Are you a sports fan? Tell us about fandom. If you’re not, tell us why not.
Much to my mother’s disappointment I think in one way or another I was always destined to be a sports fan of some kind. I grew up around two sports mad uncles who introduced me to football and Formula 1 and there was no looking back. My mother can’t complain, I mean I have three brothers, what did she expect?
Though I have to point out she’s not complaining quite so much now. Not when she gets to spend some time watching Jogi, Hansi and Thomas Tuchel. Getting her interested in the game itself, absolutely impossible. But at least now she doesn’t have to pretend quite so much to be interested.
I’ve followed a football team before, both club and country. Germany were the first country I showed an interest in but they weren’t the only one. Not so long ago I also retained a fondness for Denmark and it has to be said still do. But I never followed a Danish league team or even considered doing so. To that I went to the Bundesliga which admittedly was not the only logical choice, after all they speak German in both Austria and Switzerland but that wasn’t going to work.
It would surprise no-one who knows me that in trying to pick a team to follow I attempted to use logic to decide. A very stupid thing to do because such things are more than about logic as the process showed me. I made a list of the German teams whose existence I was aware of. If I remember correctly Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Gladbach, VfB Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt were all on the initial list. As were Paderborn. Freiburg were on there but not in the way I’d like, they were on there as more of an afterthought. In a I’ll watch them when I can kind of way, because they were a Jogi team. As it turns out they had their own ideas about that.
Which is an accusation which gets thrown my way quite a bit in real life, that I only fell in love with Freiburg because they are the home team of Joachim Löw. Such an accusation has no basis in fact because it was actually Bayern I picked first. But I quickly realised it wasn’t true love, that I wasn’t particularly upset about having to miss a game here and there. And that truth is I’m a bigger fan of Manuel Neuer than the club itself. I’m more of a reluctant fan than a true one. Bayern for me are a Hansi team. But they aren’t my team.
That honour goes to Freiburg and to them alone. I made my choice on the 22nd November 2014, that day they played Mainz and drew 2-2. It was a scenario which I’ve since become accustomed with, of them taking the lead and then throwing it away just a few minutes before time. They can be frustrating that way sometimes. The same weekend I saw Bayern defeat Hoffenheim 4-0. It was during their game that I made the decision, at some point during that game I realised I was bored. When Bayern play more often that not it doesn’t feel like a competition. It’s pointless predicting who’s going to win, it’s more like guess the score. That’s not always the case, after all last season they lost to all of their closest rivals and this season to Gladbach. But still it didn’t feel right, I could watch Bayern every week guaranteed in high definition with no problems whatsoever, same for Dortmund. Yet it wasn’t right. I’m never bored when Freiburg play, I never feel like I don’t care about the result. It’s their stadium I dream of when I daydream, it’s their fan-song that I know the tune to and am slowly learning the words to. It’s three Freiburg shirts I own, not three Bayern ones. Well I own three I can wear, I own two other very special ones. One which I bought as a lucky charm of sorts, the so called promotion shirt. And another which is just as special, it’s a match-worn shirt of former Freiburg defender Matthias Ginter:
Though Bayern are still a part of the story and I don’t mean because of Manuel Neuer. As luck would have it one of my favourite Freiburg players Nils Petersen is a former Bayern player who scored his first goal for them in a 7-0 victory over Freiburg. You just can’t make this stuff up. Truth is whether Nils Petersen had stayed or gone back to Bremen he would forever more be a legend, you don’t score a winning goal against Bayern in the 89th minute and get forgotten about. I know the victory is overshadowed by the fact they were relegated the following weekend but I can never forget the excitement of that weekend:
On the subject of videos, Manuel and Jogi, Christmas greetings from the two of them courtesy of first Sportschau and then the DFB:
To get back to how I fell in love with Freiburg that Mainz game wasn’t the first one I saw, though in a twist of fate the first I did see had the same score-line, a 2-2 draw with Hertha BSC. A little painful now given that’s where Vladimir Darida ended up. I’m happy to say that Freiburg at least won the reverse of the fixture and strangely enough Jogi was at both games. But the decision wasn’t made till the day of the Mainz game. It wasn’t a really a decision as such, more of a realisation. I mean if I were serious about being a Bayern fan how come I didn’t buy any shirts or at least some kind of fan t-shirt, I think I knew that really they weren’t for me.
Following a football team is a most curious business, equally curious is the perceptions of other people as to how and why you “chose” your team. In the first few months of being a Freiburg fan I got a lot of stick because firstly no-one had ever heard of them and secondly of course the accusation of it being part of my fascination with Jogi. So it was no surprise when they were relegated from the Bundesliga last summer that I was asked if I was going to go back to following Bayern. A question which I tried my best to answer politely. Naturally the answer was no. I wasn’t going to abandon them just because they got relegated. I know a little of their history, I know they’ve gotten relegated quite a few times, it’s a part of who they are. They can sum it up better than I can:
With two people in particular I mind I have to point out the flaw in their logic, they say I picked Freiburg because they are a Jogi team yet they frequently say that these days I like Hansi more than Jogi. That makes no sense, if I liked him more, which I have to admit some days is true, then how come I’m not a Bayern fan? The answer, I just didn’t fall in love with them. It’s not often I use those words, not in real life anyway, but I never hesitate to say that I unreservedly love Freiburg. I don’t love them any less because they got relegated or because they had to let Roman Bürki leave or because they aren’t the autumn champions as most people assumed they were going to be this year. I love them and for me that’s enough. Normally I need some kind of reason for something, I always need to make sense of it, to deconstruct it so I can know the how and the why. Not here, not with them, watching them makes me happy and that is all I need to know. I appreciate the uncomplicated nature of it, there’s not much in my life that’s uncomplicated, a fact which is sometimes my own fault I have to say. And whilst watching them is not always an easy task, whilst I sometimes have to go troublesome lengths to see them play, they are always worth it.
They are perfectly suited for me, I don’t need to explain why but I can. One of the reasons is that they are a club with a very realistic outlook. They know who they are and what they stand for. They know what is and isn’t in the realms of possibility. They know they’re not Bayern and they don’t waste any time trying to be something and someone they’re not. This can be summed up perfectly by Christian Streich’s response to a question after the 1860 game on Sunday. He was asked if he was thinking of returning to the Bundesliga the following season, he said no, that he’s thinking only of the Bochum game after the winter break, that’s tough enough.
Now that more than year’s gone by and I’m still sticking with them I find myself on the receiving end of a different kind cf comment from the football fans I know in real life. A comment to the effect of “well at least you’re not a Bayern fan.” I take it they mean at least I just didn’t jump on the bandwagon, that is I didn’t just pick the most popular or the biggest team in the league. Like I said it’s a curious business. Especially when the comment in question comes from a Liverpool fan.
One final thing I have to mention, only now do I realise how important and ironic it is that Freiburg played Mainz the day I decided. Mainz is of course the first team Thomas Tuchel coached. It’s Thomas Tuchel who is now in charge of Dortmund, it’s he who took Roman from Freiburg, a fact which I most displeased about at the time. He has another former Freiburg player in his side too, Matthias Ginter. Two facts which mean I spend as much time watching Dortmund as I do Bayern. I know you’re not mean to like both but I can’t pick between Matze and Roman on one side and Manuel, Philipp and Thomas on the other.
What I should have said was one final relevant thing to mention because there is one more thing I have to include in this post. It’s not strictly relevant to the topic of today’s daily prompt but it most definitely belongs here. A while back as a bonus question one of them asked if you kept a notebook beside your bed and if you did to note down the very first thing you thought upon waking the next morning. That night I went to bed thinking of Manuel Neuer but ended up dreaming about Sebastian Koch. Leading me to wonder what I had to do in order to dream about Manuel. Turns out the answer to that question is thinking about Hansi Flick being in Israel. That and a very late night. I finally got my dream about Manuel Neuer but I’m not sure it’s the one I wanted. A dream in which Manuel Neuer is my one true love, sounds great, what’s the catch? The catch is in the dream I had a child with him. I blame Matze for this, as sweet and fun as he is I blame him. Bringing a child into Jogi and Hansi’s story has proved a lot of fun, that I can’t deny. But now it’s creeping into my dreams, not so much. There’s no real life message for me to take from that dream. Just a reminder to finish Matze’s Christmas adventure. If there is one thing I’m sure about it’s that children are not part of my own adventure.