Adventures in Football #84: Jean Loring Sportspark (Fortuna Koln II)
July 23, 2023
FORTUNA KOLN II vs. CRONENBERGER (Friendly)
As we were walking towards this ground Mike said to me; “this is definitely stat padding”. So, what happened is we spent the weekend in Germany and we were flying out of Cologne (Koln) on Monday. The plans for the weekend had been great. We went out in Dusseldorf on the Thursday and drank a load of altbier. Dusseldorf is a fun city to get beers in. On the Friday we went to a football game (Fortuna Dusseldorf vs. Bochum) and checked out the Rheinkirmes. On the Saturday we headed over to Gelsenkirchen for Schalke vs. Twente and then Hagen for our friend Lukas’ 30th birthday. This left Sunday for ‘mooching about’ and presumably drinking some kolsch at some point. As we got to the hotel, we’d already checked out the Cologne Cathedral, which is a tremendous piece of gothic architecture.
If you’re in this part of Germany for Euro 2024, this is well worth a gander. You don’t even have to go out of your way for it, it’s right outside the train station. With nothing on the afternoon agenda, we fired up Futbology to see what was cracking. The result was Fortuna Koln II (the second team of Fortuna Koln) against Cronenberger in a friendly. The game is on the training pitch for Fortuna Koln, which is next door to their actual stadium; the Sudstadion. Unlike the other teams we’ve seen this weekend, Fortuna Koln is small time, playing in the regional leagues. The ground does hold 11,000 fans though. They were in 3. Liga until relegation in 2019.
This is the entrance to the actual ground. I was hoping a gate or something would be open so we could sneak in and take a look around. No joy. After walking the actual ground, we hit a car park and turned into the ground we were at today.
Who is Jean Loring, I hear you cry? He was a defender who played for Viktoria Koln in the late 50s and managed Fortuna Koln on five different occasions. He was chairman of the club from 1967 and ploughed so much of his own money in, he went broke. Fortuna Koln did make it into the Bundesliga under his stewardship though, in 1973. He was an interesting guy and once fired his manager, former German international keeper Toni Schumacher, at half time.
As we walk in there’s already a game in progress. Are we late? No, we’re 20 minutes ahead of kick-off time. It turns out, the game is a double header and the first fixture is a women’s match. We get to see about 5 minutes of it before it’s over. I’ve no idea who was playing.
The women’s players make their way off the pitch and on come to the men to warm up for their game.
Safe in the knowledge that the game isn’t kicking off any time soon, we go for a stroll.
Again, I’m impressed by the use of graffiti to turn a boring white box into a demonstration of club pride and passion. It’s something I think English clubs could learn from. Also, the idea that the training and youth pitches are attached to the same facility. Obviously, a lot of English clubs are surrounded by housing (Luton and Everton spring to mind) so this wouldn’t be possible but it’s nice to see these German clubs as a focal point of the community.
This is an all weather 3G pitch with extra goals on wheels and markings for junior coaching. This pitch probably gets more use than the actual stadium one. The club also has a clay pitch.
The emphasis on youth is evident around the ground. Not least of all on the pitch, where most of the players are U21. There’s still plenty of time to kick off so Mike and I decide to go and get a beer. The issue with Germany on a Sunday is that almost nothing is open. Supermarkets included. So, the local Rewe is out. If you’re in Germany and having an issue with this, your best bet is to locate a “kiosk”, or small shop, which does open on Sunday but is likely to stock limited product. Like beer, snacks, pop, and cigarettes.
As with bigger clubs, there’s plenty of local graffiti supporting Fortuna Koln, although it’s less impressive and more amateurish, the love is there. The kiosk doesn’t have much on sale but we get zwei Peter’s Kolsch and a bag of Lays chive and garlic crisps.
Back at the ground, we use the bin next to the pitch as a table for an impromptu picnic. I haven’t mentioned the cost of this game and that’s because it cost nothing. You can literally walk in off the street at both ends of the ground. Imagine leaving a facility like this open to the general public in England? It’d get trashed.
Fortuna Koln are playing in their snazzy away kit. Cronenberger are sporting a knock-off Celtic design. They’re both good kits compared to some of the lower league nightmares you can get.
We’re extremely close to the action this afternoon. Mere inches from pitch side. Mike claims to be on a Luton scouting mission. The first player to make us take notice is big Kevin Momayi, who barges his way through the defence to give Cronenberger the lead. He’s a defensive midfielder by trade but seems to have developed into a box to box player. Six minutes played. 0-1.
This guy looks like he’s an actual scout. We end up sitting down behind him because the weekend has taken its toll. It’s been a lot of beers and a lot of travelling. This ends up being a tonic for the events of the weekend. A nice relaxing game of non-league football.
Koln are good from set pieces. Their #10 is clearly an established player, who barks orders at everyone else. He scores direct from a corner at the end of the first half for 1-1. This free kick, in perfect position, ends up being an overplayed ball out to a runner on the left. It results in nothing at all.
We relocate down the touchline, as Cronenberger are fading and it looks like this is the end with the action. Also, I might have forgotten to take a picture of this end, so here’s what the various buildings look like. That whole section is probably open on a real match day where you could get your bratwursts and kolsch from.
Opposite us now is the ‘stand’, which is a building with a roof that’s been converted so you can watch from up there. We were, once again, getting peak North Rhein Westphalia weather (drizzle) so it wasn’t as pleasant as it could have been. This #6, in shot, had a cracking afternoon. Bombing forward from right back and causing a lot of defensive problems for Cronenberger. He ended up scoring a ridiculous winner, but we’ll get to that in due course.
The referee has a stinker here. A player is cut down from behind, the ref waves play on while the player is rolling around in agony. It’s not even a feigned injury, he was taken out. The ref doesn’t take kindly to the player’s complaints and BOOKS HIM. You’re not refereeing at a higher level than this mate! Considering it’s a friendly he waves yellow cards around a lot and generally wants to be the centre of attention. At one point he manages to miss a player being punched in the head by the keeper and it takes him ages to notice it’s a head injury. Definitely not refereeing any higher than this. Dreadful.
I’m admiring a tractor, which is one of FOUR such vehicles parked around the pitch, when Fortuna Koln pull a late winner out of their ass. The #6 horribly mishits a cross from deep but the keeper is off his line and it floats over the poor bastard and into the net. 2-1 Koln. Everyone laughs. The game is over.
FULL TIME: FORTUNA KOLN II 2 CRONENBERGER 1
Right, time for some scores on the doors and I’m out of here. Next up, I think, is Tottenham. Bit of a contrast.
Nothing. The odd yell and polite applause for goals. ½*
They’ll get some numbers back here, because it was bloody free so *****
Easily the worst game of the weekend, although it was a high bar. Bonus points for both the Koln goals being hilarious. One direct from a corner, the other from a mishit cross. **½
EASE OF ACCESS:
This is a bugger. It’s about 3.6km from the middle of Koln. It can be done on a singular tram but even that includes 15 minutes of walking. Our hotel was between the train station and the ground, so it made sense to just walk it. **½
For a caged 3G pitch, this was alright. There was a total lack of open facilities, but I get they don’t want to fire up the grill for a crowd of 50 people. It was a nice relaxing time, but if you’re after excitement in football, and the grand footballing experience, this is a number on a checklist. I will have forgotten about it in a month or two. *½
Still better than Swindon.