Giovanni Trapattoni and his sidekick Lothar Mathäus have a pretty easy job-to keep Red Bull Salzburg on top of the Austrian Bundesliga. With a budget ten times as much as most of their rivals it isn't too difficult, as I discovered on Saturday night at their BullenArena, with easy access next to the autobahn Munich-Vienna, with great transporation to downtown with a railway station and not far from the most accessible airport in Europe W. A. Mozart Flughafen.
Their opponents were from the small town of Reid Im Innkreis, SV Josko Fenster Ried, with a population of about 10,000. However therir 500-700 loyal fans sang themselves hoarse to the bitter end. Their small corner section of the stadium was complete with a metal conductors stand, on which a couple of leaders, one with long curly hair and a viking helmet, but too youthful to manage a beard, and the other with a small battery powered megaphone urged them on with their back to the field. You'll Never Walk Alone, Go West by the Pet Shop Boys, Guantanamera, Johnny Goes Marching Home and other adopted anthems filled the air with fans waving green, white and black flags and rivalled the much larger crowd of home fans at the other goal CRAZY BOYS, WILD BULLS, SALZBURG 05´s, SALZBURG PATRIOTS were some of the Red Bull section signs.
In 2005 the Red Bull energy drink, whose world headquarters are nearby, bought a failing Austrian Bundesliga club and declared 'This is a new club with no history'. SV Casino Salzburg went bankrupt in 1997, were kicked out of the league and they bought a small club called SV Wusternrot Salzburg. This is what Red Bull took over, declaring they were founded in 2005. The Austrian F.A. made them remove this date, and rival fans disputed the new BRANDING and the loss of their violet and white colours to the new Red and White. However, most were won over. They won the league of 2006-7 easily and are now in the preliminary rounds of The Champions League.
Red Bull also own Red Bull New York in the MLS, a Formula 1 auto team, a Red Bull air racing team and also Red Bull Salzburg Hockey. Their roster has players from Germany, Sebia, Slovenia, Chile, Panama, Korea, Japan, Uganda, Croatia, Hungary, Argentina, and even some Austrians.
Their state of the art stadium will hold 31,000 for EURO 2008, but the upper tier is not yet open,so 14,500 fans crammed the lower tiers plus some corporate boxes, and a Family Bull section. Prices are pretty cheap, from 8 Euros for a good seat, and THE friendliest of Ticket Managers in Thomas Reiner, with refreshment bars selling Red Bull diet for 2 Euros, Mineral water for 1 and 2, Coca Cola 1.5 and 2.5, Bier 2, Frankfurters with bread for 2.5, Leberkase and bun for 2, Radler(bier and lemonade mix) for 2 and the most expensive item -Cigarettes for 5 Euros. YES, smoking is allowed in Austrian stadiums. Outside on one corner is the Red Bull fan Shop doing a roaring trade.
Red Bull put on a show for fans and its hard to believe what conditions were like a couple of years ago. The field is artificial and easily drained, and not far away is a state of the art training complex. A light show played among the roofing and two giant TV screens are at each end for action, replays and fan shots. Their was even an Adidas Advert featuring David Beckham, which was difficult to understand even if English was your mother tongue.
Well, it was a fun night out, but the soccer was ordinary. Red Bulls had a giant of a striker, Vradislav Lokvenc from Czech Republic who played in EURO 2000 and 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, built like a Beanstork at 6´6"(196cm) but with the ability of Mr. Bean !! Eventually 2 goals earned the home side 3 points and the fans, with many women and children, went home happy.
To keep up with Austrian soccer look at www.bundesliga.at. The league has an attractive red and white logo, but looks like a beach volleyball, so maybe a makeover is necessary.