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Groundhopping Hamburg

The term ‘groundhopping’ has been used since the late 1980s and is made up of the two English words ‘ground’ and ‘to hop’. Groundhoppers are people who cross national borders, and travel within their own country, to see as many football stadiums including football games as possible. It is a kind of football-based tourism.   Groundhopping culture is strong in England, Scotland and Germany. Groundhoppers travel frequently, to see as many new football stadiums in different cities, regions and countries as possible. Groundhopping gives prestige to groundhoppers who have visited many stadiums. At the same time, groundhopping is not just about visiting many stadiums, it is also about engaging with history, politics and acts of remembering. Groundhopping culture values ‘traditional’ and ‘old-school’ football stadiums: those with terraces, standing room and grandstands built in the early to mid-20th century. With many stadiums being renovated or demolished, there is an urgency to groundhopping: one wants to see historical stadiums, before they are no longer.

Unlike other football fan scenes, for instance that of the ultras, the centre of interest for groundhoppers are football stadiums in general and not those of their favourite clubs. They may visit many games of their favourite team as well, but the vast majority of games visited are without involvement of their team. One reason for the selection of a certain ground to visit, is the function of a stadium as a place of remembrance.  But, what is a place of remembrance? And further, what is remembered and how is it remembered? Is remembering embodied in the architecture of a stadium?

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The architecture and history of a stadium, plays a crucial role in the functioning of a stadium as a place of remembrance. A place of remembrance can be both material and immaterial, as a place of remembrance is constituted by its symbolic function (cf. François und Schulze: 2001: 18). Places of remembrance are places of collective memory and identity, ‘which are embedded in the societal, cultural and political conventions’  (François und Schulze: 2001: 18). The concept of place in this sense is to be understood as a place in a social, cultural, political, real or imaginary space – thus, the place receives its meaning and purpose only with the relations that mediate its position (cf. François und Schulze: 2001: 17).

The mass media plays a constitutive role in the creation of the unique characteristics of football stadiums, as their representation of football continues to play a significant part in ensuring that the names of many football stadiums are connected with past games of outstanding importance or with certain aspects of the audience. These includes, for example, the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City with its nickname as ‘cauldron’ or the Millerntor Stadium in Hamburg as ‘House of Pleasure in the league’ (cf. Leo 2005: 159). But what of the smaller stadiums that I discuss below?  Examples of German stadiums that serve as a place of remembrance are the Ellenfeld Stadium in Neunkirchen and the Grünwalderstadion in Munich. Other stadiums that serve as place of remembrance are the Stadium Donnerschwee in Oldenburg and the George Melches Stadium in Essen, which have already been demolished.

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I will look at two of my favourite stadiums, which also serve as a place of remembrance. These are the Hoheluft Stadium in Hamburg-Eppendorf and the Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn in Hamburg-Altona.

The Hoheluft stadium (built 1907) is the home ground of SC Victoria Hamburg and is one of the oldest stadiums in Germany. In 1911, the City of Hamburg approved the construction of a grandstand that could hold 1,000 spectators. This grandstand represented the first covered stand in northern German football, but this grandstand burned down 1921. One year later a new grandstand was built by donations, which remains as the show-piece of the stadium. Between 1911 and 1949 five international matches of the German National team were held in the this Stadium. The 1912 final of the German League between KSV Holstein Kiel and Karlsruher FV was also held here. After numerous modifications, the stadium is now one of only two Regionalleague suitable grounds in Hamburg. The two main stadiums of Hamburg belong to the professional clubs, Hamburger SV and FC. St. Pauli.

The stadium is also known for the Victoria-Klause clubhouse, which is located underneath the grandstand. This became particularly known by the now deceased Walter Frosch (*1950 – †2013), a former Bundesliga player who has held the management of the Victoria-Klause for many years. Walter Frosch probably holds the record of most yellow cards in one season. There are different versions about the number, these vary from 18, 19 to 27 yellow cards. Shortly afterwards the disqualification after 4 yellow cards – currently after 5 – for a certain number of subsequent matches was introduced.

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Hoheluft Stadium (photo by Hendrik Kren)

Frosch’s notoriety was also a crucial aspect for many groundhopper and football-travelers (i.e. fans who do their travelling based on the teams playing, rather than according to the stadium in which the games are played) to visit the Stadium Hoheluft and to meet the legendary player.  The fame, or infamy of a single player, also shapes which stadiums groundhoppers choose to visit. For groundhoppers, what is important is visiting stadiums, regardless of what league the stadium is used for.

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The Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn is the home ground of Altonaer FC von 1893. The club is currently playing in the Oberliga Hamburg, one league of the fifth division in Germany. The stadium was opened on 30 August 1908 with a game against Lübecker BC. This is also one of the oldest stadiums in Germany. In 1920 the stadium was expanded and the remodelled stadium had a capacity of 27,000 spectators. The new stadium was opened on 30th October 1921 with a game against the Hamburger SV. With a capacity of 27,000 spectators, it was the largest stadium in northern Germany for that time. Today, however, it has an official capacity of only 8,000. In 1944 the stadium was renamed as Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn, after a German national player who also played for Altona. The stadium consists of a main grandstand, which was built in 1958; its original wooden benches were replaced in 2001 with molded seats. Otherwise there are only grass terraces. Altona 93 play their home games there. In 2008/09, however they had to play at Hoheluft Stadium, the home of their rivals, Victoria Hamburg, as a result of safety concerns.

The Adolf-Jager-Kampfbahn was almost the site of an international game between Austria and the Faroe Island in 1990. The Altona District Office offered to host the game, after it was decided that there were no suitable grounds in the Faroe Island. Instead, the game was played in Sweden, where the Faroe Islands recorded their first competitive victory, 1:0. (footage, here).

The Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn represents a contrast to modern multi-function arenas in which other kinds of events and sports are held. It is a stadium that lives and breathes history and represents ‘traditional football’ . This makes the stadium especially attractive for groundhoppers. Max, one of my informants, states, “just like in Hamburg: Altona 93, has this old, rotten stadium, with all the history of this club.”

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Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn (photo by Hendrik Kren)

The function of a stadium as a place of remembrance provides an important role in experiencing the atmosphere, because the individual can take part in the collective memory through the stadium visit. This is particularly evident in the experience reports of individual groundhoppers on certain grounds like the above mentioned.(Hendrik Kren 2015)

The Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn will be demolished next year in order to make way for the building of new apartments. The last game will be held in May 2016. With the demolition of this ground another piece of football history will die and we will have only modern multi-function arenas – as they can be found even in the amateur football nowadays. These modern, or ‘postmodern’ stadiums, lack the history and identity of the older stadiums, with their distinct architecture which evoke a football culture that is being seriously threatened.The new ground will be a modern sports center for 3.000 spectators, at a new location. The new stadium, will probably have better facilities and be financially more viable; but the romance will be lost.

References

François, Etienne and Hagen Schulze. ‘Einleitung’. In Deutsche Erinnerungsorte I, 2nd revised edition, edited by Etienne François and Hagen Schulze, 9-24. München: Beck, 2001.

Leo, Peter. ‘Das Stadion’. In Orte der Moderne. Erfahrungswelten des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, edited by Alexa Geisthövel and Habbo Knoch, 151-160. Frankfurt am Main: Campus-Verlag, 2005.

Carsten, Norbert: Faszination Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn. Altona 93 und sein 100-jähriges Kultstadion. Göttingen: Die Werkstatt, 2008.

Pingel, André. ‘Der VfB Oldenburg und das alte Donnerschweer Stadion. „Die Hölle des Nordens”‘. In Oldenburger Erinnerungsorte. Vom Schloss bis zur Hölle des Nordens, von Graf Anton Günther bis Horst Janssen, edited by Mareike Witkowski, 377-392. Oldenburg: Isensee, 2012.

Kren, Hendrik. Groundhopping – Zwischen Skurrilität und Kreativität. In Fluide Kulturen Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten des Einzelnen in einer sich globalisierenden Gesellschaft. (forthcoming) : http://www.praxisundkultur.uni-kiel.de/buchreihe.shtml



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