Posted: 10/16/2008
Title: WELSH PASSION IN THE STADIUM OF DIE FOHLEN

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     The day started on a positive note in Eindhoven, the home of PSV and the giant Philips light and electric company. I walked about 500 metres from the train station for a meeting at the club offices of PSV Eindhoven's Philips Stadium, with statues of two of their former players at the entrance. After a great deal of war time destruction the city is very modern-and well lit of course.

    I happened to see PSV play two very boring matches in 1989, a boring 0-0 European Cup victory on P.K.s over Benfica Lisbon in Stuttgart, and a 0-0 tie and then a loss the same way against Club Nacional of Uruguay in Tokyo for the World Club Championship, but they are still a very famous club and I had a warm welcome before taking the train across the border to Moenchengladbach , with a change in Venlo, for Germany v Wales. I hadn't visited for over 30 years, when I was a guest of Dettmar Cramer, then coaching Bayern Munchen, against the host team at the old Bokelberg stadium when both clubs were two of Europe's best.

      Today Gladbach have just returned to Bundesliga I, but have a sparkling new stadium, Borussia-Park. It's battleship grey, why I don't know, but super modern with giant posters of the past famous stars of yesterday displayed.: Berti Vogts, Lother Mattheus, Jupp Heynckes, Stefan Effenburg, Olvier Bierhoff, Rainer Bonhoff, Gunther Netzer, Allan Simonsen, Igor Belanov, Uli Stielcke, Martin Dahlin... They call the club DIE FOHLEN, The Young Foals, and they were coached by the immortal Hennes Weisweiler and lost in the European Cup Final to Liverpool but won two of the four UEFA Cup Finals that they contested.

      Prior to the match I joined the 500 or so press in the Mercedes Benz Sports Club, a gigantic tent with lights, videos and the site of the post match press conference. As soon as I entered a glass of champagne was thrust into my hand, and then waiters came around with plates of small schnitzels, a herring salad, sausages, cups of carrot and celery soup and lots of beers and soft drinks.  A camera and lights was pointed in my direction, but it was for Rainer Bonhoff who entered to applause right behind me.

      So popular was the singing of the Welsh National Anthem  'Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' (The Land of My Fathers), by the 1,100 travelling Welsh fans to great applause for their passion, that the band struck up again and played an encore, and the crowd was so pleased that they sang the German anthem louder than usual.

      John Toshack's team shocked the European Finalists by getting a 0-0 tie in Frankfurt a couple of years ago, and he was after a similar result. They elected to play again with a lone striker, captain Craig Bellamy as inspirational a leader as you could ever ask for. The team tackled with gusto, never giving an inch, which frustrated the star studded hosts with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lucas Podolski, Miroslav Klose. Michael Ballack, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Philip Lahm and more. It was strange not to see either Oliver Kahn or Jens Lehmann in goal, and Rene Adler is now first choice.

      Wayne Hennessey was solid in goal and Gareth Bale, James Collins and the rest of the defence made the match interesting and exciting: I like Simon Davies, always a threat and it seemed that Toshack might get the result that they were playing for. However, it was not to be , but it took a wonder goal, his first for his country, from Piotr Trochowski, late in the match to get the only goal and the three points in the quest for a place at FIFA Word Cup 2010 in South Africa.

    

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