Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bayer Leverkusen U19

Bayer 04 Leverkusen U19 3 Tottenham Hotspur U19 1 - UEFA Youth League, Group Stage

The heart of what is now Leverkusen was a village called Wiesdorf, which dates back to the 12th century. The entire area was rural until the late 19th century, when industry prompted the development that led to the city of Leverkusen, and to its becoming one of the most important centres of the German chemical industry. The chemist Carl Leverkus, looking for a place to build a dye factory, chose Wiesdorf in 1860. He built a factory for the production of artificial ultramarine blue at the Kahlberg in Wiesdorf in 1861, and called the emerging settlement "Leverkusen". The factory was taken over by the Bayer company in 1891; Bayer moved its headquarters to Wiesdorf in 1912. After asset confiscation at the end of the First World War, it became IG Farben. The city of Leverkusen proper was founded in 1930 by merging Wiesdorf, Schlebusch, Steinbüchel and Rheindorf, and was posthumously named after Carl Leverkus.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen was founded in 1904 by employees of the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, whose headquarters are in Leverkusen and from which the club draws its name. It was formerly the best-known department of TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a sports club whose members also participate in athletics, gymnastics, basketball and other sports including the RTHC Bayer Leverkusen (rowing, tennis and hockey). In 1999 the football department was separated from the sports club and is now a separate entity.

As is consistent with the UEFA Champions League, the respective U19 sides have a parallel competition. The venue for Bayer Leverkusen home matches is the Ulrich-Haberland Stadion. This venue is adjacent to the BayArena, the main ground for Bayer Leverkusen. The name of the stadium is a tribute to the former name of the BayArena.

This Pieman had already enjoyed a splendid lunch just up the road from the stadium at Brauhouse Janes. This culinary treat was to celebrate Andy Scott’s 50th birthday. The typical German cuisine was extremely welcome. After consuming a large pan of pork, potatoes, fried onion and sauerkraut, washed down with some fine German beer, there was little room for anything else.

On the way to the match, there was time to collect programmes for the evening match. This is always preferable abroad, as distribution is often erratic. The smaller stadium has a published capacity of 3200. Along one side there is a reasonably sized seated stand (covered in the central area). This is the side adjacent to the main stadium. The toilet and refreshment facilities are those of the main stadium.

There is uncovered terracing behind both goals and a small uncovered area of seating in one of the corners. The remaining side of the ground is not accessible for spectators but was used by the TV company broadcasting the match. Although segregation for supporters was in place, it was easy to watch the match from the main section.

Pat Jennings and Martin Chivers

For the third successive match in this tournament, the young Spurs side was not outplayed but ended the match defeated, this was despite taking a first half lead. Refreshment facilities were open for the duration. At the conclusion of the match it started to rain. With time to spare before the main event, there was an opportunity to sample more of the local Kolsh beer at a nearby restaurant.

Attendance: ?
Admission: Free
Programme: None (team sheet issued)


Saturday, October 08, 2016

Havant & Waterlooville FC

Havant & Waterlooville 5 Harlow Town 2 - Isthmian League, Premier Division

Havant is a town in the south east corner of Hampshire, approximately midway between Portsmouth and Chichester. Its borough comprises the town and its suburbs including the resort of Hayling Island as well as Rowland's Castle, the smaller town of Waterlooville and Langstone Harbour. Housing and population more than doubled in the 20 years following World War II. This was facilitated by a period of major conversion of land from agriculture and woodland to housing across the region following the incendiary bombing of Portsmouth and The Blitz. It is reputed that the name Waterlooville is derived from a pub that stood at the centre of the village, then known as Wait Lane End, where the stage-coach horses waited to change places with the team that pulled the coach up and over Portsdown Hill. The pub had been named Heroes of Waterloo because, on its opening day, in 1815, soldiers who had just disembarked at Portsmouth, returning from the Battle of Waterloo, decided to stop there and celebrate their victory. According to local legend, many of them settled there. There is no proof of this assertion. The pub was thereafter renamed in their honour and the area around the pub became known as Waterlooville. 

In 1998 Havant Town FC and Waterlooville FC merged to play at Havant Town's West Leigh Park ground. In their first season as a merged team, Havant & Waterlooville won the Southern League Southern Division under the management of former Crystal Palace and Portsmouth defender Billy Gilbert. There was also instant success in the FA Cup, a penalty shoot-out defeat to Hayes was all that denied the Hawks an opportunity to visit league side Mansfield Town in the first round proper.

The second international weekend of the season enabled another opportunity to visit a new ground. Many years previously, following the very late postponement of a Spurs friendly match at Fratton Park. I was able to visit Waterlooville FC's Jubilee Park for a Southern League match v Corby Town. 

That venue is no more and this was my first visit to West Leigh Park. Cheap train tickets from London Victoria were secured early for just over £8:00 return. On arrival at Havant, a short walk enabled this Pieman to visit The Parchment Makers (J D Wetherspoon) for lunch and ale. This establishment is situated immediately behind the bus station and was already busy with shoppers when we arrived around noon. 

From the railway station, heading in the opposite direction to that taken earlier, it took no more than a twenty minute walk to reach West Leigh Park. On the site of the ground there is a public house The Westleigh and a brief visit was made to this establishment prior to entering the stadium.

I was really impressed with the ground. There is covered terracing on all four sides, rare for this level of football. Along one of the sides is a superb seated stand affording an excellent view of proceedings. The club shop is situated in the corner of the ground nearest to the entrance turnstiles. Catering facilities are situated in each corner at the opposite end of the ground. One particular aspect that I liked is that one of these facilities only sells sweets and hot drinks which is good to know if wanting to avoid the possible longer wait where people are queuing for hot food too.

Havant & Waterlooville were second placed in the table going into this match. Whereas Harlow Town had been struggling to acclimatise to this level following last season’s promotion. Away from home has been a real struggle and in the previous week defeats at Lowestoft Town and Grays Athletic had seen them concede seven goals. On this occasion there was barely four minutes on the clock when the home side took the lead. The eventual 5-2 win did not flatter the home side but I did see evidence of revival in Harlow's performance. I expect to see Havant competing for promotion throughout the season, they are a good side to watch.

Attendance: 682
Admission: £12:00
Programme: £2:00 (32 pages)
Tea: £1:00


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Codicote FC

Codicote 1 Risborough Rangers 5 - Spartan South Midlands League, Division One

Codicote is a village, and civil parish about seven miles south of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. It has timber-framed and chequered brick houses, of special interest being the 18th-century Pond House and the half-timbered "As You Like It" Peking restaurant (formerly the George and Dragon Inn). Codicote Lodge is 18th-century and Codicote Bury 17th-century. A most unusual structure north of the village is the Node Dairy and Stud, erected in 1927. It is circular in design, and thatched, with a circular courtyard and a tower, which is, in fact, a silo. Codicote lies on a chalk ridge on the dip slope of the Chiltern Hills. In the year 1002 Codicote entered the written records for the first time when King Ethelred the Unready, its owner, sold it by means of a charter for the sum of 900 shillings of pure gold to his 'faithful minster' Elfhelm.

The earliest records of Codicote F.C. date back to the 1913–14 season when Codicote joined the Hertfordshire County League Eastern Division, where they remained until the league was reorganised in 1921, moving Codicote into the North & East Division. In 1923, the league was reduced to a single league, the Herts County League, and at the end of the 1924–25 season the Herts league was disbanded. The league reformed once again, but only for the 1926–27 season, before disbanding again. Codicote then joined the North Hertfordshire League and remained there until 1993, when the previous manager, Jim Bundy, took the side once again back into the Herts Senior County League. They played in the first qualifying round of the FA Vase in the 2010–11 season.

I was fortunate to be offered a lift to this match and the journey from Cheshunt via Hertford and Welwyn Garden City probably took just over half an hour. There are public transport options as bus routes serve Codicote. For a Saturday afternoon match this would be fine but midweek matches might pose a greater challenge.

On arrival at the village we made our way to the John Clements Memorial Ground in order to get our bearings. From the High Street it takes less than five minutes to walk to the ground. We soon returned to the High Street in search of refreshment. The pubs were serving food but the pull of the local kebab grill establishment was greater and quality Chicken kebabs were enjoyed.

Codicote FC returned to this venue at the end of the previous season, having spent a few years playing at Hertford Town and latterly Hatfield Town’s Gosling Stadium. Whilst away ground improvements in order to meet league requirements were planned and subsequently made. This includes the installation of floodlights, hard standing and a covered seated stand. The parish council appears to be a hard bunch to please and I understand it has not been easy making such progress.

The main clubhouse building includes a licensed bar and tea bar. The older building next door house the changing facilities and both will be used for cricket during the summer months. Risborough Rangers had started the season well. However, they went behind early in the match. Following a superbly struck equalising goal, the visitors took control of the match, eventually scoring a further four times to end the match as comfortable winners. On a sunny afternoon this is a nice place to watch football. A leisurely drive home completed a nice afternoon out in the Spartan South Midlands League.

Attendance: 48
Admission: £5:00
Programme: with admission
Tea: £1:00


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CSKA Moscow FC

CSKA Moscow 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1 - UEFA Champions League, Group Stage Match 2

The Moscow Region is located in the basin of the Volga, Oka, Klyazma, and Moscow rivers and covers an area of 46 000 square km, which is considerably larger than Denmark, Switzerland, or Belgium. Forests cover a third of the territory of Moscow Region. They are home to elk, wild boar, deer, foxes, weasels, lynx, and martens, as well as all kinds of birds. Moscow’s climate is continental, though mild. There are no severe frosts or excessive heat, although deviations from normal seasonal temperatures are quite frequent. December, for example, might bring along long-run thaws. In summer, periods of heat might be alternated with the sudden cold weather and protracted rains. On average Moscow has 194 days of above-zero and 103 days of below-zero temperature every year. As the city grew, the differences in climate between Moscow and Moscow Region became more distinctive. During clear frosty nights it is usually colder in the country than in the city (the difference might reach 4-5 degrees centigrade, while 10-12 years ago it didn’t exceed 1-2 degrees). 
Arena CSKA is a multi-use stadium in Khodynka Field, Moscow. The construction of the stadium was completed in 2016. The construction process was started in 2007 has been halted several times, with the longest pause lasting 16 months (between 2009 and 2011). The stadium was designed with a capacity of 30,000 people. An integral part of it is a skyscraper aimed to resemble the UEFA Cup, first European trophy won by a Russian club with CSKA beating Sporting CP in 2005. The remaining three corners have office spaces and skyboxes instead of regular stands.

PFC Central Sport Club of the Army, Moscow is a Russian professional football club. It is based in Moscow, playing its home matches at the 30,000-capacity CSKA Moscow Stadium. The club is the most known division of the CSKA Moscow sports club. Founded in 1911, CSKA had its most successful period after World War II with five titles in six seasons. It won a total of 7 Soviet Top League championships, including the last-ever season in 1991. The club has also won 6 Russian Premier League titles, and the 2004–05 UEFA Cup. CSKA was the official team of the Soviet Army during the communist era. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union it has become privately owned, with the Ministry of Defence as a shareholder. Russian businessman Roman Abramovich's Sibneft corporation was a leading sponsor of the club from 2004 to 2006.

The third part of my Moscow trilogy was to attend this UEFA Champions League encounter. Having attended the U19 match between the same clubs earlier in the afternoon, we were aware that there are factions associated with CSKA who are not interested in the football. An earlier visit to the stadium proved such a point. The much travelled Adam Carne alerted us to one such individual hovering close by. This person was clearly tracking our movements and I saw him hiding in some bushes – the spiv Harry played by George Cole in the original St Trinians films springs to mind!

Having purchased match programmes and taken a few daylight photographs, we decided to frustrate ‘Harry’ by leaving the vicinity in a taxi. We returned to the stadium in plenty of time prior to the 21:45 kick off. The stadium is rather good and all areas afford a decent view. The Tottenham Hotspur support was housed in a segregated upper tier section behind one of the goals. All four sides of the stadium are two tiered and I would think if the home side was doing well, this arena would generate a great atmosphere. There is a general greyness about the stadium’s exterior and the walkways within the confines before you reach the seated arena. That said, this venue will see good service when Russia hosts the World Cup.

Having lost to AS Monaco in the first group match, Spurs really needed to get something from this fixture. I did not know what to expect of CSKA and was surprised that throughout the 90 minutes they offered very little. A second half goal from Heung-Min Son was enough to secure victory for the visitors. At the time of going to press CSKA has played three matches at their new home stadium. They have won, drawn and lost. Tottenham Hotspur will forever be credited as the first visiting side to win there and currently have as many victories there as CSKA.

After the match we were able to snaffle a cab in the Moscow darkness, it was already Wednesday morning by this time! My three game tour of Moscow football was drawing to a close and I was contemplating my journey home via Brussels. Three new grounds in a little over 24 hours too (never done that before). As for “Harry” -  for all I know he may still be in the bushes on his mobile phone – I do hope so!

Attendance: 26,153
Admission:  Ticket states 15 Euros
Programme: 300 Rubles (32 pages)


CSKA Moscow U19

CSKA Moscow U19 3 Tottenham Hotspur U19 2 - UEFA Youth League

Moscow's population is over 11.5 million. Most of the people are ethnically Russian, Belarusian, or Ukrainian, though other ethnicities are represented. The main religion of Moscow is Orthodox Christianity. Moscow citizens are called Muscovites. Moscow is home to the Moscow Kremlin, the seat of government of Russia, and a popular tourist attraction. This walled fortification preserves cultural and historical monuments important to Russia. The crown jewels of the Russian tsars are kept here, and the Russian president has his official residence here. Visitors from the US, UK, and other countries must first obtain a travel visa before they will be permitted to enter Russia. A valid passport and other documents are required for obtaining a visa.

Having enjoyed the match at Dynamo Moscow the previous evening, the much travelled Adam Carne and I were keen to maximise our Moscow football experience by attending the UEFA Youth League match between the U19 sides of CSKA and Spurs. We were aware that the venue of the match was Stadion Oktyabr' but still managed to struggle to find it. The three locals that we stopped to ask were unanimous as to the direction of the ground, which did not accord with our instinct. It transpired that they were helpfully directing us to the CSKA Arena, the venue for that evening’s Champions League match. We eventually decided that a taxi was the best option and an added bonus was that the driver could almost understand us and knew where the ground was.

Despite the earlier confusion, we arrived at the stadium an hour before the scheduled 2pm kick off and were the first spectators to arrive. We took some photographs and then adjourned to the adjacent hotel for some liquid refreshment. 

TV Cameras were already set up to facilitate the live broadcast of the match. Admission to the match was free and a match ticket was issued. It was only possible to view the match from one side once inside the ground, this being the side opposite the team benches.

An uncovered seated stand was adequate for the number of people in attendance. This was segregated in order that the Spurs and CSKA fans were kept apart. Sadly there was an incident when a group of around a dozen CSKA ‘fans’ rushed the Spurs section and stole a flag belonging to the Russian Spurs fans. This heroically ‘brave’ act is not without precedence as a Manchester City flag at a similar fixture was also taken. On this occasion Alexey Pivarenko lost his flag and will be particularly upset with the behaviour of his countrymen.

The match was played on an artificial surface on a pitch adjacent to the main arena. A closely contested encounter saw the hosts win by the odd goal in five. This was my second new ground within 24 hours and a third was to be added later in the evening with a visit to the CSKA Arena. More on that to follow.

Attendance: 350
Admission: Free
Programme: None


Monday, September 26, 2016

Dynamo Moscow FC

Dynamo Moscow 1 FK Sibir Novosibirsk 0 - Russian League Division 1

Moscow is situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia. It is the world's most populated inland city. The city is well known for its architecture, particularly its historic buildings such as Saint Basil's Cathedral with its brightly coloured domes. With over 40 percent of its territory covered by greenery, it is one of the greenest capitals and major cities in Europe and the world, having the largest forest in an urban area within its borders. Moscow is the seat of power of the Government of Russia, being the site of the Moscow Kremlin, a medieval city-fortress that is today the residence of the President of Russia. The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square are also one of several World Heritage Sites in the city. Both chambers of the Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) also sit in the city. The city is served by a transit network, which includes four international airports, nine railway terminals, numerous trams, a monorail system and one of the deepest underground rapid transit systems in the world, the Moscow Metro, the fourth-largest in the world and largest outside of Asia in terms of passenger numbers, and the busiest in Europe. It is recognised as one of the city's landmarks due to the rich architecture of its 200 stations. 

Dynamo Moscow has its roots in the club Morozovtsi Orekhovo-Zuevo Moskva founded as a factory team in 1887. The team was renamed OKS Moskva in 1906 and won a series of Moscow league championships from 1910 to 1914. After the Russian Revolution, the club eventually found itself under the authority of the Interior Ministry and its head Felix Dzerzhinsky, chief of the Cheka, the Soviet Union's secret police. The club was renamed Dynamo Moscow in 1923. Dynamo won the first two Soviet Championships in 1936 and 1937, a Soviet Cup in 1937, and another pair of national titles in 1940 and 1945. They were also the first Soviet club to tour the West when it played a series of friendlies in the United Kingdom in 1945. Dynamo's greatest achievement in Europe was in the 1971–72 European Cup Winners' Cup, where they reached the Final at Camp Nou in Barcelona, losing 3–2 to Rangers. This was the first time a Russian side had reached a final in a European competition.

Arena Khimki is a football stadium in Khimki. The stadium holds 18,636 spectators and was opened in 2008 to become the home stadium of FC Khimki. Since 2009 Dynamo Moscow have also been playing at the Arena Khimki as their home, Dynamo Stadium, has been undergoing reconstruction. When FC Khimki were relegated from the Russian Premier League, they left for Rodina Stadium and CSKA moved to the Arena Khimki from the Luzhniki. The Arena Khimki is the only stadium in Russia using SGL technology. Besides Russian Premier League matches, the Arena Khimki has hosted Champions League Matches, Europa League Matches, Russian Cup final in 2009 and matches involving Russia U21. 

My journey from London Heathrow to Moscow was made via Brussels. I reached my hotel at Paveletskaya by train direct from Domoedovo Airport. From this location it is relatively easy to get to the Arena Khimki, although it helps to research the logistics in advance. For this purpose I am grateful to our Russian Spurs friend Alexey Pivovarenko for confirming that you catch the metro (Green Line) to Rechney Vokzal Station (end of the line) and then catch bus 345 to the stadium. The metro part of the journey was straightforward but finding the correct bus stop in the Moscow rush hour proved to be a bit more of a challenge. Once on the bus I was able to establish a dialogue with the driver, who confirmed my destination. The bus stops immediately outside the ground.

I was able to take a few daylight photographs and purchase match programmes. The much travelled Adam Carne along with William Evans were joining me at this match and had arranged via ‘Bankie’, an extremely influential Dynamo fan, to go behind the goal with the Ultras. I opted to do likewise for 200 rubles (the same price as the match programme). This proved to be a good decision as this group of fans demonstrated a tremendous passion for their club and sang for the entirety of the match.

In truth, the match was not of the highest quality and I do not recall the visitors having a proper attempt at goal. Dynamo, at the time of this match, was romping away with the league and this victory further enhanced that position. The attendance was poorer than usual but was not helped by Dynamo’s Ice Hockey team having a fixture the same evening and there are clearly split loyalties. It should also be noted that the opposition support numbered three less than that of Tottenham Hotspur at this match – you can do the maths!

After the match our host arranged transport back to town and joined us for a good evening where we visited a number of establishments serving a variety of craft beers. There appears to be a beer revolution taking place in Moscow with tremendous variety of choice. This Pieman was also pleased to sample a lamb pancake dish, a local speciality for the region.  I should also mention the cabbage flavoured vodka which was surprisingly pleasant. The purpose of my visit was primarily to watch Spurs play at CSKA the following evening (more of that to follow), but I was actually looking forward to visiting Dynamo more, probably due to it not being on my radar initially – perfect timing!

Attendance: 2655
Admission: 200 Rubles
Programme: 200 Rubles (48 pages includes a poster)