By Walter Broeckx
By the time you read this I will be on my way. On my way to Gelsenkirchen. For the 4th game in our Champions League group.
It is not the first time I will visit the ground there. Some 6 or 7 years ago when I was on holiday in Germany I actually took a tour in the Stadium. Because it is rather a very strange stadium.
Because on any average day it is a football stadium without a pitch in it. When I was there the only thing you could see in the middle was a big concrete pit. And the grass was laying outside the ground. To give the grass a maximum chance of growing they roll the pitch in and out the stadium depending on there being a game or not.
The stadium was build not that long after the Ajax Arena and in this stadium they had (and still have I think) to replace the pitch every 6 weeks or so because the grass just dies. Not enough sun, wind and whatever grass needs to grow. So the Germans took things in hand, learned from the mistakes and decided to put the grass outside the stadium and roll it in on match days. The space that then opens up outside the stadium can be used as a big parking ground. And the grass can grow freely and should be in the best condition. It takes around 6 to 8 hours to move the grass inside the stadium.
The name of the stadium is Veltins Arena. But it will not be named that way today. Probably Uefa will call it the Schalke Arena or something like that. Uefa calls the Emirates Arsenal stadium on CL match days. You know the wrong sponsor.
And now comes the interesting part for some the sponsor “Veltins” is a big brewery in Germany. And as German beer is chemical free it is rather popular with some. Not for me as I don’t drink beer but I can imagine a few Gooners liking the thought of not only visiting a football ground but also visiting a stadium that has almost been build around the beer providing part of it.
The stadium has enormous big tanks filled with beer hidden somewhere (I have seen them in the tour) and every tap in the ground is connected with the big tanks filled with beer. Some 5000 meter of pipeline is hidden in the ground to make sure that all and everyone has a beer in the same condition.
And when I visited the ground they also showed that the toilets were connected with an video channel giving the game. So in case you need to go out urgent and the cameras catch you leaving the ground you can always say that you went to the loo and looked at the game on TV.
And on top and you can take this literally is a roof that can be closed when the weather outside is not good enough to play football. For football games it is usually open but they use it for concerts and other events that take place in this stadium and that are more suited for a closed event.
And another special thing is that in the middle of the pitch there is a big video wall hanging above the centre circle where you can see images appearing if they are allowed. In most stadiums the video walls are somewhere hidden in the stands but in this stadium they are in the middle of things. And for those who are still wondering the word “Würfel” in the title of this article, this is the name it has in this stadium: Der Videowürfel.
So after having visited Dortmund and the gigantic “Sud-Tribune” I now will visit another special stadium and they are not that far away from each other. The rivalry between Schalke and Dortmund is something like Arsenal and Tottenham one could say. And as Dortmund has the Sudtribune as their main support part of the stadium, in Schalke it is the Nordkurve where the most fanatics are situated.
Our supporters club will be there and many other Flemish gooners will be travelling to Gelsenkirchen to see Arsenal play. For us it is only a trip of 2 hours with the car. If traffic goes well of course. So in fact closer than London for us and for the Gooners from our part of Europe it is always great when Arsenal has to play in the Low Countries or in that part of Germany. The difference between this trip and our trip next Saturday to see the Fulham game in London is rather big. But to see Arsenal play it is no real problem to make a long journey.
If Tony is interested I will try to write a catering review, a match review, a beer review (or maybe John can do that one as I don’t drink but could ask the others), a ref review or whatever you want from me. I will not be doing a match preview as I am bad in such things.
But my two cents: I think Theo will start in this game. The word is out that Gibbs would be fit again: play him I would say if that is the case. But that is only rumours on the internet for the moment. But sure wouldn’t mind a bit of pace on both flanks for this game.
Schalke lost 3-2 against Hoffenheim this weekend, a team from the lower regions of the Bundesliga. And Schalke are now in 2nd place in the Bundesliga 7 points behind leaders Bayern Munich. A win could put us back at the top of the group and would bring qualification very close. Schalke winning and depending the other results would put them through to the next round. So we can expect Schalke to go for it in their home game.
Will this leave some room for a fast player? Can’t wait to see the game.
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