Shortly after moving to Germany, I read one morning that Hull City fresh from Promotion were coming to East Germany to take on Dynamo Dresden in a friendly a few weeks later. 15.00 on Saturday, easily accessible for me, with a round day trip being cheap; I had to go. I was so fucking thrilled. But in the days beforehand, friends and colleagues had one thing to say;
Dynamo Dresden fans are notorious for their aggression and extremism. A Spanish friend went to see a game and was instructed to go and buy some Dynamo merchandise otherwise ultras would not let him remain in their stand. After that, he tried to film some of the action on his phone but was pelted with coins until he stopped. The best story I have heard was when the Dynamo ultras ‘K-Block’ broke into the team’s training ground after a big loss and dug 11 graves. No lie. K-Block exploits are so infamous that fans of other German teams look for any opportunity to get one back on them.
“Stevie Bruce is having a party, so bring your vodka to Checkpoint Charlie!”
I took a car share to Dresden, arriving at around 12.30, with my fellow passengers also warning me to be careful. After hanging out in the city centre in the 38 degree heat, I slowly made my way to the stadium with a couple other City fans and beer.
Germans really know how to build football stadia. The Glücksgas Stadion, owned by the Dresden city council (no chance of a Sports Direct renaming here boys) and with a capacity of 32,000 for a 3. Bundesliga team (at time of writing, they look likely to go up next year), rivals anything I’ve seen in the UK in terms of majesty. I took a few photos and stood in line to buy my ticket. I started getting funny looks now and was told that guests should usually buy tickets from the guest block round the back. A guy gave me directions, which I ignored and walked into the club shop instead to have a look at some merchandise. The people inside also looked at me in complete disbelief. Maybe I was the first away fan ever to have gone inside on match day and made it back out alive. Maybe that was brave, or stupid; I had no idea nor gave a shit really.
Back outside and a few youths noticed me. There were 4 lads and 1 girl, and one of the lads really wanted to have a go.
“You’d better hide that badge round here mate”.
I spoke to them, asking them questions about the club. Again, they seemed shocked that I was by myself wearing away colours and wasn’t trying to hide them. The one lad continued to try intimidate me (“Watch out for the hools!”) but the others were really friendly. One commented on the City badge, saying he thought it was cool, and another actually picked up something I dropped for me.
I arrived at the away entrance and marveled at the prices; 6 € ticket price, 0.50 € for a matchday programme, 3 € gets a lager and 2 € a Bratwurst. Needless to say, in the heat and sun, we got pretty blathered before kick-off. The game began and I have little recollection of the actual football, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. There were few of us but every single East Yorkshire voice could be heard. The home block right of us was closed. The one left had a handful of fans, and K-Block were opposite us. We struggled to hear them, being so far away, and the Black and Amber sung for the entire stadium.
Suddenly after 15 minutes the away section filled with full-uniform riot police, who walked in and stood behind us, completely unnecessarily. We gave them the obligatory welcome of ‘You’re only here for the City’ before losing interest. After 5 minutes, they fucked off again. This speaks volumes about what behaviour they expect of visitors in the Glücksgas Stadion. Game ended 1-0 to City, Sagbo scoring in the first half. Our players came over to us and we greeted them with a chorus of ‘Let’s join the Bundesleague!’ before making our slow way out of the stadium.
We counted exactly 38 away fans, no more, no less. I know it’s a small amount, but on such a perfect day with a great atmosphere, it really felt special. But the research I did around Dynamo Dresden, the conversations I had with Germans coming up to the game and the day itself is probably what sparked my interest in football culture transnationally to such an extent. Subsequent trips for league football, FA Cup adventures, Europa League showdowns and more fun-in-the-sun pre-season friendlies have all been stories of their own and have taught a lot, but the road to this project and what you are reading very much began in Dresden.
Long live the Dresden 38.