RIP Sachsen Leipzig

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After countless false hopes and 2 years of living on life support, FC Sachsen Leipzig has finally succumbed to its injuries. On Wednesday, administrator Heiko Kratz announced that the club would cease to exist as of 1st June 2011. Unlike the professional leagues in Germany which have already finished, many things are still to be decided in the country’s 4th tier and below, and FC Sachsen Leipzig  fans have two final chances to bid farewell to their side. The first was on Sunday against Budissa Bautzen in the NOFV Oberliga-Süd and would be the last ever FC Sachsen Leipzig match at their historic, decrepit ground, the Alfred-Kunze Sportpark.

I felt that I couldn’t miss this opportunity to witness an historic occasion. It’s not often that a club goes out of business, and I was interested to see what the atmosphere would be like, even though it felt like I was visiting the scene of a horrific car accident “just to have a look”. Would supporters be sad? Upset? Angry? The weather certainly wanted to give FCS a good send off as, when I left to take the short 5-minute S-Bahn ride to the district of Leutzsch, the sun was shining brightly.

It’s hard not to draw a comparison between Leipzig-Leutzsch S-Bahn station and the Alfred-Kunze Sportpark, separated as they are by a mere 250 yards. Quite frankly, they are both in a deplorable state of repair. The one difference is: Leutzsch S-Bahn station is undergoing comprehensive renovation as part of the new transport network in Leipzig, whereas the Alfred-Kunze Sportpark… well, who knows?

I arrived with plenty of time to spare and immediately noticed how busy the ground was. From what I could gather, there were only 4 ticket sellers for all fans wanting to buy a ticket and so I had to queue for half an hour. It was obvious that so many people had not been seen at an FCS match for some time. Indeed, a couple of old Sachsen fans in front of me were complaining about this very problem. One of the main problems FC Sachsen Leipzig have had this season is that the administrators had reckoned with over 1,000 paying spectators per home game. In reality, that number has dwindled over the course of the season. The week before, against FSV Zwickau, only 800 turned up despite an impressive following from southern Saxony. After queueing for half and hour (!), I finally got my ticket for the Norddamm terrace behind the goal, at a cost of €8.

The Norddamm is one of my favourite places to watch football. It’s an old and rotting bit of classic concrete terracing which towers above the rest of the ground, and you really get an impression of how tight the rest of the ground is to the pitch from right at the top. Lord knows what it would be like if it was full. The bottom tier of the terrace is the traditional home of the most raucous FCS fans, including the ultras. Incidentally, a Union Berlin-supporting friend of mine was telling me about seeing a playoff game here 22 years ago where the attendance was over  20,000. He said the atmosphere was astounding.

At the top of the terrace, FC Sachsen Leipzig fans had made a banner printed with *1990 † 2011. Some other fans had put together a cardboard coffin with the club’s logo and the same dates (which I frustratingly didn’t get a picture of). Due to the congestion to get in, the game actually kicked off 15 minutes later. I found out later on that the attendance was around 2,500. If only those extra 1,000 or so had made the effort to go earlier on in the season, perhaps it wouldn’t have ended like it has.

Right from the kickoff, it was clear that some of the FC Sachsen fans were only going to bow out kicking and screaming. Straight away, 5 or 6 fireworks were set off and some were thrown onto the pitch amid chants of “Nur die BSG“. It was pretty spectacular, and also a little terrifying if I may say so. FCS fans looked like they didn’t care about the match and were bent on causing as much disruption as possible. After pleas from the players, manager and referee (kudos to the latter for keeping a cool head for the whole match by the way; he could easily have abandoned it), the FCS hardcore fans cooled down a little and got into their chanting rhythm. Whenever fans in Germany light fireworks, the stadium announcer always gets his microphone out and says the same thing: “Dear football fans, please refrain from lighting fireworks, etc.”, but this time the announcer just said “Dear football fans, please refrain from lighting fireworks. The costs for the club in the form of fines are…… Just stop it. Man oh man.”

I had feared that Bautzen would be too strong for FCS and would spoil the occasion by winning (how disrespectful!). My fears were unfounded though as Sachsen Leipzig started brightly and, after only 5 minutes, took the lead. Fabian Schößler broke down the right-hand side after a quick free kick and buried the ball in the far corner on the half volley past the helpless Bautzen keeper. I got the feeling that this lifted a weight off the shoulders of quite a few fans who may have shared my fears that FCS would go out with a whimper. Sachsen doubled their lead 7 minutes later, Schößler again finishing impressively from inside the box. Bautzen were showing little and it was relatively obvious that they had nothing to play for. Despite their dominance, Sachsen couldn’t get a third and put the game well beyond doubt. Pint-size, balding Georgian Khvicha Shubitidze (star of the EFW Leipzig Derby report) had a golden chance after beating the keeper, but ended up putting the ball wide.

At half time, the weather was turning and, perhaps reflecting the state of affairs at FCS, dark clouds were looming overhead. The stadium announcer, however, came up with another gem to keep us amused. Someone had requested “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (I hate the fact that Germans love this song so much) to be played as a thank you to this person’s father for taking him to his first ever BSG Chemie Leipzig match, back in the day. The announcer had left it too late though, and after the intro had finished and the “Walk on, walk on” bit was just starting, the teams came out and he had to cut it off – a head in hands moment.

The second half was a bit of a non-event in footballing terms, although FCS kept up their dominance. They had a couple of great chances and their keeper Richter pulled off a fantastic one-handed save low to his left. Perhaps a few of the FCS players are looking to get on RB Leipzig‘s books at the end of the season? It seemed like they would have the perfect opportunity to put the round off the day when a penalty was awarded ten minutes before time. Lee Gandaa stepped up and proceded to strike it easily within reach of the keeper. Another head in hands moment.

After this missed penalty, many FCS fans around me began to get visibly upset. I saw a hell of a lot of grown men crying. The final whistle came as a bit of a relief to be honest, as I’m sure people can imagine. If you know something that you hold dear to your heart is going to end for good, you kind of want it to end straight away. It’s the waiting that kills you.

The expected, and long overdue, pitch invasion took place after the final whistle, with the stewards eventually opening the gates to the pitch so that people that weren’t keen on climbing the 6ft-high fence could also have a go. There were some unsavoury scenes as some fans attempted to get into the VIP area and the board room but a strong police presence managed to quell the attempts. There was obviously a great deal of anger and despair after the game, but the writing has been on the wall for a long time now. There were cries of “You’ve sold us to Red Bull!” and such like, but as an older Sachsen fan behind me said; “The people runnig around all pissed off are the ones that haven’t paid their membership fees and have directly contributed to this situation.”

All in all, a sad turn of events in Leutzsch and it remains to be seen whether a team in green and white will be playing at the Alfred-Kunze Sportpark next season. It must be said, there were many people present at the final FCS game who I would judge as belonging to the right of the political spectrum (Thor Steinar clothing, skinheads, disgusting songs about building an train line from *enter location* to Ausschwitz) and I would say that those people wouldn’t be welcome if BSG Chemie Leipzig (the new club, formed by the left-wing former FCS ultras) took over the AKS. The Leutzsch fan scene has been divided since the formation of the new club and it remains to be seen if they are ever able to be reunited.

FCS’s last ever match will be this weekend away at newly-crowned champions Germania Halberstadt.

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