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IT’S been a typically unpredictable start for the majority of the teams in the Bundesliga 2, German football’s second tier.
Union Berlin are the only unbeaten side, but they’ve drawn five of their nine games, while recently relegated top-tier stalwarts Hamburger SV have found it trickier than they might have expected.
HSV’s relegation has meant that there will be two derbies in Hamburg this season, as their descent into the second division for the first time in their history sees them join city rivals St Pauli in the fight for promotion.
Anyone who followed the progress of St Pauli in this column last season will know that roller coaster rides are their thing, and the new campaign has been no different. They rounded off their pre-season friendlies with a win at home to Stoke City and emerged victorious from their opening two league games.
They were then knocked out of the German cup by third-tier Wehen Wiesbaden, lost their next three in the league, but have since gone on a four-match unbeaten run.
The one draw in this run was perhaps the most significant, as it saw them face HSV for the first time in seven years. It is one of the most fiercely contest derbies in the world, as much off the pitch as on it, and there were a number of incidents in the build-up to the game.
“We anticipate a much higher than average police mobilisation,” said Hamburg police spokesman Timo Zill in the week prior to the match. “We will be very present and will monitor the situation.”
There were reports in the local press of St Pauli supporters attacking HSV fans, leaving two in hospital. HSV followers responded by hanging lifesize dolls wearing St Pauli shirts from the bridges over the river Elbe and across the city’s canal network.
This continued to the day of the game when stink bombs were let off at the station where St Pauli fans would disembark on their way to HSV’s Volksparkstadion. More foul smells met the “away” fans at their end of the stadium, with more local reports stating that excrement had been spread on the floor near the turnstiles.
While there was plenty of unsavoury action off the field, there wasn’t much on it and the game ended goalless. This, however, was a good result for St Pauli, who now sit fifth in the table just one point behind third place HSV.
The next derby, which will take place at St Pauli’s Millerntor-Stadion, isn’t until March, but it will already be on the minds of the fans. The clubs, meanwhile, will hope to get their minds on putting together a consistent run of results in one of Europe’s most volatile leagues.
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