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Official Review by Tarek Zohdi, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
A carnival club with a football problem. That's how you might want to characterize the Bundesliga club 1.FSV Mainz 05 and its fans. The city of Mainz enjoys a long tradition of celebrating the festive season before lent and is one of the major celebration strongholds in Germany. It seems that this airiness rubs off on the whole club, who appears to take the Bundesliga business determined indeed, but still with a slight ease. Moreover, this attitude is reflected on the pitch, the team is known for playing appealing and offensive football, which 1/4 rgen Klopp, player and coaching legend for many years, established. And although he left the club in 2008 to become Bundesliga champion with Borussia Dortmund, the style of play has become part of the club's identity and is being continued by his successor Thomas Tuchel.
The Coface Arena is a brand new stadium only opened in July 2011 and is replacing the old and tiny Bruchwegstadion which was good enough for the second division but became out of date and under-sized after the club promoted to the Bundesliga in 2009. Remarkably, over one third (13,000) of the stadium's overall capacity of 34,000 are pure standing areas.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Pretty much the average stuff is on offer. You'll get your beer, soda and coffee with sausages, two kinds of pizzas and a pretzel, as you would find everywhere else. The prices are moderate though. On top, there's a tiny beer garden behind the home supporters' stand. Bear in mind that you can't pay with cash in the stadium and you'll either have to get a special card (FanKarte) or charge your German cash card. On the 800 yards between the bus stops and the arena, there was one brave vendor holding the fort.
Even though the Coface Arena is one of the smaller Bundesliga stadiums, the steep terraces and the tightness to the pitch help produce a nice and decent football atmosphere. Not least because of the cheerful supporters who intone the traditional carnival hymn 'Narhallamarsch' after every goal.
Well, there is not much. The stadium lies in the middle of fields, next to a commercial area and a peaceful residential estate. The University of Mainz is not far away, but basically, you're breathing the fresh air of nature. Or fertilizer, presumably in springtime.
Mainz 05 supporters are considered to be merry, cheerful and lighthearted people. Maybe that's just a cliche; evolving from the city's famous carnival tradition. And maybe this easiness might be seen as a lack of dedication, but one characteristic is simply astonishing: fairness. The atmosphere around the stadium was uncommonly peaceful, the away team was welcomed with applause instead of catcalls and the stadium announcer carried out the usual Bundesliga ritual team lineup rendition even for the visiting team, where the announcer shouts the player's first name and the crowd answers with the last name. No 'boos' here as well. Wow!
The number one shout of abuse by visiting supporters towards the home crowd is: 'You're just a carnival club'. And how do the Mainz supporters reply? Exactly, by singing 'We're just a carnival club.' I rest my case.
Because the stadium is far out on the outskirts of the city, you would assume that they have built a huge car park with it. Unfortunately, they did not" There is one small VIP car park at the stadium, other than that, arrive early and try to find some space at one of the few University parking spots and walk. Another option, grab a spot at the convention center (Messe) and ride a complimentary shuttle bus to the arena. Mainz 05 claims to be the first carbon neutral Bundesliga club, and thus encourages fans to arrive with public transport. There's a free and constant shuttle service from the main train station to the arena. With your ticket to the game you are allowed to ride all public transport services five hours prior and after the game as well.
You can buy tickets from as low as 10"‚¬ and up to 42"‚¬, meaning the Coface Arena is one of the cheapest grounds of the Bundesliga. And although the atmosphere is often pretty remarkable, you somehow don't lose the feeling that you're a visitor to a minor club with its own little stadium. But with modest prices for drinks and food as well, a visit doesn't hurt your wallet and you still get to watch a football match in the middle of lighthearted people.
The Coface Arena offers tours through the stadium's hallways, boxes and onto the pitch. In addition, there is the opportunity to host conferences and almost any other kinds of events and get-togethers. Nowadays, this has become the minimum requirement for a Bundesliga stadium.
Everything is new and clean in this stadium, that's why it might appear clinical or even sterile at this time. But expenses are low, the fans are nice and the atmosphere great. And yet, you know that there is more to football.
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