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Official Review by Sander Kolsloot, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Sportpark Hohenberg is home to one of the ‘Traditionsvereine’ in Germany, FC Viktoria Köln 1904 e.v. which is, as history tells us, one of so many clubs that have merged due to their own course of existence.
The club was founded in 1904 as FC Germania Kalk and within five years merged with FC Kalk to SV Kalk 04. Within a couple years it again merged with Mulheimer FC and after the adding of Mulheim and Kalk to the Cologne municipal limits, it renamed to VfR Köln 04. It was then playing in the West German league and after a great run in 1926, it lost the final of the German championships.
As it was playing in the then regional leagues, it reached the first stages of the German Championship rounds again in 1935 and 1937, seeing its great run cut short by the outbreak of World War II. During the war years, the club was limited to play within the city limits. In 1943, an ‘army players club’ was founded together with Mulheimer SV 06, which was absolved after 1945. In the end, the clubs fused and in 1949 became SC Rapid Köln 04, founded on July 29.
In the 1950s, the club again fused with another local Cologne club, SC Preussen Dellbrück (also located on the right side of the river Rhine) and it finally got the name Viktoria Köln in 1957. It had a good rivalry with the left of the Rhine 1. FC Koln, which at that time dominated the Cologne football scene. The dominance of 1. FC Koln basically forced the other two clubs to merge, in order to keep up with them, as the SC Preussen Dellbrück often was fighting relegation.
The newly merged club played in the Oberliga West from 1957 and with the introduction of the Bundesliga in 1963, it didn’t make the cut and was relegated into the Regionalliga West.
From those years on, the club stayed in the Regionalliga West and in the 1970s making its name by winning a Cup fixture against Braunschweig, marking the first time an amateur club ever won over a professional club. In 1978 it gained promotion to the 2nd Bundesliga, where it stayed for 3 years. In 1981, the German DFB enforced new criteria for 2nd Bundesliga qualification and Viktoria failed to meet these requirements, therefore being relegated, again.
In 1994, the club merged, for the final time, taking SC Brück along with it and changed its name to SCB Preussen Köln, remembering the glorious 1950s. In 2002, it changed its name back to SCB Viktoria Köln, also reintroducing the old club logo. Finally, the club was refounded and on June 22, 2010 at 20:10 marked the birth of the FC Viktoria Köln 1904 e.V. It took over the infrastructure and youth teams from the SCB Viktoria and started low down in the German football ranks. In 2011, it took over the first team of FC Junkersdorf, which had gained promotion to the NRW Liga. In 2012 it gained promotion to the Regionalliga West.
The club has found its home at the Köln-Höhenberg sportpark which is quite a historical venue. Built in the war years 1939-1941, it has housed the FC Viktoria since then. The stadium’s eye catcher is the main stand, housing 3,000 people and it received the International Architecture prize from the IOC (the IOC/IAKS award) in 1993.
In 2012-2013, the stadium installed new flood lights, in order to play in regionalliga night games and even in Bundesliga games if needed.
The stadium is the smallest of three professional football stadiums in Cologne. There’s some debate about the number of people it could fit, as the club officially states 6,214 spectators, but other numbers say 10,000 or 12,000. all standing, on the other side of the side line. Behind the left goal, there’s an improvised business lounge, housing around 100 spectators.
It was used as a training area during the 2005 Confederations Cup and the 2006 World Cup by several competitors in these tournaments.
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".
As is the case in many of the German football stadiums, the food on offer is limited, to say the least. Don't expect to be treated to a feast, but the mandatory sausage is to be had for only 2,50! Take that with a couple of fries (sauce included) for € 2,50, and you are a winner. To make things easy, beer is also €2,50 and if you're not allowed to drink or not feeling to get boozed up, you can get yourself a nice soda at the same price. That's about it for food and drink options. You have to be somewhere in the neighborhood to get something else.
Within the premises are several spots to get your drinks, food and there's a nice club house where all kinds of activities are organized.
Inside the stadium you can't expect any real atmosphere, as the support is very small for the club. During our most recent visit only 924 paying spectators were present. Nonetheless, there is a man with a drum and some occasional singing for the club. People will cheer and get excited during crucial moments of the match, but for atmosphere, you have to look around. The setting of the stadium creates the most atmosphere. Basically it's a cultural visit that creates much of the atmosphere.
The stadium is located on the west side of the Cologne city centre. It is tucked away in the forest, being surrounded by a greater sports park, housing tennis facilities. Right next to the stadium is a decent sports pub, owned by the club. There's even a hotel next to the stadium, for the real fans of course.
As for the club, the fans have to be truly loyal and have to be immune to the many changes in the club structure (as it has seen so many mergers, fusions and name changes along the way). The most loyal fans can be found on the main stand, right hand side where they gather and sing if they want. They show their discontent with a referee's decision or show their appreciation for a goal or great movements on the field. Expect the fans to get more lively during a rivalry match, especially the games between Fortuna Koln and 1. FC Koln are known to have fans more involved than as was the case during the last visit.
The ground is very easy to find, it being on a main road and close to both the city centre and the peripheral road. You can park your car in the neighborhood for free. There's a tram stop, Hohenberg -Frankfurterstrasse from where you can go right into the city center in under 20 minutes. It's an easy 3 minute walk to the stadium from there. Wheelchair access is good as well.
Tickets for adults start at € 8 for a standing spot in one of the terraces on the opposite side. A better option may be to watch for free just behind the fence, which is on the right hand side of the stadium. But to really indulge in this tradition, you have to be inside. Tickets for a grand stand seat are € 17 and you can pick a spot anywhere. It is much more a piece of culture that you're indulging in (especially if you're watching one of the games against local Cologne).
There is a small fan shop (which was closed during my recent visit), but has some interesting memorabilia. There are no tours, there's no statues from former great players (which is also hard because there would be so many clubs to think of).
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