Nerves . . . Tension . . . Excitement . . .
Just three words to describe my feelings ahead of my first Rheinderby,
There’s just something about Cologne that keeps bringing me back. Considering I’ve only been an Effzeh member since May, to already have the opportunity to stand in the Südtribune was one I couldn’t pass up.
Flying in over the Müngersdorfer on Friday night, derby day was soon upon us. From the first moment of wearing the famous trikot, you feel like you’re part of a family. By chance, I had breakfast with a lovely German couple who realised I wasn’t from the area. They asked me “Why Cologne? and “Why effzeh?”
Having been in contact with EffzehUK, I managed to secure tickets for the opening day of last season, a match against Hamburger SV — a great game, albeit a scoreless draw. From that moment on, Effzeh gained a new member, and I haven’t looked back since.
Prior to the derby, I knew that fan groups from both sides had decided to boycott the game. Was I disappointed? Yes, of course. But at the end of the day, it was still a big day and still the biggest game of the season.
The day started in the Altstadt with a few beers, some food, and some new friends. That’s the great thing about supporting effzeh from afar; the locals are always welcoming and take an interest.
Heading to the ground, I decided to hop off the tram at Eupener Straße to soak in the atmosphere. Thousands of fans lined the streets two hours before kick-off. They were in full voice, and beers were aplenty.
The first thing that actually dawned on me was the fact that there were barely any police around. With a derby game, you’d expect the presence to be heavy. Yes, there were riot police, but not as half as many as I thought there would be. The day actually passed without any violence (as far as I’m aware), but that’s probably due to the protests.
Now, this wasn’t my first game, but it was my first standing game. Upon getting searched and walking through the turnstile, you get this sense of – “wow, I’m actually here.” Walking out onto the Südtribune, I couldn’t help but smile. This is exactly what I wanted. There had already been a few fans ejected from the stand; I’m guessing they were in the wrong block, but you could tell that the stewards were on edge.
The stadium started to fill, the decibels turned up a few notches, and the team had done their pre-game warmups. 1. FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach was soon upon us.
Then came the Hymn.
From those three minutes, you get a sense of what this special club is all about. You have to sort of take a step back and just take it all in . . . whilst belting out the Hymne of course. Then follows “1.FC Köln Allez!” And then comes “Come on, Effzeh!” All at the top of your lungs.
Despite the singing being in full-swing, the atmosphere was rather muted, especially by the usual standards. No drums. No choreography. No fan groups. That’s the only thing that let the day down for me, but that was all due to the fan groups’ own stupidity (as discussed with a few other fans).
After dominating the first half, we were unlucky not to have taken the lead, not to mention that the referee was terrible. During the second half, I’m guessing a few members of these fan groups made it in. I don’t know what they read, but at least 20 banners were shown during the course of the second half by around 15 members. It’s worth noting, however, that some of the fans weren’t pleased by this, as evidenced by the shouting towards them.
Anyway, back on to the happy parts. We had dominated the opening stages of the second half before Anthony Modeste headed us into the lead.
I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated a goal so much in my life. As a lifelong Arsenal fan, nothing topped seeing Modeste head us into the lead against our fierce rivals. Fans jumping up and down, chanting, singing, throwing beer. It was like being at a party.
The game soon died down, but at the end of the day, a win is a win, and more importantly, it’s three points. Three points that we gained off our rivals, which makes it all the sweeter.
Unfortunately, following the final whistle, the players opted not to show their appreciation in front of the Südtribune. You could tell that the players just wanted to head down the tunnel. Again, this was the fault of a small minority of people.
And that was that. The remainder of the evening was spent in good company of effzeh fans whilst drinking a few litres of Kölsch. There’s something about this club that keeps making me want to come back, and yes, I’m already planning my next trip. This is a moment that I’ll never forget, and hopefully the season is full of good times like this one.