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  • Jacob Sweetman: In the bleakest mid-Winterpause


Jacob Sweetman: In the bleakest mid-Winterpause

The Sportsdesk listlessly reflects on a winter break for the amateur clubs of Berlin that seems to have lasted forever.

Image for Jacob Sweetman: In the bleakest mid-Winterpause
Photo by Ian Stenhouse

The cat punched me again on the back of the head. Get up, this is my bed and I let you use it last night, but get up. Christ, is there no football on, again?

He’s a stroppy little shit, but I think that’s maybe just because I always answer his stupid 5am questions in English – he thinks my German should be better. He leaves comments on the Exberliner at night.

Well you’re going to have to find something to do, you can’t just lie around here all fucking day. Then he punched me in the head again. I flick through Fußball Woche, but something’s not right about it. It’s all Bundesliga, got three pages on Union and Hertha, but there’s still bugger-all football below these rarefied heights. I’ve seen Union and I’ve seen Hertha, I’ll be back at the Alte Försterei on Friday, even, but what about the Berlinliga, the Oberliga? The Berlinliga is a vacuum, the Oberliga a void, the Regionalliga a gaping hole, a gaping hole where there is merely a shoddy handwritten notice with Berlin Fußballverband scrawled in Biro in the top corner and Generalabsage written in red crayon across it.

Generalabsage, no football until this weekend. Tough shit, it’s been too cold, too snowy. Tough shit on the players who are almost certainly driving their families wild, pacing around the corridors of their flats, kicking things around and drinking too much in the evenings. Tough shit on the clubs who have got bills to pay, but no punters to have taken a hint of brass off so far this year. Tough shit on the fans who are lying around in bed, killing time. Tough shit on Fußball Woche whose bread and butter are these very leagues that nobody else cares about, nobody else notices apart from the few hardy souls that go to the matches, to play, watch, catch up with their once a week friends or serve drinks and sausages.

The fixtures that should have taken place in the Berlinliga this weekend have been rescheduled for April 25, this is how far behind things have got. The quarter finals of the Berlin Cup should have been a fortnight ago. The Reinickendorf Füchse, former home of the legendary Thomas Häßler, haven’t played since they lost 1-0 away at SFC Stern on December 1. In the Regionalliga Hertha and Union’s under-23s have both only played a total of 13 times each this season. Football is supposed to be a winter game, but this one has been a farce, a shambles, a catastrophe. Weirdly enough I saw Jerry Dammers, formerly of The Specials, doing his astonishing Sun Ra thing on Sunday and they opened with a treacherously twisted, distended “In the Bleak Midwinter”. I thought he was a Coventry city fan, but the cantankerous old genius obviously has been keeping an eye on the amateur football scene. The Füchse players could adopt his masterpiece “Nite Klub” as their anthem. “Sleep all day, It’s the only way”.

Fortunately, with a bit of luck, things will start to roll back into action again this weekend; games will be played again so at the least the clubs can start to get themselves warm for the Cup ties next week, start to get some cash flowing back into their achingly empty coffers and some air into their lungs. But there is going to be chaos coming into the spring, the fixture list will be so congested it will make the interminable roadwork at Kotti look like the huge open expanses of Hyde Park.

The cat bats me around again, So are you getting up then? Maybe. But then, sod it. I remember the last game I was at. I bitched and whined my way through the cold of Eintracht Mahlsdorf vs Empor a few weeks ago. Maybe I’ll just give it another week. There are a lot of people a hell of a lot more dedicated to the lower leagues than I am, and they have been tearing their hair out. We’ll let them enjoy this weekend the most.