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Newcastle’s Twin City Visit To The Schalke Tournament

6 years ago
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It was a welcome change to get early notice of Newcastle United participation in the Schalke tournament in North West Germany in August.

I think this is an excellent opportunity for Toon fans to travel abroad to watch their team and help promote our club/city/area. You could also argue that it’s relatively easy to get to this area by either car, train, plane or even ferry, especially if you have the time to mix your journey up during the summer hols.

Schalke’s Stadium

Toon fans by now will probably know that the home of Schalke 04 is situated in the city of Gelsenkirchen (Schalke I believe is a district) which just so happens to be one of Newcastle’s twinned cities. [intlink id=”44382″ type=”post”]Tickets have also now gone on sale[/intlink] for Newcastle fans attending the Schalke tournament as well as two domestic friendlies.

Coincidentally, both clubs appear to have a few similarities, such as not having won the top domestic league for over 50 years in Schalke’s case, and in Newcastle case a remarkable near 90 years. However, depending on who you speak to in Germany, many fans may inform you that like ourselves they have some very passionate supporters who have stuck by the club through thin and thinner.

The area has a coal mining history and I also recall an advert on TV once matching up our pint of Newcastle Exhibition with some beer from Gelsenkirchen. I have always hoped that one day our great clubs could play each other in a European competition, but we are miles from that at present, so this for me is the next best thing I suppose.

Many years ago during Euro 88, I remember being kicked out of Dortmund railway station at 4am whilst sleeping with half my body in a luggage locker and subsequently being amongst 20 other fans in sleeping bags outside the train station. From Dortmund station I remember a short hop by train to Gelsenkirchen and then a 15 min tram ride (No.302) up to Schalke’s old ground, which happens to be next door to their new impressive arena.

When finding out this tournament was confirmed I was lucky to book onto the Luton – Dortmund flight but as regular Toon travellers will know, flying into any of those cities in that area gives fans some flexibility as the DB Trains network is impressive. Anyone coming in via Dusseldorf is also a short hop (3 trains every hour) away and if you head out the station at Dusseldorf you will find a couple of bars up the main street on the right which will take you no more than 2 minutes walk. If anyone is coming up via Cologne you may want to spend the night there, because it has the most pubs in Germany per head of population, and a great night’s refreshments along the Rhine with just over an hour’s hop to Gelsenkirchen.

I have been to 6 games in Germany over the years since 88, though I am still not so sure what it will be like now with regards how police manage football. However, during Euro 88 I clearly noticed the local plain clothes Police operating amongst groups of fans and occasionally pulling many well known local individuals into police vans.

Both Dortmund and Schalke are renowned for massive support , even though both places are quite close. Of course big attendances are helped by the fact that German fans are well catered for price-wise, not like us in the UK where we are taken a lend of. However, this does not distract from the fact that German fans are just as passionate as we are and I have witnessed this across Germany, recently in Cologne for an International game the Germans made a point of wanting to share a beer and bit of craic.

Having been fined 40 euros on 2 occasions in the past for breaching train rules, please take my advice, it’s definitely worth buying a U Bann underground/train tickets instead of forking out 40 euros cash on the spot, or face being carted off to the local police station. Also, look out for potential ‘no alcohol’ stickers on trains and lastly, if you end up on an Inter City trains (aka ICE), you will be asked to show your ticket, passport, and the name on your train ticket (if bought in advance) must marry up with your ID.

I am confident you will enjoy the whole experience if you haven’t been before and not just the beer, as German footy fans are quite inquisitive and have an unusual sense of humour I have found. Having spoken to many of them, they don’t get much of the Toon on their TV as it’s generally the big 4 in England who are very well known. Some of course have heard of Newcastle United but almost all I spoke to over the years don’t know a lot of facts about us, unless we have actually played them in the past.

Though no doubt Geordies will leave a lasting friendly impression and perhaps we can once and for all create some good links with another football team, perhaps getting close to when toon fans still reminisce about the great times in Bilbao. I know 1 or 2 in our own city council and a few other people over the years have attempted some links between the two cities but as football fans, we know  that football at any level brings people together across the whole world.

Auf Wiedersehen.

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