JAs the final fifteen minutes approached, the more boys and girls stood in the cone of light from the street lamps. The chants of the fans in the west stand came muffled from the Fritz-Walter-Stadion. It could only be a matter of seconds. Every movement of the stewards behind the fence drew frantic steps from the children. I was also in the throng of people waiting. Back then, on that Friday evening in April 1998, I was twelve years old – and for almost as many years I had been a lover of 1. FC Kaiserslautern, the local Bundesliga soccer club that was often ridiculed by city dwellers from Munich to Hamburg. “Structurally weak region”, even we little ones knew this unwieldy term. And that’s exactly why we’re rooting for it. But we had to stay outside. No money for the ticket, no access to the concrete bowl.
We felt like street dogs waiting at the back entrance of a restaurant in the late evening for one of the kitchen helpers to open the door and let them rummage through the garbage in search of edible leftovers that would satisfy their hunger for a few hours at least. Our edible leftovers were the fillet pieces of what had been a perfect season up until then. Because FCK was known for scoring the winning goal particularly often in the final phase. That season, the club from the small town in Rhineland-Palatinate even played for the German championship. As a climber. unique. Incomprehensible.
The last ten minutes of the game against Mönchengladbach began, the stadium announcer announced that Pavel Kuka had come on, and to the thunderous applause of the audience, the steward with the bright yellow shirt pushed the goal open. We squeezed into the grandstand. Craning their necks like mother swans who want to take care of their babies. Jumped, cursed and screamed with the smoking robes and mustache wearers. When Olaf Marschall headed in three to two for our FCK in injury time, the beer spilled over raised heads, strangers hugged each other like ancient friends, and my ears trembled at the noise that they heard from over in Mannheim should have.
What it means to grow up in poverty in a rich country like Germany is best told with anecdotes like these. Because if a day ticket for a Bundesliga game seems easily affordable to most adults around you, it hurts all the more when standing room for ninety minutes plus injury time in Lautern’s most famous corner is nothing more than luxury for you. Of course, at that time the stadium only held 38,000 spectators, the demand far exceeded the supply in the 1997/98 championship season, so that even for normal earners the ticket became a luxury at times.
But today, since the club plays in the second Bundesliga, the stadium has 50,000 seats and FCK is still good for goals in the last few minutes, the stewards on the home stretch of the game no longer open the goals for boys and girls from the so-called social hotspots. You will miss such an anecdote in adulthood.