A weekend in Bremen shouldn’t really have much to do with Finnish football or Finland, but there are several connections. Nokia recently announced their decision to close a factory in Germany, moving production to Cluj in Romania. The factory in Bochum is making profits, but Nokia have judged they would make more money in Cluj and so have become one of the first companies to move from the ‘old EU’ into Romania. There are a lot of qualified graduates in the area, indeed my old employer had a large Transylvanian contingent, so they expect to be able to use labour that just isn’t available in Germany.
As we were going to support Vfl Bochum against the home side, we were not surprised to find a German trade union there handing out leaflets with the title ‘Weiter Kampfen’. My German is very bad, but having studied history in Britain, I recognise ‘kampf’ and I’m pretty sure ‘weiter’ means ‘continue’. They also wanted to give a ‘red card to Nokia managers’:
So there was Finland connection number one. Thankfully, in Bremen they also remember Pasi Rautiainen and of course they have Petri Pasanen, so conversations about Finland did not focus exclusively on rapacious capitalism. Pasanen was supposed to do an interview with us but cancelled fairly late in the day, so instead of that, we picked up a copy of the Werder club magazine and perused the Pasanen and Klasnic interview inside. Klasnic now has three kidneys and it’s something of a medical miracle that he can play at all after his operations last year, and Petri said ‘yes, I’d love it if there was a sauna on the team bus’.
Finnish interest in the game extended beyond Pasanen, as we also saw a couple of future opponents with encouraging news for Baxter’s Boys: Per Mertesacker plays for the German national team! This was the first time I’ve seen him play, and he was shocking. Outpaced by Sestak twice in the first half (Sestak really should have put away one of those chances), he got an assist for the Bochum equaliser and generally had a complete nightmare. If he plays like that in Helsinki, Finland should get a hatful. Mikael Forsell in particular should be licking his lips about playing against such a poor defender.
In terms of atmopshere, the game was fantastic. Lots of singing, simple songs so even I could join in, and a Bochum win. Their first ever win in Bremen, in fact. Here’s a picture from our vantage point among the Bochumers:
And for all the Finns who are considering a trip to Bremen with the world’s worst airline, here is what they sell at German internet cafes (no, really):
The Werder museum has a huge highlights reel playing constantly, and is currently hosting an exhibition on Jewish footballers in Germany. The stories are a bit grim, but it’s good to know about the likes of Julius Hirsch. It’s worth a visit, unlike a lot of club museums.