Archive for January, 2012

Fans standing - safely - at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion

As calls for safe standing in England get louder, the people at whose feet the decision ultimately lies could do with taking a look at the Bundesliga.

In 1993, the German Football Federation decided against all-seater stadiums, and now the vast majority of Bundesliga clubs have safe standing areas in their stadiums.

Since the Taylor report into the Hillsbrough disaster, all clubs in the top two levels of English football have been required to have all-seater stadiums. This even means that any team who have standing areas, and are then promoted to the Championship, would have to convert their stadium to all-seating.

Bundesliga stadiums feature ‘rail-seating’, called ‘vario’ seats. These are locked in an upright position for Bundesliga matches, but are then brought down for matches in the Champions or Europa League etc – as FIFA and Uefa both recquire stadiums for their competitions to be all-seater.

Andy Hudson, editor of European football website Gannin’ Away, explained this further. He said: “There are metal barriers situated at regular intervals on the terracing. This removes huge gaps of open terracing that many people remember from UK football grounds. As a result of the barriers, there are never too many fans squeezed into a confined space. This eliminates any potential for surges and people tumbling down the terracing.

“Also, ticket numbers are regulated so the standing areas are never full to ‘capacity’. While you could get ‘x’ amount of fans in area, clubs sell less than that volume. This is a practice that’s replicated across many European countries.”

Fans are also allocated a row and a position, which eliminates the theory – and one of the reasons given as to why safe standing has not been implemented in the Premier League – that it’s harder, in standing areas, to identify those causing trouble.

However, despite it being something many fans want – The Football Supporters’ Federation have long campaigned for its introduction – and the obvious benefits (the Bundesliga has higher attendances and a generally better atmosphere at games) it seems unlikely safe standing will be implemented in the Premier League any time soon.

Hillsborough, and the safety of fans, are the excuses given for this. Money, one suspects, is the real reason.

 

You can follow Andy Hudson on Twitter: @HuddoHudson, and check out his Gannin’ Away website here.

It could have been an England shirt.

Every club makes mistakes when it comes to young players. Lewis Holtby was Borussia Monchengladbach’s.

Having joined their youth team at age 11, he was told at 14 that he was “too small and too slow.”

Holtby made the move to Alemannia Aachen, and following their relegation from the Bundesliga, he made his debut at the age of 17, although he was far from a regular.

He did establish himself in the first team the following season, and it wasn’t long before scouts from many a Bundesliga club were looking at him. The side that did get him was Schalke 04.

After half a season with The Royal Blues, he was sent out on loan to VfL Bochum to gain more experience. Gain experience is exactly what he did, playing 14 times, scoring twice and showing a lot of potential.

That potential began to turn into something substantial and consistent with a second loan move, this time to Mainz 05 for the duration of the 2010/11 season. It was, ultimately, the making of him.

Given plenty of freedom and with little expectation, he shone at Mainz, playing 30 games and establishing himself as something of a creative force, in particular one with an eye for a pass.

His form didn’t go unnoticed by the national side. He was handed the captain’s armband of the U21 side, and a full cap came at the end of the 2010/11 season in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Azerbaijan.

The ended any aspirations the English FA may have had of persuading Holtby to pledge his allegiance to the country of his father’s birth. However, we may yet see Holtby in England, as like his father (a soldier from Liverpool, who was stationed in Monchengladbach) he is an Everton fan, and has made no secret of his desire to play for them.

As it stands at club level, he is progressing very nicely at Schalke, with the only criticism being he needs to add more goals to his game. At international level, his biggest problem is competition – with the likes of Gotze, Kroos, Ozil et al chances are going to be few and far between. Next time he gets one, he needs to take it.

Dynamic operator in the midfield who brings out the best of those around him. Terrific work-rate. Fast-tracked into the national side to keep him out of the clutches of the dastardly English – that’s how highly he’s rated.” John Dobson, journalist. @dopsonjp

The video below shows some Holtby highlights…

Draxler: winner of 2011 Fritz Walter U18 gold medal

Julian Draxler became the (then) fourth-youngest Bundesliga player ever when he made his debut.

That was January 2011, when he came off the bench against HSV. A week later, and he became the second youngest outfield player to start a Bundesliga match – behind only Nuri Sahin. To add context to that, Sahin won the title with Dortmund and now plays for Real Madrid, so second to him isn’t bad.

He worked his way through the ranks at Schalke before his celebrated debut, having been born in the close-by district of Recklinghausen. His fact track to the first team shows just how highly he is rated.

In 2011, he won the gold Fritz Walter Medal at U18 level, an award that recognises the outstanding talents at U17, U18 and U19 level of German football. (Marc-Andre ter Stegen, profiled here, won gold in U19, while Emre Can did so at U17).

His star continues to rise, and this season has seen him make sixteen appearances already for Schalke, during which time he has scored three goals – equaling his total for the whole of last season.

He has also broken into the Germany U21 side, and although a debut for the Nationalmannschaft looks some way off at the moment, he could well be a fixture come the World Cup 2014, and certainly Euro 2016.

The defensive side of his game has been spoke about as a weakness, but he is very much seen as an attacking playmaker, evident in the fact his strengths lie in his shooting and passing, while he possesses a good technique and plenty of flair.

Never overawed, he’s a rugged, hard-working midfielder with a maturity way beyond his years.” John Dobson, journalist. @dobsonjp

Lars Bender…I think

Lars Bender was born April 27 1989. Minutes later, Sven Bender arrived on the scene. 22 years later, and they are regarded as two of the hottest prospects in Germany.

The pair started out at SpVgg Unterhaching, making their way through the ranks before together making the short move across the Bavarian capital to join 1860 Munich.

The careers continued dawn the same path at Die Lowen, and in the three full seasons each had with the first team, they both made between 60-70 appearances.

Lars, however, was considered to have slightly more talent than his slightly younger brother. This was mainly due to his greater attacking abilities, and recognised by his being given the captain’s armband (when the regular captain was subbed) at the age of 19 – the youngest player ever to captain 1860 Munich.

In the summer of 2009, the twins finally went their separate ways. Lars signed for Bayer Leverkusen, while Sven went to Borussia Dortmund. Both have experienced plenty of first team action, but it is Sven who has had more success – playing a key role in Dortmund’s Bundesliga title win.

Sven Bender…possibly.

They have both represented Germany at every level, from U17 to the full national side, and both played their part in the Uefa U19 Championship win in 2008. Sven was the first to appear for the national side – in a friendly against Australia in March 2011 – but it wasn’t long before Lars won his first cap, and it is the elder Bender who currently has more caps to his name.

Individually, they are two extremely talented young midfielders, and very good prospects. If a club, or their country, could reunite them in the centre of midfield, they could be the perfect pairing.

“The Bender twins are inevitably going to be compared to one another. They play similar roles, breaking up the play in front of the back four and creating. They both get around the pitch well with their rangy frames and always seem to have a dozen passing options at any point.” – John Dobson, journalist. @dobsonjp