastly improved Gemma in Dusseldorf.

The following Sunday was the main reason for my visit that year, Blau-Weiss Post (now playing in the Kreisliga A) versus SV Herta………a local derby! To my dismay, the only souvenier I could find was the match ticket itself. Further, the game was played on the nearby artificial pitch, as the more successful ladies side were playing on the hallowed turf. Again, I took some photos (successfully this time), smiled at the locals and counted the crowd….a massive 80! We took our leave at half time.

Now that Gemma and I have discovered the joys of holidaying in New York, our annual spring visit to Germany is on hold (although Autumn 2005 looks a likely time for our next visit). Of late, my allegiances have been shifting. Blau-Weiss are still my favourite club (just!) but I'm now flirting with the charms of SPVGG 95/08 (and in particular) Eintracht 83 & Sportunion Wacker Sud 81. SPVGG have a decent enough internet site for a district league side, but I can find hardly any information on the other two. I'm in turmoil. The clubs don't reply to my emails or letters and apart from catching their results on the local newspaper's internet site, I've found only snippets of information on the 2 new loves of my life. I know that they both play at the Eintracht Stadion, in the southern suburbs of the town, but that's about it. Apparently, Wacker translates into English as "brave". Sud means "south". I did have a stroke of luck recently, when I came across a match report of Wacker's top of the table Kreisliga A clash against SW Rollinghausen, which stated that there had been a crowd of 150. Who were they? Would they be my friends? I hurriedly sent off a letter (enclosing the "bribe" of a UK non-league football newspaper) to the match reporter, asking him to take pity and give me some facts on Wacker and Eintracht. I'll give him 2 weeks before I acknowledge defeat and cry into my dog-eared copy of "The Bumper Book Of German Football Clubs".

In the meantime, can anyone out there tell me Wacker's club colours (I've seen a black and white match photo which obviously doesn't help!), their average attendance, details of their history, the story behind their club badge, sell me a souvenier………. or recommend a secure mental institiution!

David Potts, Carlisle, UK-October 2004.

(c) Abseits Guide to Germany - www.abseits-soccer.com