Non-league day at FBTG with a visit to the Mommsenstadion to check out Tennis Borussia Berlin. Outside of the UK “non-league” is a term not really used as many smaller clubs in regional divisions pay their players and have structures identical to the most Premier of Premier League teams. Tennis Borussia Berlin or “TeBe” fall into this category, but have that “go for the entertainment, beer and less-serious-atmosphere” vibe that I think defines what people see as “non-league”.
TeBe have become something of a cult team. Antifa, rainbow and “refugees-welcome” stickers and banners around the ground evoke the left-rebel feeling of St. Pauli, if falling massively short in terms of scale. Moreover the colours of purple and white give the club an identity that further differs it from all mainstream teams in Germany you could choose from (though probably not the intention). They first came to my attention through a Football acquaintance made long ago who advised me to go for the cheap & cheerful combination of beer & team-spirit.
Like many other German clubs, TeBe began life as a sport club involved in other sports rather than just Football (in this case, somewhat unsurprisingly, racket sports including tennis but also table tennis for which it developed something of a pedigree). Over time the club would come to field competitive teams in other sports but as the 20th century progressed, spectator taste for Football meant that this became the primary focus of the organisation. The first half of the century was distinctly more successful for TeBe than the second, in which it progressively found itself falling down the ladder in German professional Football. In addition, thanks to the fact that this is a team that does have experience of the higher strata of the Bundesliga, the rivalry between Hertha BSC & 1. FC Union Berlin is very real, with derbies being infrequent but hot affairs.
LIII! LAAA! Weiße!
Arriving early gave me the chance to walk the stadium and catch some amateur Football on the nearby pitches within the facility. I turned down the Womens’ Hockey to watch the final 30 mins of what turned out to be the Hertha Juniors vs SCC Tennis Berlin Juniors, I guess U17s or similar. It was interesting to watch youth Football without the emotional investment and subsequent bias that comes with willing your son to score. The quality was seriously impressive and the confident and selfless playing style surprised me. Additionally you can really identify the playing stereotypes at this age; tall central defenders spend no time picking out neat passes but stick to the risk-averse hoof-it-upfield tactic, hopefully to shorter but stockier forwards who would take their time on the ball, weighing up choices.
Once inside the Mommsenstadion, I climbed a stairwell with a beer and unwittingly found myself amongst the visiting Ultras of SV Brandenburg Süd 05. My knowledge of East-German Ultras is enough to know that a guy with a camera and the wrong colours probably shouldn’t do this, but they paid instead far more attention to the apparent poor quality of the beer, the bratwurst and the bouletten (what the rest of Europe calls frikadeller) that they had been forced to buy in this shitty corner of Berlin. I didn’t stay with the 05 fans but they made themselves unmistakably heard for the entire 90 minutes.
The TeBe Ultras and fans, though definitely committed, were nowhere near as hostile as those you find at “bigger” German clubs. Families of all generations were able to walk the charming & unpretentious little ground and stay in the TeBe block as long as they liked. TeBe ran out deserved 2-1 victors, their forwards outpacing and outwitting the 05 defenders. In spite of the 05 visiting fans being completely accessible to anybody looking for a scrap, the trust bestowed in the fans proved to be deserved. The whole event actually was remarkably unaggressive.