I know I’ve been letting you all down. In the home of (in my opinion) the most excitingBrandenburggate football league in the world and you hear hardly a peep from me over the last month. As I said last time, things have been hectic here: I know the wedding is no excuse, as that was nearly two months ago, but there is all sorts of paperwork to fill in (this is Germany, after all), thank yous to write, photos to select, a honeymoon to Australia to plan and a thirtieth birthday to celebrate. Where does the time go?

But it’s not all stress. The missus finally heard a recommendation from someone outside of my family about The Sopranos, so we’ve been getting through six or seven episodes a week recently, which is a hell of a pace for shows we watch together.

On top of it all, though, I started coming down with man-flu last night.

Despite that, when the editor of this veritable fanzine dropped me a friendly e-mail to remind me of my duties (and several more with jokes about Police states), I knew what I had to do. Like Bobby Baccala’s Dad in The Sopranos, I dragged myself up from imminent death to do what was required by the family (the readers). Although instead of shooting dudes in a safe house, it’s writing this Blog.

So, here I am, sat on the settee, surrounded by tissues (not like that), watching Hertha Berlin getting beat at home by a Stuttgart team who sacked their manager after only three weeks. Did I mention that I don’t like Hertha? I guess I did, I tell everyone who even mentions them.

Anyway, I have to type this on ‘Editor’, as Word is fucked for some reason (it tells me the reason, albeit in German, but I can’t be arsed to try and fix it as these could be my last minutes before Death taps on my sweat-soaked t-shirt and ends my man-flu hell). This may also explain any spelling mistakes.

I’ve pretty much avoided all football since The Toon win over Fulham. I saw the England scores, but I don’t care about that. I saw the German goals from the Friday game, and I saw the Faroe Islands look surprisingly sharp – with Joan Edmundson, once of the Mag parish, up-front – at home to Germany before someone scored and I turned it off. I even forget who scored…

One of the things that does keep me interested in the Bundesliga – and keeps me thinking about it seven days a week, even during international breaks – are the two games I play with members of my football teams (eleven and seven a side teams): Comunio and Tippspiel.

Comunio is new to me, having only started this season. It’s like Fantasy Football, but each player only exists once per league, and you have to keep buying and selling players as their values change to stay on top.

Tippspiel is something I am now doing for the third successive year, and I have gotten progressively worse. The first year, I came third (I think) and won €100 at the end, despite being bottom of the league until about November. Last year I started well and think I ended up about seventh, so just outside of the money places. This season I’m currently twelfth. Basically, Tippspiel is a competition among people, where you have to predict the scores of every game and get points for picking the winner (if there is one), and then more points for getting the goal difference and score correct.

For example, I predicted Stuttgart would win 2-0 in Berlin (I was at this game two years ago with my Dad and Hertha won 2-0. I mis-remembered that as a Stuttgart win – I blame age – and so predicted 2-0 Stuttgart). The match has just finished 1-0 to Stuttgart, so I just got three points, which has dragged me up to 11th (and 51 points in total). I often find myself watching the scores on the game interface, as opposed to text commentary or TV, so I can see how I’m doing. It adds a new level of interest, that’s for sure.


As I need to pick-up the points to drag me up the table, I’m really looking forward to the football starting up again this weekend. My general rules for getting points in this game (admittedly, they have mixed results): predict Bayern to win by several goals; predict Dortmund to win by several goals; predict Hertha to lose (did I mention I don’t like them); take Gladbach to win away, and draw at home; and, finally, take Schalke to win, unless they are on a winning streak, in which case take them to lose. Schalke always fuck it up somehow. Finally, the most important rule – never predict 0-0 – it hardly ever happens.

Which brings me to my next ‘discussion point! For a league that, Bayern aside, rarely sees teams keep a clean sheet, the Germans are very dismissive of English goalkeepers. According to all Germans I have spoken to, we have never had a good goalkeeper since Shilton. Like I mentioned, I don’t follow England at all anymore, but to write off Woods, Seaman and Hart so easily is a hell of a thing to do.

The irony is, for my money, the best keeper in the Bundesliga is Diego Benaglio from Wolfsburg, who is Swiss. They seem to ignore the fact that Neuer, while he can be brilliant, is also shaky, although it’s probably easier to ignore when he has nothing to do most weeks. Ter Stegen, the number two, is a good young keeper, but has had a couple of howlers, including a Paul Robinson-esque back-pass own goal. Roman Weidenfeller, Dortmund’s number one, must be tearing his long, luxurious hair out, wondering when/if he’ll get a shot. Stuttgart (Ullreich) and Nuremburg (Schäfer – my Comunio goalkeeper) are also pretty good, but they have a lot to do most weeks and don’t play for the big teams, so are very much under the radar.

Germans also ignore the fact that, from 2002 on, Kahn was kahck (see what I did there?), Lehmann bounced around between spectacular saves and boneheaded mistakes. Robert Enke played well for the national team when he had a chance, until his depression problems intesified (ultimately leading to his suicide), and he was followed by Rene Adler, who lost his place in Leverkusen and Germany when battling injury. Now at a bad team in Hamburg, he is also one whose form bounces around a lot.

I try making this argument, but no one listens. At least our goalkeepers try to catch the ball – however, that may be where the problems start…

Anyway – I’d better get back to my death bed. I have a last will and testament to type on this Editor programme before I close my eyes, and I can imagine that being as much of a pain in the arse as this to type. If I survive, I really ought to work out what has happened with Word.

Prediction for Villa – 2:0 Toon. If I make it to tomorrow, I have to be at the wedding of an Aston Villa fan in a town outside Berlin. I figure, it’s gonna be the happiest day of his life anyway, so him wanting them to win is just greedy…


Follow Neil on TwitterTF_INITIALS_LOGO