Standing in the Volksparkstadion is like bearing witness to beauty for the first time. When you look around the magnificent arena you realise you are in the presence of something special.
The roar of 57,00 strong rips through you and causes your head to spin. The hair on the back of your neck stands to attention, and the beat of your heart increases. You become breathless. There is something though that doesn’t seem right. There is something, not normal? You soon realise what it is. This is 2.Bundesliga. How can it be normal for a club to attract this level of support when they aren’t pitting their wits against the likes of Bayern Munich? That’s when you remember that Hamburger SV is no ordinary club. This is an institution. A proper football club. A club where the ideals and romanticism of football still exist.
‘It’s the super atmosphere in the Volksparkstadion,’ which makes the club so special explains HSV legend and Club Manager Bernd Wehmeyer, as he sits down with The Atlantic Dispatch. ‘There are usually over 50,000 fans in the stadium and that’s in the 2. Bundesliga. That is simply unbelievable. There is a special relationship between fans and team and it doesn’t matter whether we play home or away.”
Founded in 1887, HSV remains one of the oldest and most successful clubs in German football history. Die Rothosen has a proud tradition, having won the German championship six times, the DFB-Pokal three times, and the European Cup in 1983, making them one of only four German clubs to have won the competition. Adding to that, they also won the UEFA Cup in 1977, and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987. Despite a turbulent few years, where they have suffered the agony of relegation, this club with a beautiful history, is still able to call on their thousands of dedicated and loyal fans week in, week out.
They stand with them, through every moment. They are an intoxicating club, and once they are under your skin there is no going back. The Yellow Wall? It’s nothing compared to this wave of blue which washes over you and takes you to a footballing paradise.
Born and raised as a fan of Glasgow Rangers, it was in 1996 that my interest in Hamburger SV began. That was the glorious year we signed ‘The Hammer’, Jorg Albertz. He made the journey from Hamburg to Glasgow and would soon become an idol to the Ibrox faithful. For years, I watched in awe as his left foot continuously put Celtic to the sword. It was like witnessing a master of his craft each and every time he pulled the trigger.
Owing so much to Hamburger SV, for allowing us the services of Albertz, I soon began to look out for their results. I obsessively researched their history, and to my delight, discovered that a friendship and bond with Rangers went back as far as the 1970s. This was a relationship that was only strengthened by the Hammer.
As it happens, Hamburg and the city of Glasgow, also share many similarities, with the two cities based on the water and shaped by their maritime and shipbuilding history, built upon the hard work of the working class on the Clyde and the Elbe. The clubs are also a natural fit, both play in blue and are steeped in class and glory, and carry passionate support. In 1977 the Hamburg Loyal Rangers Supporters Club was formed and still survives to this day and is in fact the oldest Rangers fan club in mainland Europe. Each and every week, Rangers fans across the world are hoping that this year, Hamburger SV can get back to where they belong.
FOR MANY FANS THESE ARE THE GAMES OF THE YEAR
Despite Hamburg’s current position in 2. Bundesliga, They are well-placed to be promoted this season, sitting agonisingly close to SV Darmstadt 98. ‘We currently have an average attendance of over 50,000, which is simply unbelievable.’ Wehmeyer tells us. ‘The enthusiasm of our fans is tremendous and also shows how great the desire for Bundesliga football is.’ There are a number of key games ahead, and if Hamburger SV is to return to the promise land, it is imperative they continue to breathe down the neck of SV Darmstadt 98. One game which is looming large, and could play a significant part in the season, is the upcoming derby against St Pauli.
One of the few positives of 2. Bundesliga has been the opportunity for Hamburger SV to lock horns with their fierce city rivals. ‘It is a great rivalry,’ says Wehmeyer, ‘because of course, it is a Stadtderby(City Derby) and, it is something very special on its own. For many fans, these are the games of the year. But also the Nordderby (North Derby) against Werder Bremen is always very special.”
For a team steeped in history and tradition, and for a man so used to success, how difficult has it been for Wehmeyer to see his club plying their trade at this level? “Very. It also shows that we are still playing in the 2. Bundesliga after five years. In addition, the fixture against us is the game of the year for many 2. Bundesliga teams. You have to be at 100 per cent in every game.’
COURAGE AND PASSION
Despite, their position in 2. Bundesliga, HSV not only remain a massive club on the pitch but off it as well. They have a huge position of responsibility and their relationship with the community underpins this incredibly special organisation. ‘We have good prerequisites at HSV. Many people work here with a lot of passion. We rely more on the youth and have increased our permeability to the First Team. We have to be creative and continuously go our way. Nothing is given to you in any game. You always have to go to your maximum. In addition, we have recently managed to develop a DNA that people can identify with.’
The club is well-placed to move forward under the current leadership of Tim Walter. He has helped the club to regain stability, and there is much to be positive about, with the entire coaching staff committing to the club until 2024. ‘Tim has identified completely with HSV from day one.’ Says Director of Sport, Jonas Boldt.’ He exemplifies courage and passion. Together with our coaching team, he radiates immense energy in his daily work with the team. The players have developed visibly under Tim. In the past 18 months, we have all experienced a lot together and have grown closer and closer.’
There is a feeling that something special may be happening once more at the club. They have developed an exceptional squad of players, that has the perfect blend of the excitement of youth and experience. It is clear to see just how crucial Walter is to the future of Hamburg SV. With the manager at the helm and the crucial goals of Robert Glatzel and the performances of the likes of Jonas Meffert and Laszlo Benes, this could well be the year.
‘There is a special relationship between fans and team and it doesn’t matter whether we play home or away.‘
As the final straight of the season looms large, and with much left to play for, HSV will rely on everything it has to get them over the line and make the city and its fans proud once more. Between now and the last kick of the season, everybody will need to play their part, and as Bernd Wehmeyer sums up: ‘HSV, with its many fans, is one of the biggest clubs in Germany, with a very long tradition and some titles. Great players have played with the “Raute” on their chest and certainly, the city of Hamburg plays a role.’
Thank you very much to the gentleman and legend that is Bernd Wehmeyer for his time.