Taking the train up to Koblenz from Saarbrucken it was packed with young 'weekend warriors',army reservists in a good mood. One group polished off a large bottle of Absolut vodka with some orange juice. On the right was the River Moselle and towering to the left of the train track were steep, stepped hills full of vines. Saarland was an independent country for a while after World War II and boasted a national soccer team.
Koblenz is a 2,000 year old World Heritage city at the junction of the Rhine and Moselle with fortresses, castles, churches and and old town and is the Deutsch Ecke-the German Corner.
I had come for a Friday night Bundesliga II contest between the hosts, TuS Koblenz and the visitors Ingolstadt 04 from Bavaria at Stadion Oberwerth. It holds about 14,000 but has a track around it since they have an annual Track and Field meet that attracts world wide competitors and often produces world records. Arriving 2 hours early before the gates were open I was met by the police chief who summond the club security chief Hermann. I told them I was interested to see Matthew Taylor their striker from UCLA Bruins who had played alongside my friend Dru Hoshimiya who I had found a club for in Rosenheim.
'Oh, Mr Hollywood' said Hermann, since Matt had played a while for FC Hollwood, a team of show biz types. He had been MLS player of the week at Chivas USA and also played for Kansas City Wizards, and Portland Timbers and had come to Germany full of hopes-and was given jersey No. 35 and made it as their striker. He even scored a hat-trick a couple of months ago against Kaiserslautern, and was on the 2003 UCLA Bruins NCAA Div I championship team. I gave Hermann a Sheffield FC 1857 rule book, and when he mentioned he supported Liverpool, I produced a post card of Anfield for him. 'Wow, you are going to be our guest and VIP today', as they both whisked me to a 80 x 40 metre tent, the LOTTO Reinland-Pfalz Treff tent,and tied a green band around my left wrist. ' Herzlich Willkommen. All you can eat and drink, before, half-time and after the match', I was told. 'Have a nice evening. It's not often people come from so far to visit us.'
Well, there were stacks and stacks of drinks of all kind in cooled cases surrounding the walls-beers, wines, water, soft drinks and I particularly liked the Brohler Kaktus drink. Then the chefs arrived from the kitchens. Tables full of currywurst, turkey 'Harlekin', poached fjord salmon medallions, rinderbraten Rheinische art, potatos, salads, hot and cold vegetables and dozens of cakes and desserts. I just had to try them all.
The teams entered the field to the sound of the original 'You'll Never Walk Alone' by Gerry and the Pacemakers. There where about 8,000 fans, many holding up Christmas candles in the dusk. Matt ran himself ragged all the game, shooting, heading, passing, and always trying to get into a good position. Up front he had an Albanian partner Fatima Vata and the squad boasted players from France, Slovenia, Greece, Cameroons, Algeria, Argentina, Finland, Bosnia, Serbia, Korea and a home win looked for certain. However, after 16 minutes a suprise lob beat the TuS US/German goalie David Yelldell for what proved to be the only goal of the game, and the they remain 3rd from bottom going into the winter break.
It was bitterly cold as I left the main stand for the half-time repast. I was attracted to the free wine tasting in the tent and got into conversation with Frederic Lohmeier of the Erlo Getranke und Weinmarkt who had dozens of bottles to disperse. I tried a sweet white from Trier, and then a sweet red from near Mainz, and they were both superb. He told me all about their vineyards. I went back to his display between watching the second half close up on the huge indoor TV screens where I could actually make out the players, TuS in navy blue and the visitors in 'Arsenal style' red and white.
Oh, well, perhaps coach Uwe Rapoldi should try and recruit a few more foreigners!!!