“You came all the way from London to watch Fortuna?” jokes the lady in the tourist office as I picked up my match ticket. Partly I had, as Düsseldorf – in the heart of Rhineland football – is a brilliant base for a Bundesliga weekend.
Within an hour’s train ride you can reach Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Köln, Schalke, and Borussia Mönchengladbach, who I also managed to clock the weekend I went.
Düsseldorf is also well connected and is famous for its British-style Altbier beer and lively Old Town (Altstadt). Its post-war brutalist architecture doesn’t make it particularly aesthetically pleasing, but it’s alive with creativity: after all, this is the town that produced electro-pop pioneers Kraftwerk. [Continues…]
Düsseldorf’s own team is Fortuna 95. The 54,000-seat Esprit Arena is perfectly set up for a Bundesliga club but Fortuna is currently in the 2. Bundesliga (second division) and, bar a couple of German Cups and a Cup-Winners Cup final defeat to FC Barcelona in 1979, does not have much to point to in the way of success.
How to visit Fortuna Düsseldorf
I went along to the Esprit Arena on a Monday night match to watch the Flingeraner take on the wonderfully named SpVgg Greuther Fürth from Bavaria. Despite being a second division match on a Monday night, this drew a 28,000 crowd – just over half-full – but the atmosphere provided by both sets of fans was incredible. Fair play to the handful of visiting supporters who sounded like they had a full drum kit with them, they really used the great Esprit Arena acoustics to their advantage.
Fortuna laid on flags in every seat to add a little atmosphere and I was lucky enough to witness a yo-yoing 3-3 drama on what was a cold November night.
I don’t know why German clubs don’t like the print-at-home ticket option, but I had to order mine online and pick it up from one of the two tourist offices in Düsseldorf’s Altstadt and opposite the main train station (Haubtbahnhof).
The Esprit Arena is part of the Messe Nord conference complex to the north of the city, so it’s a 40-odd minute ride on the U78 tram from the Haubtbahnhof to the Sportpark Nord or Esprit Arena stops. I paid €33 for a halfway line ticket in the upper tier, so really good value. The atmosphere was impressive for a half-full stadium so it would be great to return one day with Fortuna in the Bundesliga.