October 2005


Fußball und Polizei

So, Saturday was Fußball day—I headed to Jena to meet with office colleagues for the football (fine: soccer for the Americans) match between FC Rot Weiß Erfurt and FC Carl Zeiss Jena.

I was told that there would be 600 police in attendance in order to prevent any problems, and based upon my personal observation, I have no reason to doubt this number. It was the largest number of police I’ve seen in one place since 1997’s G8 Summit in Denver.

We met at our offices in Jena, which turned out to be a significant mistake: running right through the middle of Jena is the Saale River and in a particularly enlightened moment, the city built its Fußall stadium on the east bank of the river, stuck several bridges across the river at the north end, but left the nearest bridge across the south side about two or three kilometers south.

Again, in the States, this wouldn’t be an issue, but as we walked from our offices to the most reasonable path to the stadium, we encountered the Polizei, and the Polizei wanted to know whether we were Jena fans or Erfurt fans. Our answer, the wrong answer, was “Jena,” and we were turned around and ordered to head south—not even allowed to try and get across the Erfurt fans.

There was an effort to enforce total separation of fans.

Annoyingly, the Polizei were clueless about what they were asking us to do—and our group was full of internal division about what to do. I finally had enough and as the group decided to try and take a tram around town, which apparently we might be allowed to do, I just walked away, and headed south along the River Saale.

It turned out to be a wise decision, for I saw scenic parts of Jena I’d never seen before including a peaceful meadow. The walk was quiet—I seemed to be the only one taking the long-way around. My basic plan was to walk south until I found a bridge across the river—and if it was too far south, I would continue to the next train station and catch the train back to Weimar, otherwise, I would cross the bridge turn left and head toward the side of the stadium that Jena fans were allowed to approach.

Amazingly, I got to the stadium 10 minutes before any other of my colleagues.

Unfortunately we had standing tickets—in section F. Yes: Stand—and because I got there so late (about 15 minutes before kick-off), I had a crappy view of the field, which was still miles better than my colleagues. I would say something about the actual match, but quite frankly, I’m clueless about Füßball.

It was my impression from watching the first half that the Jena team was much better than Erfurt—Jena seemed to be constantly threatening to make goals, and in fact just 12 minutes in, Jena scored its first of two goals. The second came in the second half. Erfurt was held scoreless. I was one of 11,962 fans.

After the match we made our way out, and I headed toward the train station, which involved getting into the corridor of police. Fortunately my prairie gold UW t-shirt was not sufficiently close to the Jena team’s yellow to cause questioning. I hoped to catch the 16:13 train, but… it was not there. Instead there was a massive set of train cars waiting to scoop up Erfurt fans and take them non-stop back to Erfurt, something I had no desire to do, so I waited for awhile for a train that would stop in Weimar, and headed home.

It was an interesting experience, and now I can add Fußball to the list of professional sport games that I’ve attended—joining pre-season American Football, baseball, and ice hockey. (I just realized that I’ve only attended high school and college basketball games. How odd.)

Random Notes: Deutsch Polizei are a sad bunch—the uniforms they wear are singularly unattractive—actually the uniforms are rather repulsive. The Uniforms are sick shades of two different and uncomplimentary green/yellow-greens. However once you take one of the officers and stick them in full fledged deep green riot gear and suddenly they’re hot! I lost count of the number of Polizei who I would have willingly let arrest me—provided they were wearing their riot gear. These are the same ones who I never notice at any other times—except to wonder why the regular uniforms are so incredibly ugly.

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