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Official Review by Sander Kolsloot, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
If you’re hitting the road for a good German football experience (in the Bundesliga) and you’re close to the Dutch border, the likes of Borussia Dortmund, 1. FC Köln, Bayer Leverkusen and even Schalke 04 (all located in the Ruhr area) come to mind. Even so, if you want to have a good time in the lower leagues, there’s plenty to choose from: Fortuna Dusseldorf, Arminia Bielefeld and so on. But only a few take a look at the teams of Fortuna Köln and their likes (Victoria Köln amongst others). Stadium Journey went down to the carnival city of Cologne to check the place out and give you a heads-up on the experience ‘Im Südstadion.’
The home of Fortuna Köln, das ‘Sudstadion’ is (as the name states) located on the south side of Cologne. Envisioned to be used as both an athletics stadium and a football ground, the stadium opened its doors in 1978. The place was actually built for the purpose of giving the south side football clubs a home, with Fortuna Köln being the main player, while sharing the ground with Union Koln and Arminia 09.
The place is also used by the women’s football team of 1. FC Köln.
Although it was originally built to be a multi-sport venue, the track in the stadium is barely used. The Südstadion can hold 14,944 people, of which 1,918 can enjoy the luxury of covered seating. The other spots are all standing area. There’s also a small VIP area, accommodating about 50 people.
In 2012, field heating had been installed, as it was compulsory for Bundesliga teams to do so.
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".
There are very few food options, making for a simple choice. 'Wurst,' either cooked or grilled, with bread is the main choice. You can have some fries if you want, but don't bother looking further. No way you'll find any other option. Prices are reasonable. A small €2,50 gets you going, as a curry wurst will cost you around €3,50. Pretzels are a big snack and cost €2,- and a chocolate bar is sold for €1.
Beer is the main drink of choice, with half litres going for just 3.50. Soft drinks can be had for the same price. On the main stand, there's only one sales point, so be quick to avoid standing in line.
In the stadium, there's one very small area of really active fans, who have a so called 'capo' to fire up the crowd. Don't expect anything like 'Die Gelbe Wand.. The club is relatively small with a few fanatic fans, but the involvement will not be what you would expect of fellow 3rd liga squads. Don't expect a rowdy, bustling atmosphere.
The stadium has only sold out twice. The first time was at the opening of the stadium in 1978, and the second time was during a relegation game against the 2nd team of Bayern Munich in recent years.
The south side of Cologne isn't known for its bustling activity. Before the game you can walk around the stadium and check out the neighboring 'Hellers Volksgarten,' which has a good brewery. Further, the area is filled with gas stations, a mosque, and some residential units. Not exactly a hub of activity, so the advice would be to grab a beer at Hellers and head into the stadium late. If you want to enjoy some good German hospitality, go into the city centre, find yourself a spot in one of the beer houses and get carried away with the crowd. Beers won't cost you a fortune and you have plenty to choose from.
The Fans of Fortuna have largely been overshadowed by their counterparts in RheinEnergieStadion. It must be said that there are a couple of really active fan clubs of Fortuna, with the Fortuna Eagles and SC Mülltonn being the biggest and most active.
Expect the fans to be die-hard, anti FC Köln and very friendly. Don't expect a hostile Fortuna fan. There won't be much to cheer about, so they don't bother either. Fans do sing and shout during the game, but as the games get either less or more important, so does the volume of the crowd. If you're at an important game, then the fan involvement increases.
They haven't been treated to great football lately, so involvement really depends on the mood of the people.
Access is perfect. Parking can be found in the area around the stadium (park in the streets) and there's a tram stop right next to the entrance, Pholigstrasse is your stop. The trams run every 10 minutes and the tram (or U-bahn) number 12 takes you right downtown. There's also a bus stop, but the connection with the downtown area is less direct.
The football level isn't what you would expect. Tickets are reasonably priced for a 3rd ligist. You get what you pay for, but it's the bare minimum. Seating would be highly appreciated, but the standing terraces give a nice old school feel. Standing is only €14, but a seat will cost you €25, Behind the goal the tickets are even cheaper, but don't expect these stands to be open during every game. Check before the game (or give them a call) to assure availability.
Don't expect any extras at this place. It's a highly functional venue. No museum, no tours. Not even a statue.There is indeed a fan shop, the memorabilia on offer includes t-shirts, scarfs, and some accessories like mouse pads, mugs, necklaces and so on. The shop however is located in the centre of the city.
What would Germany be without this team? Well, just Germany, and life would continue. As far as recommendations go: if you're a true groundhopper, this one should be on the list. If you're looking for great atmosphere, great food options and a good pre and postgame atmosphere, go to 1. FC Köln or one of the other teams in the area.
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