Casting the first Stern

Steglitzer FC Stern 1900 upset the favourites, VSG Altglienicke, in the second semi-final of the Berlin Pokal last week. The tiny club could now be one game away from a match with Bayern Munich. Or maybe even Borussia Dortmund. Stephen was there...

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On the Stern 1900 website, there is a ’Did you know…?’ section. And one of the snippets of wonderful information, thrown in amongst lines about injuries and new signings, is “…Sabrina made an apple pie before the last home game… it was really tasty!” The site indicates an average of 0.08 visitors per day, and this half of the Sportsdesk can’t help but feel that he’s responsible for bumping it up significantly. After all, it was pretty tricky to find someone to call about a press ticket. After a while, contact acquired, the call was made. He was baffled. “You want to write about us? In English?” Yes sir, I responded, more and more with every passing moment.

Stern’s pitch has an Astroturf surface of the sort that punishes sliding tackles by the removal of the thinnest layer of skin from the knee – entirely innocuous until one steps under the shower. A liberal sprinkling of water on the turf does wonders to reduce the friction though, and just as well: both Stern and their opponents VSG Altglienicke were thundering into challenges, both quite aware that this was the biggest game of their amateur football careers.

News had filtered down to Steglitz that Dynamo had trounced Türkiyem in the other semi-final, and most of the 379 present seemed pleased. “At least Dynamo have some fans to bring,” observed a yellow-and-blue clad father to his son. And Dynamo’s opponents will, as always, be able to count on neutral support – being a sixth division underdog will only help garner even more feeling against the team everyone loves to hate.

Altglienicke were playing some decent passing football, but Stern’s direct approach was causing more problems at the business end of the pitch. Veteran Andreas Thurau’s crossing, both from set-pieces and open play, was excellent, but futile in the absence of a strong presence up front. When the opener came, it was a world apart from long-ball tactics. Cristoph Hampel picked up the ball outside the Altglienicke box and stroked a beauty into the top corner. It was brilliant, and one feared a little for his safety as all 10 of his teammates, goalkeeper included, piled up on top of him in celebration.

The equaliser was of a different mould, but similarly high in quality. A through ball from Altglienicke’s Patrick Kroll dissected Stern’s hitherto well-organised defence like a sushi chef would a puffer fish, and Thomas Tomkiewicz’s calm finish to the near post left Stern keeper Erkan Türkoglu looking foolish.

And that was it. At 1-1, with two great goals, it was as though both teams accepted that the high standards they had set in the last 15 minutes of the first half couldn’t be met again. The guests were happy to sit and attempt to break quickly, and although Stern’s high balls into the box saw more flappers from Reinhardt in the Altglienicke goal than a 1920s jazz bar, extra time was inevitable.

One wonders who was responsible for the scheduling of these two semi-finals – the ’stadium’ (one uses the term lightly out of desire to rely facts rather than to disparage) at Kreuznacher Str. has floodlights that are suitable for soothing children gently to sleep, not hosting cup semi-finals. Frequently, Stern launched the ball forward, sending it up into the murky Steglitz dusk with little indication of where it would return to ground. Everyone was getting a little frustrated: pushing and shoving on the pitch and renewed chanting from the side-lines illustrated the tension. Penalties were coming, and Stern seemed pretty happy to wait for them as discontent spread through the team.

But then: a hopeful deep cross from the right, and the substitute Mattern caught it on the volley at the back post. Stern was in the lead with 10 minutes to play. There was still time for another hero though, as Türkoglu somehow took flight to claw Muhedeen Didar’s perfectly placed long-range belter out of the top-corner. For a game with long, long periods of mediocrity, there had been four moments of the highest class.

So Stern will play Dynamo in the Berliner Pokal final on June 8. The winner will take part in the first-round draw of the DFB Pokal in August, along with all the giants of German football. Should Stern make it that far, Sabrina’s apple pies might have some pretty big crowds to feed in the future.