A week ago on Wednesday, I set my alarm for 8:45 am. Fifteen minutes later, Hamburger SV releases ticket sales for guest fans for the relegation second leg in the Hanseatic city. At 09:10 I am close to a nervous breakdown. Time and again, free seats are displayed in the guest area on the HSV website, as soon as I click on them, the tickets are no longer available. Twenty minutes later I get a redeeming call from one of my best friends. Despite repeated server crashes, he managed to acquire two standing places in Hamburg. The friend is actually Schalke and had a season ticket for the Arena in Gelsenkirchen for many years. Whatever the reason, I managed to get him enthusiastic about Hertha during this disastrous season for the “old lady”. He is now better informed about injured players, starting line-ups and Windhorst millions than I am.
As we travel north on Monday afternoon with the ICE, a man walks through the compartments and asks all recognizable Hertha fans for a remaining ticket for the Volksparkstadion. He himself hasn’t received any more, if necessary he tries it directly in front of the block, he says. Making the journey alone, despite the lack of a guarantee of getting to the stadium, speaks of true blue and white love.
Arrived in Hamburg we spend the sunny Monday at the Binnenalster with beer and McDonalds fries. At some point one of our group shouts: “Hey Lotka Digger, come over here.” Marcel Lotka, Hertha’s injured goalkeeper, also enjoys the last hours before the game with friends by the water. He asks us what we bet for a result. “I don’t have much hope,” replies one of us. Lotka answered quite pragmatically: “All the better, then you can’t be disappointed.”
In the S-Bahn towards the stadium, the HSV fans are clearly in the majority, but the Herthan fans are all the louder. When at some point a family with a crying toddler gets on board, the classic fan chants are briefly stopped. The child promptly stops crying. Shortly before the stadium, a group of three from Berlin suddenly yells “Jews HSV”. An anti-Semitic crossing of borders, completely unnecessary. The three teenagers are immediately confronted by the rest of the Hertha fans. They try to talk their way out of it. You would also be on the side of “the Jews,” says one. I doubt they understood what it’s really about. The prompt confrontation and condemnation of the anti-Semitic slogan by the majority of the fans in the S-Bahn is actually a matter of course, but it is still an important sign.
In front of the Hamburger stadium we first have to fight our way through a sea of home fans. Nobody scolds us, the atmosphere is peaceful, one even shows us the right way to the guest block. Much has been said and written about the game itself. After the completely despondent relegation first leg, I thought again, this team didn’t deserve us fans. On this Monday evening in Hamburg I am taught better. The team is playing as one would have wished for the entire season. Compact at the back, poisonous on the offensive. Accordingly, the atmosphere in the guest curve. The Berliners are whipped up for ninety minutes, after the final whistle and the successful relegation, most of them are primarily bewildered and relieved to have made it after all.
At the sausage stand in front of the stadium we meet two sad women from Hamburg. They congratulate us, are fair losers. “Second league is ok too,” says one and wishes us a nice evening. In the shuttle bus to the stadium, a Hertha fan proudly shows all passengers his two-second TV appearance on Sky during the game on his mobile phone.
My night is coming to an end when I end up on a street corner in Altona at around 2:00 am in the arms of several homeless people. “You guys are so horny you broke that, you’re stars,” says one man from the group. “We are all St. Pauli fans proud of you”. Once again it is clear: many more people than you think are keeping their fingers crossed for Hertha. And for quite a few, the club means everything