The behaviour of Cologne fans in London got everybody talking last week, but whatever your opinions on that, you really ought to pay the Rhein-energie Stadion a visit some time.
Some 20,000 Cologne supporters made the trip to London for the club’s first European fixture for 25 years – and the scenes which followed as they marched en masse through the capital towards Emirates Stadium made for mightily impressive viewing.
Having said that, I must admit my first thought was how lucky I was to not be working in north London that day. Nothing shouts inconvenience like an organised fan march when you want to nip to the shop for a pint of milk.
The fans were boozy and rambunctious but not troublesome. Even when news broke that pockets of Cologne fans had bought tickets in the home end, it was hardly worthy of condemnation. After all, despite crowds of 50,000, an affluent city base and the services of Lukas Podolski, Cologne have had more nose-dives than a Jurgen Klinsmann highlights reel. Their fans deserved to enjoy the occasion.
Then, of course, the news turned to the delayed kick-off and crowd disturbances, with Arsene Wenger even questioning whether the game should have been played at all.
The actions of the fans that did cause trouble on the night cannot be condoned, of course, but this was hardly “a shameful throwback to the hooligan days of the 1980s” as one national journalist claimed. By and large, the Cologne fans came, had a great time, and left without so much as thinking of causing any trouble.
Certainly, from my experience of visiting Cologne and it’s Rhein-energie Stadion, Arsenal fans need not worry about their safety when they make the trip to North Rhine-Westphalia in November. In fact, they can expect a wonderful trip.
In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of what to expect. Grab yourself Kölsch (Google it) and a Bratwurst, and soak it up.
Would this inspire you?
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These are mightily impressive.
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We all know who’s number one.