Too many disappointments and no joy at all. For HSV fans, life is already hell – that’s why they avoid the club’s own cemetery.
An aesthetic insult: the HSV mascot. Image: dpa
In 2008, a burial ground was prepared especially for HSV fans at the main cemetery in Hamburg-Altona amid great marketing fanfare. The graveyard is modeled on the legendary Westkurve and is located near the Volksparkstadion, which is now called Imtech Arena and unfortunately no longer has a Westkurve.
If you are looking for a symbol of the decline of the Hamburger Sport-Verein these days, you can find it here: In seven long years, no seven graves have been dug into the soccer field-sized area. Elsewhere, one might want to remain loyal to one’s club beyond death. For supporters of HSV, however, this is already hell in life.
They have simply experienced too much embarrassment, seen too many grotesque things, experienced too many disappointments and no joy at all. Having become modest, they have not expected a title from their team for a long time, they no longer expect anything at all. They can’t even imagine that there will ever be an end to the dilettantism on the board, the spreading sinkhole soccer of the squad, with the hold-out slogans and lazy excuses. All non-believers should come here, to the "HSV-Grabfeld", to realize that there is an end for everything on earth.
Through the May green of the linden trees, a grandstand of the stadium can be seen and between its steel beams a blue-white-black rhombus. This was once the club’s trademark before blind actionism became its current one. Does anyone know the names of all the managers who have been worn out in the past five seasons? When Bruno Labbadia took over Joe Zinnbauer’s post in April, one joker tweeted that HSV had collected more coaches than points this season. Mockery and derision, that’s what this club is still good for. But otherwise?
Four decades of eternal loyalty
It is quite quiet at the HSV cemetery, hardly a blackbird strays here. On Saturday, however, the curses and cries of the fans will once again be heard loudly from the stadium. Because then it will be decided against Schalke 04 whether Hamburger Sport-Verein has to be relegated or – if Paderborn helps out – gets the chance for relegation matches. That would be pure luck, but not happiness.
At least not for me.
It’s almost four decades ago that I swore eternal allegiance to HSV. Back then, Kevin Keegan, the mighty mouse, came to the Elbe and ushered in a decade of splendor, happiness and glory. The HSV – or, as the mouthy Hanseatic lispers, "Haffau" – collected all the titles that were up for grabs and, under the ingenious direction of Ernst Happel, played soccer as if from another star.
With "Aschyl’s" farewell in 1987, the tough downfall of the Haffau began, a smear opera with dozens of overpaid, underexposed actors. Now and then, under Frank Pagelsdorf and Thomas Doll, with the young Rafael van der Vaart or the mature Rodolfo Cardoso, it seemed as if the club could find its way back to old greatness. But in the very next season, only the pomposity of a Jurgen Hunke, Bernd Hoffmann or Pierre-Michel Lasogga dominated again.
Fat plush dinosaur on the brink of extinction
I’m so tired of these characters that I can’t even stand with the Haffau anymore. And I am very much looking forward to never having to see the stupidest of all characters again soon: Hermann, the cuddly mascot. This fat plush dinosaur – an aesthetic imposition for any three-year-old and an impertinence against the immortalized masseur of the professional department, Hermann Rieger – is supposed to embody the club’s only plus, namely its membership of the Bundesliga since its founding. Who on earth gets the idea of choosing an extinct animal as a lucky charm? Only HSV.
On my way home from the cemetery, I stop at the stadium corner for a beer. Fan scarves and photos from better times hang on the walls. No one feels like talking about the fateful day. Instead, a woman who may have been in the world as many years as HSV has been in the Bundesliga tells me she has just attended a funeral. "Death," she says with a brave smile, "also has something positive." If that’s not a fitting conclusion.