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  • Jacob Sweetman: Your place or Mainz?


Jacob Sweetman: Your place or Mainz?

"The most glamorous league in the world?" Fortunately, the sports desk had better things to do with our time this weekend than worry about Blackburn at home to Everton. It was the first round of the DFB Pokal - a cup that matters no less.

Back again so soon? Yep, the Premiership kicked off this week and SKY, unwilling and totally unable to avoid mindless hyperbole, started off by informing us that it is the most glamorous league in the world. Not the best league any more, Richard Keys’ furry hands would be laughed out of town at that one nowadays, but the most glamorous. During the World Cup, someone inadvertently referred to it as being the “biggest brand in football” without the knowing wink he should have delivered to let us know that he wasn’t a complete wanker.

Fortunately the sports desk had better things to be doing with our time than worrying about Blackburn at home to Everton. It was the first round of the DFB Pokal – a cup that matters no less, or at least hasn’t lost all of its charm by the way it tries to level the playing fields. Sure Bremen or Bayern have won seven of the last eight of them, but in the middle of that sequence is Nürnberg, who won it while in the second division, and last year’s quarter-finalists included Augsburg, Greuther Fürth and Osnabruck. It is a lot smaller than the FA Cup, admittedly, but I like the way the dice get stacked in the first round with non league teams (usually their domestic regional cup winners) automatically getting the home advantage. Hence this week TSV G. Windeck vs Bayern München, SC Pfullendorf vs Hertha Berlin, or the big one: BAK Berlin vs FSK Mainz at the Poststadion on Sunday.

BAK stands for Berlin Athletik Klub 07, no wait – does it? Actually, I think it does again now (though the decision apparently needs to be rubber stamped), but for the last four years, it has stood for “Berlin Ankaraspor Kulübü 07” as they had a commercial and sporting tie up with the Turkish top division team of the same name. They qualified for the DFB Pokal this year by beating Dynamo in a bad-tempered Berlin final, which ended with a load of Dynamo idiots dragging the name of their club back to the stone age by getting on the pitch and trying to smash stuff up. Fortunately, if you go to much football you’ll know there’s actually not much on the pitch itself to smash up, so they mostly roared about looking like knobs.

BAK then appointed Bahman Foroutan as manager at the start of this season: the Iranian Big Ron minus the sheepskin and dodgy leanings – a man who has rapidly become the sportsdesk’s favourite person in the entire world after his miraculous rescuing of Türkiyemspor’s Regionalliga status last year (three games, three wins, a couple of unforgettable press conferences and then off).

The first obvious giveaway is the Poststadion’s fag-yellow goalposts. Rusted and decaying like the memory of an FA Cup run, and like a lot of this old stadium, are not what SKY would have you believe football is about, they serve as another reminder that the team that finished an excellent tenth in the Bundesliga last season under Thomas Tuchel aren’t in Kansas (well, Mainz) anymore. It all started off quite leisurely at first: Mainz are technically superior but Foroutan has taught his boys patience in spades. And they used it. Mainz improved, but couldn’t break BAK down, it took two Lewis Holtby strikes from the edge of the box to get their goals. And the first one, especially, was soft. For a lot of the game, they simply didn’t look five divisions better, and for the last half-hour could have been the underdogs themselves.

For BAK, Pardis Azad-Fardjad was a waspish presense on the left, heading onto the bar in the first half, and Ibrahim Keser’s goal was a beauty, cutting inside after beating two men, but some of the best performances came from the players who had followed Foroutan across the city from Türkiyem’ – Rocco Teichman being a case in point, giving the impression he would run through walls for the gaffer. A, shall we say, technically limited, old-fashioned center half (alongside the indefatiguable Murat Doymus) Rocco got his boot, face or arse in the way of anything that came his way. His ponytail is a nice simile for his playing style.

With 10 minutes to go, he was up front and time stopped as the ball dropped inside the Mainz penalty box and BAK deparately searched for the equalizer. Rocco launched himself into a preposterous bicycle kick, seeing his escape to victory moment flashing in front of his eyes. Stillenmunkes, in the Mainz goal, gathered gratefully, but Rocco had been there. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of heart, just a bit of luck at the end.