Stadion Lichterfelde, Berlin – Lichterfelde
NOFV-Oberliga Nord: LFC Berlin 1892 – Ludwigsfelder FC 1-0
Attendance: +/- 120 (66 paying)
While almost 48,000 people in the Olympiastadion marvel at Hertha BSC versus Arminia Bielefeld, I go in the southwest of the city looking for the much smaller Stadium of Lichterfelde. The intent is to see the modest LFC Berlin 1892 play against the equally modest Ludwigsfelder FC. Because the stadium is not immediately on walking distance from a U-Bahn (underground) station I opt to travel the last part of my journey by taxi. I will save you an extensive account of the taxi ride. In short, the driver has never heard of the stadium and even after I’ve given him a street name and despite the presence of a shiny GPS unit the man gets hopelessly lost. Because apparently my German is better than his he suggests that I ask a passer-by to help him. Eventually I prevent with a hard “Halt!” that he simply does not drives past the stadium a few minutes later.
When East and West were still separated by the wall, Lichterfelde Stadium was together with the Olympiastadion and the Mommsenstadion one of the three international Athletics stadiums in West Berlin. From 1933 to 1945 the stadium was officially called “Adolf-Hitler-Stadion”. A few years after the name change the complex did service as a venue for the Olympic Games of 1936. Showpiece is undoubtedly the between 1926 and 1929 and by Fritz Freymüller built main stand. The stand with 800 seats is integrated into the two stories high main building and is flanked on both sides by other club buildings. What is striking is the characteristic light kink in the middle of the roof. Before the stand are another four rows of seats which add another 1,000 seats. Along with the approximately 2,500 standing places this brings the capacity of the Stadium to about 4,500.
Just as at other old stadiums in the German capital there’s some war history linked to Stadium Lichterfelde. From 1943 the stadium offered local people shelter from enemy air raids. A status it would retain till 15 February 1944 when a phosphor bomb heavily damaged the gymnasium of the complex. Just after the war it was no longer possible to play football on the damaged football pitch and it was used for potato farming. Until the U.S. Army set its sights on the stadium in 1947. The Americans occupied the stadium and they immediately started with the restoration of the complex. Almost half a century later, during the World Cup 2006, Lichterfelde was the training center for both the Swedish and the Brazilian national selections. Three years later, in 2009, Lichterfelde Stadium would again serve as training complex, this time for the athletes of the Athletics World Championships. On this occasion the stadium, just as the Olympia Stadium, received a striking blue running track. In 2011, some national selections will use it as a training ground during the Women’s World Cup.
I do not have to queue for a ticket today. The man at the counter is clearly delighted with my visit. He also manages the club shop which consists of a cigar box with some pins with the club logo. The playing field feels somewhat sunken after about three quarters of the standing spaces were removed in the 1970s. The complex is clean but for an attractive football stage I see little possibilities in Lichterfelde Stadium. What I also notice is that just like the day before yesterday at TeBe the “corner flags” are not only in the four corners of the playing field but also on the midline. Mandatory in the Oberliga or a typical Berlin custom? While the stadium speaker annex DJ installs himself in the middle of the stand, I search for a place to follow the match. I have a lot of choice as the home club is anything but a crowd puller. It never was and it will likely never be.
Although the Lichterfelder FC Berlin 1892 is largely unknown internationally, it does have the largest youth sport division in all of Germany with over 1300 members, spread over more than 35 teams. The Association is also praised for her social initiatives and can count on a lot of sympathy from the population and the Government despite its small fan base. About a dozen mergers since 1892 have led to what the club is today. The last merger came in 1988, when FV Brandenburg Lichterfelde and the Lichterfelder SU decided to to go through life together as VfB Lichterfelde 1892. In June 2004 the club changed its name to “Lichterfelder FC Berlin 1892” or simply “LFC Berlin 1892”. Top-class football has never been witnessed at the stadium in Lichterfelde. Since the reforms and with the introduction of the 3rd Liga in 2008 the club plays in the NOFV-Oberliga Nord on the 5th level. Their greatest sporting success since the merger in 1988 was possibly the participation in the German Cup in the summer of 1999. For the match against FC Schalke 04 the club moved to the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sports park in the centre of the city. With 4,500 spectators the Lichterfelders had about 40 times more visitors that daythan for a typical League game! The 0-6 loss was painful but a minor detail.
On this nice and sunny day spectators have not appeared en masse in Lichterfelde. I am one of the 66 paying fans. I estimate the total attendance at about 100. There are probably more people at the youth games next to the stadium. You can hardly blame the absent today. After a few minutes of playing time it dawns on me that this weekend I have seen with Tennis Borussia Berlin, LFC Berlin and Ludwigsfelder FC, probably the 3 relegation candidates in the Oberliga Nord. That last season both meetings between “LFC” and “LFC” ended on a scoreless draw does not surprise me, although after 2 minutes there’s some danger with a free kick from 20 metres from home player Gümüsdag. The resulting corner is headed clumsily over the bar by midfielder Kalixto. Chances are non-existent and the few opportunities that come out of dead ball situations are expertly missed. The only goal of the afternoon follows again from a dead ball. After a corner kick by Gümüsdag Kalixto can again head the ball and this time the ball hits the net, albeit with the necessary help from the visiting goalkeeper. After yet another shot from distance at about 20 minutes the match falls completely silent. It takes until just before the half time whistle before the home goalkeeper is called into action for the first time. The estimated 10 visiting fans from Ludwigsfelde complain about anything and everything but most of all about their own team.
After the break the visitors at least try to get back into the game. They’re not lacking will power or drive the missing ingredient today is simply quality. All attempts to balance the score are in vain. All the necessary parts for a great football match are there: one team attacking, the other team getting the space for counter-attacks but it all breaks down around the midfield. When in the course of the second half a big yellow helicopter drops off a patient at the adjacent University Hospital there’s finally some kind of excitement on the stand. When the final whistle sounds a sigh of relief echoes through the stadium. All Lichterfelder FC fans are happy with the 3 points, all other attendees are just delighted that this horror of a match is finally over …
“Fußball-Woche: Sonderheft 2010/2011”
“Kalixtos Kopf entscheidet”. NEY Felix in Fußball-Woche, jg. 86 – nr. 37 – 13/09/2010
“Luftschutzraum und Kartoffelacker”. SKRENTNY Werner in “Das große Buch der deutschen Fussball-Stadien”, Die Werkstatt