Bremen - Bundesliga fanatic Niklas Wildhagen, 25, who lives in Norway, shares his experiences from a cracking trip to see his beloved SV Werder Bremen take on Hertha BSC Berlin at the impressive Weserstadion...
Memories of matches past
I've been a Werder Bremen fan since the age of four. Wynton Rufer, Karl Heinz Riedle, Marco Bode and Mario Basler, they all bewitched me, turning me into a football fanatic. Werder took a little boy's heart and never gave it back.
The Green-Whites have been a big part of my life for the last 21 years. I live and breathe Werder. When the team is doing badly I can't sleep, and my mood is very much dependent on how the team is performing.
The last time I went to a Bremen game was back when I was living in Germany. I was nine years old, and players like Marco Bode, Dieter Eilts, Frank Neubarth, Rodolfo Esteban Cardoso and Mirko Votava were still part of the Werder team, which at the time was coached by Dixie Dörner.
Sadly, Werder lost 2-1 against a Schalke side which still contained legendary German defender Olaf Thon. Back then, the Weserstadion had a healthy distance between the fans and the pitch and there was a fence that kept fans from entering the field of play. Not being very tall back then, I could barely manage to see the game.
Perfect spot for a beer
This time, the long train journey to Bremen gave me plenty of time to reflect upon the team, their recent form in the Bundesliga and, most importantly, their history. I'd read an article explaining that the working relationship between coach Thomas Schaaf and sporting director Klaus Allofs is based on an absolute trust - an understanding of what the other one needs. These two men have developed a friendship over the course of twelve years which has seen them take a club from the brink of relegation in 1999 to one of the most serious title challengers Bayern Munich have faced over the last decade.
Upon leaving the hotel, I decided to follow a sign which said 'Weser 5km' and see where ít took me. As it turned out, it I ended up in the historic city centre. Suddenly I found myself in the Marktplatz, a giant square with the prettiest buildings I have ever seen. I am no expert when it comes to architecture, but Bremen City Hall and St. Petri Cathedral were truly amazing, layered with detail, modernised and restored to their original designs. The perfect place for a pint of 'Beck's' prior to heading off for the stadium.
Once I'd got to the stadium and settled into my seat with another beer and a pretzel, Adrian Ramos spoiled my mood almost immediately by scoring the first goal for Hertha Berlin after just three minutes. However, driven forward by the Ostkurve fans, Werder subsequently took charge of the game, but both Marko Arnautovic and Mehmet Ekici wasted valuable chances to equalise.
Good banter in the stands
Then, 23 minutes in, a cross from Clemens Fritz found Claudio Pizarro, who headed the ball past Thomas Kraft in the Hertha goal. The man next to me patted me on the shoulder and screamed: "Son, we'll take that goal, even if it was a poor one. All that matters is that it was a goal!" Meanwhile, the entire Weserstadion roared at the top of their voices - giving me an idea of what tinnitus might feel like!
The second half saw Hertha bravely defend for their lives. The visitors had been reduced to nine men after both Ramos and Christian Lell were given second yellow cards for needless tackles. Bremen struggled to make their numerical advantage count, with Markus Babbel's side seemingly well-drilled for such a scenario.
However, three minutes into added time, Werder earned another corner. I turned to my neighbour, who had since gone rather quiet, and said: "It's now or never, mate, believe me: they'll score."
Plenty of reason to return
Marko Marin's corner came in. The entire Weserstadion were on their feet. Markus Rosenberg got his head to the ball and Pizarro somehow managed to escape his defender, nodding home the winner. The screams, roars and joyous celebrations around me really were fantastic. In fact, they left me with a strange ringing sound in my ears for the rest of the evening. My new pal hugged me as I yelled "I told you so!", and referee Felix Brych blew the whistle just in time for everybody to stay standing and give the Green-Whites a well-earned ovation.
On my way back from the Weserstadion, I took a stroll along the Weser for the last time, breathing in the fresh Bremen air with a pleasant breeze gently blowing through my hair. I thought of all the things I didn't manage to do and see on this trip. I didn't go to the 'Wuseum' (The Werder museum), or see the Schlachte, the riverside walkway in the heart of the city and one of the most beautiful places in Bremen, according to locals. Neither did I get to sit down near the Weser and just enjoy the peace and quiet there.
Oh well, I guess that gives me even more reason come back again and watch another Werder match in the near future!