Archive for June 1st, 2008

I have never been the biggest enthusiast when it comes to cheering from the terraces. Of course I get excited and I yell stuff at the players, but I never felt close to those cheerleading sections in the stands of the stadium. I also haven’t been very emotional about the results of my team. Of course I checked the games section of the newspaper or the team’s website when I wasn’t able to go, but I never really took it to heart. Maybe that’s because my club never gave me anything important to cheer about. Important – in this sense – means the chance for promotion, a chance to win a cup, something like this. There were numerous chances, but somehow it never boiled down to that one final match which would decide everything. It was always done before we had the chance to compete.
Fortuna Cologne has always been my team ever since I begged my father to take me to a match against Eintracht Braunschweig in 1988. Two years earlier the club squandered its chance for promotion in a three game series against Borussia Dortmund. They won their home match 2-0 and lost at Dortmund 1-3 with the deciding goal being scored in the final minute. The deciding match was lost 0-8 because half of the team were down with the flu. Three years earlier they lost the final of the german cup competition in a close match against city rivals 1.FC Cologne. Fortuna was the better team back then but they lost. I somehow think I know what it must have felt like to be a Boston Red Sox fan before 2004. We have always been close, but we never made it. We had our joyous moments when we beat our rivals in the 2nd division in 98/99 twice (4-2 and 3-0). But that’s it.

So today we had the chance. It came down to the last match and the whole city was buzzing. Fortuna (61 pts) was to play against VfL Leverkusen (62 pts). Fortuna needed a win, Leverkusen a draw. The match was moved to Sportpark Höhenberg, the home ground for Viktoria Cologne. And the people were pouring in. Remember, this is 5th division german football. And the turnout was more than 6.000! What a crowd. What a match.
Right from the start it was clear that Leverkusen wanted to settle for a draw. Fortuna wasn’t creating any chances instead they were lucky they didn’t have to concede a goal. After the break Fortuna got in control, hitting the post and the crossbar, getting their chances, keeping the hopes of their fans alive. And only a few minutes from time the scored. They scored! Oh what a joy, oh what a roar. I don’t know who I hugged but I tried to catch as many people around me as possible. We were on cloud nine ……….. and then we fell. Hard. Brutal. A deflected shot bounced in front of a Leverkusen striker who scored the equalizer in the 90th minute. Although evrybody says that you never experienced a crowd fall silent so instantly this was what happened. I was stunned. Speechless. Shattered. Broken. At a loss for words. The injury time was like a trance. I am still completely out of myself. I feel nothing. We came so close and yet here we are with nothing in our hands. It could have been the party of a lifetime. Our first promotion in 35 years. And now we have to start all over again.
The biggest hope, my biggest hope, is the support. The people refused to go home until the team came to them. Those guys were completely devastated. One player was crying. Honestly crying. The whole atmosphere was so gloomy. The train ride back home was so silent. Completely different from when we arrived there.

I think I will need a few days to get over this. But when I am I will look forward to the next season.

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