Here in the United States, we are coming off Labor Day weekend, which means most folks had a three-day weekend.
As Friday was my birthday, I had a four-day weekend, thanks to my employer’s policy of granting birthdays as free days off from work.
Kicking off my birthday was the home game with Cottbus. We’ve all had plenty of time to wring our hands over yet another goal-less zero-point effort, so there’s not a lot of reason to re-hash that.
But, if you must…go here!
While getting ready for the game, I was sipping coffee and reading up on the bringing of Sascha Bigalke and Anthony Ujah into the club, hoping that we were about to see the dam finally burst with a flood of goals for the home team with the new players coming along just in time to make things even more offensively interesting for the Effzeh.
I also was catching up on yet more positive feedback regarding my post on how I became a fan of the club, as well as several birthday wishes from folks who’d seen on Twitter that I was trying to use some birthday karma to get three points into the account for the red and white.
Of course, I did not hesitate to say ‘yes.’
If you’d like to read the interview, please pay effzeh.com a visit here.
While I’ve been following the club as a ‘fan’ for nearly two years now, it’s only been recently that I decided to write about what I see and become more actively engaged in staying up with club activities beyond just catching the scores and watching the odd game. I started my blog (https://americangeissbock.wordpress.com/) and a connected Twitter account just a few months ago. Quickly, I found myself being welcomed into the online #Effzeh community with open arms, even though I rarely dare to chance my German language skills (Luckily, a good many of the German supporters have impeccable English skills!) online for fear of sounding doof.
Admittedly, I was unsure how an American would be received. Clearly, I had not grown up in the area, nor do I have the connection to the history and culture of the club as do the locals.
On the other side of that, however, is the fact that it’s not exactly a case of jumping on a bandwagon of a suddenly successful squad. I know for a fact that when some of my favorite teams have earned on-field success, I tend to be a little annoyed with the unavoidable influx of new fans who want to enjoy the spoils of victory, despite not having been around for the many years of agony (Detroit Lions right now are a perfect example).
To that end, I have had a few people ask whether I’m simply crazy.
Yes, of course I am. Anyone who loyally followed the Detroit Tigers through the 90’s and the Detroit Lions through…oh…about a lifetime of futility is bound to have a weird sense of how to be a sports fan. The easy thing to do would be to become a Dortmund or even a Bayern fan.
For me, these were never options. Plus, as I wrote last week, the Geissböcke just seemed to call to me one day.
Hence, in the wake of all these good tidings and interest in my interest in 1. FC Köln, I perked up near the end of my viewing of the Cottbus match when it was clear the odds of even a draw were long, much less the desired/expected victory and the camera panned away from the action to a large section of fans who were suddenly increasing the volume of their support and holding their scarves above their heads in unison.
Even remembering it, I get a warm feeling.
What I saw was a fan base defiant. The easy thing to do is to be angry or to feel sorry for yourself over the fate of the club and yet another ticket to the game wasted watching the offense fail to connect (though, one must admit, they were otherwise dominant on the ball and suffered a bit of bad luck to not have scored). It’s very typical in America for fans in such a case to leave the match a bit early to get to their vehicles and beat the traffic exiting the parking lots.
For me, it was confirmation that I was proud to have attached myself to this particular group of sports fans.
Of course, it would be naive to think the club is free of the other type of fan. This became particularly clear later in the day as I caught up on some other news items around the club and learned of the fate of Kevin Pezzoni.
I still do not have enough information to really go into detail about what occurred, but the way it was discussed on Friday was that the club and Pezzoni agreed to terminate his contract due, at least in part, to threats made toward Pezzoni by “fans” of the team.
Unfortunately, that’s all anyone is going to need in order to say negative things about the Effzeh supporters as a group. It matters not that the people who would even consider doing such things would number less than 1% of the total population of Effzeh nation. Nor does it matter that most supporters of the club would rather never have anything to do with such folk. All that matters is that they self-identify as “fans” (I have to put that word in quotes when talking about these people, because I don’t think they deserve such a title) of the same team as the rest of us, which means they get to tarnish us as a group.
And there is little we can do about it. We are stuck now dealing with the avalanche of rival fans pointing at ALL of us and using the story as an illustration of how we are inferior to them, supplementing with a healthy dose of schadenfreude over the awful start the team has had on the field.
The play of Pezzoni certainly earned him a lot of harsh criticism, much, if not all, of it deserved. I do not believe that being a supporter means you have to necessarily like the way the players play, nor how the management manages.
I do believe, however, that the players who wear the jerseys deserve at least a modicum of respect as fellow humans. If you can’t grant them even that, I think you have some personal issues that need be resolved before you invest too much time and energy in the fate of a football team. I would go further than just basic human respect, personally. The men who go out there and play the game for my entertainment and attempt to gain victory get elevated a bit beyond a simple acknowledgement of their humanity. This is where the “support” part of “supporter” comes into play. While I didn’t care for the play of Pezzoni in Aue, he remained (at the time) a member of the club. Hence, for me, he got my support.
That’s not to say I wasn’t going to be happy were he relegated to the bench for a while, but, just as I feel about Chong Tese, if he’s inserted into the line-up, he’s one of the only 11 men on the pitch for whom I will cheer.
And that’s where it ends. If I saw him in a bar, I might not offer to buy him a beer, but I’d at least tip my hat and acknowledge that he does far more for 1. FC Köln than I could ever do.
When a person, as a “fan,” gets it into their heads they need to take it upon themselves to represent the voice of the fan and take action to issue threats toward players because of their failings on the field, things have gone too far.
And there is nothing to be done about it.
Well, not much of anything. The rest of us can condemn the inane actions of a dim few and continue to voice support of those who remain. What we cannot do, however, is allow the fringe elements of the club to represent the rest of us in the eyes of other fans or the players we will need in the future to come to Köln in pursuit of promotion and success in the top flight. We cannot saddle players with the idea that they need to never fail, less they then be saddled with the prospects of themselves and their families being put in real danger of “fan” attacks. That’s the sort of support that can actually impact the team in a very real and negative way.
The real fans…those are the ones still in the stadium after yet another loss, making sure the players know they’ll be there through thick or thin.
With no games this week due to the international break, we have an extra week to think about things. I can only hope those few who would act outrageously can see the ugly cloud surrounding these events and realize they are part of a larger, more insidious problem than a guy failing in the central defense.