HENNES VIII is the famous 10 year old Billy goat mascot of 1 FC Koln who resides at Koln zoo and is brought to home matches at Rhein Energie Stadion. Fortunately he was not in London at The Emirates last night where there were disgraceful scenes. Hennes is named after Hennes Weisweiler, legendary coach of Koln, Monchengladbach, New York Cosmos, Barcelona and director of the Koln Sports School, where many top coaches trained.
1 FC Koln have not played in Europe for 25 seasons, but after finishing in 5th place in the Bundesliga they earned a place in the Europa League. A bit of a yo-yo team with five relegations in recent seasons they are now bottom of their domestic league. The chance to visit London and the Mighty Arsenal set off a fan frenzy amonst their loyal fans who usually fill their 50,000 stadium.
Only 2,900 tickets were allocated for away fans but an estimated 20,000 arrived by plane, train, bus and car to turn central London into gridlock. Many clubs, including Arsenal, allow fans who cannot make a home match the chance to sell their ticket. Many Koln fans bought tickets in the 'home' section from ticket touts and on the many internet ticket sites. They bought Arsenal scarves and broke down barriers to gain entry to the home sections, and then pushed stewards and home fans out of the way to crash into sections next to the dedicated away section.
Flares, nazi salutes and general unsavoury behaviour made the home club, on police advice, delay the kick off time from 8.05pm until 9.05 pm. It could have turned out much, much worse with the majority of fans reasonably good natured. WHY, oh why did the police let them march in mass from Central London to the stadium, and not contain them in a large park well away from The Emirates. There were evidently 110 police on duty but the delay allowed for reinforcements including dogs and their handlers to bolster the police presence.
When they scored the opening goal after only 9 minutes through John Cordoba past fellow Columbian David Ospina in the Arsenal goal, their fans rejoiced all over the stadium, and had prevented many Arsenal fans from taking their own regular seats.
The Gunners finally got their act together to come out winners by 3-1, with goals from Sead Kolasinac, Sanchez and Bellerin but that was not the main story. Koln played in some shirts that look like the ones that you might weed the flower beds in, mow the lawn or trim the hedges. Arsenal had played in the Champions League for two decades and were now in a lesser competition, but like Manchester United last season, if they win they will return to the big time, regardless of their league position.
The other two teams in the group are Red Star Belgrade and FC Bate of Belarus who tied 1-1. Goodness knows what trouble will errupt in Belgrade at the Rajko Mitic Stadium(nicknamed Marakana), capacity 55,000 when German fans arrive or at Borisov Arena in Minsk, capacity only 13,000 with a thuggish dictatorship.
How on earth did 20,000 fans get two days off work and pay for transport, inflated ticket prices from touts and strong beer, and who read bedtime stories to their children while they were away?
UEFA will probably throw the book at both clubs. Arsenal as home team are at fault but I would kick The Billygoats out of the competition before more trouble across Europe.