Ground: Mercedes-Benz Arena (Neckarstadion)
Date: 6th August 2011
Match: Stuttgart - Schalke 04 3-0 (Bundesliga)
Attendance: 60 000
Before the trip I already knew what match that would have the biggest attendance. As this Saturday was the opening day of Bundesliga I had several options. The decision was not too difficult hough, Stuttgart vs Schalke 04 at the redeveloped Mercedes-Benz Arena (Neckarstadion). In recent years the running track has been removed and today´s match was actually the first since the stadium was completed. The capacity is 60 000 and for an opening game against Schalke all tickets were sold. My day started in Frankfurt, where I stayed at a very nice hotel close to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. After breakfast I rested before heading to the train station where I boarded the 11.05 train. 90 minutes later I was in Stuttgart and after finding the S1 (local train) I was at the Mercedes-Benz Arena by 13.00. It was a warm day but after the rain yesterday I didn´t mind the sun too much. There were plenty of fans by the ground already and it was obvious the opening match of the season excited both sets of fans. I headed towards the WM-skulptur where I was to meet up with Stuttgart fan Jonas. He contacted me via this website and has a website of his own (www.groundchecker.de). As he is a member he offered to buy me a ticket at a reduced price. We then left to have something to eat and drink and I did my best to do the conversation in German (I did quite alright). We then entered the stadium together and since everyone got a free shirt I am now the owner of a Stuttgart shirt.
As kick-off approached the atmosphere became better and better and by 15.29, when the teams entered the pitch, both sets of fans showed why German football is getting more and more of my attention, songs and flag-waving! Stuttgart started the match the better team but both teams had chances to score before Cacau made it 1-0 to Stuttgart. Amazing atmosphere inside Mercedes-Benz Arena! In the second half Stuttgart scored again to make it 2-0. Schalke had their chances too but the last goal this afternoon yet again was scored by the home team, 3-0.
As I left I couldn´t help thinking if I don´t have started to enjoy football in Germany more than I enjoy football in England. A couple of years ago that would have been an impossibility but for most matches the atmosphere inside German grounds is so much better. Finally, I have to tell what happened at Stuttgart Hbf. As I was sitting on a bench at Gleis 10 waiting for my train I suddenly hear something is going on. I look up and see the entire Schalke team walking pass me. They were travelling by train to/from Stuttgart, 1st class but still a big surprise for all the fans at the platform. To see Raoul in front of me do not happen every day!
Outside Mercedes-Benz Arena
View of play