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A Mainz Down Under

Guest writer Andrew van Leeuwen tells the Bundesliga Lounge of the trials of following his beloved 1. FSV Mainz in Australia.

You can’t have it all.

There are a lot of great things about living in Australia. The weather is generally agreeable, the beach is never far away, and the array of poisonous snakes, spiders and marsupials make living through each day a unique and exciting challenge.

But being Australian (and yes, despite my rather Dutch surname, I am actually a born and bred Australian) does make being a Bundesliga fan rather hard work. Actually, just to digress a tiny bit, being an Australian makes following any football league hard work. In the hierarchy of Australian sport, football is still fighting its way uphill in comparison to the sports more traditionally watched by Australians, such as cricket, Australian Rules Football, and, for reasons beyond me and my Aussie Rules upbringing, Rugby League in the north eastern states.

A great World Cup campaign by the Socceroos in Germany back in 2006 and the excitement of a World Cup hosting bid for 2022 made some of the ground up to the other sports. But then a lot of that hard work was then undone by the Socceroos comparatively poor performance in South Africa last year, and Qatar shockingly, and somewhat questionably, earning the rights for the ’22 World Cup back in January.

Being a Bundesliga fan is even harder. As long as you’re happy to pay the $60 a month to have Foxtel connected to your TV – that’s the Aussie subscriber television network – you can keep a good eye on the A-League (our premier football division here in Oz) and the English Premier League. In fact, most EPL games are shown live on Foxtel in Australia – you just have to deal with the anti- social time difference by getting a good espresso machine, or buying your cola
drinks in bulk at Costco.But with the Bundesliga, you not only have the time difference to deal with, but a complete void of TV coverage as well. While the ESPN coverage in the UK might
be spasmodic, here in Australia there is essentially nothing.

For most of last season, free-to-air sports channel ONE HD was showing one Bundesliga match per ‘spieltag’. It was okay, except for the fact that the games started off being live (watching Hoffenheim beat Werder 4-0 live with a mate who loves Bremen during the first round in the 2010/11 season was just delightful), and then progressed to being shown mid-morning in Australia the following day. A better timeslot for sleeping patterns, sure, but well beyond any
chance of resisting the urge to jump on the internet and find out the score prior
to it coming on the TV.

The other issue was that ONE HD generally chose the game of the round, by which I mean the Bayern Munich game. So, throughout the entire last season, I got to watch my beloved Mainz 05 play live just once on my TV – although it was the game where Adam Szalai slotted the winner against the Bayerisch at Allianz, so it wasn’t all bad. Didn’t get much sleep that night.

It gets worse. Since last season, ONE HD has realised that being a dedicated sports channel was sending them broke, and changed their ethos from all-sport to being aimed at the general male demographic instead. That means that any chance of live, or otherwise, coverage of the Bundesliga has gone out the window to be replaced by the likes of Ice Road Truckers and Karl Pilkington’s An Idiot Abroad (hilarious nonetheless, but not at all helpful to a Bundesliga fan, unless in the next series he goes to the Coface Arena in Mainz).

Then there is Sentanta, which is an expensive add-on of Foxtel. Yes, they show a spattering of Bundesliga matches live, but a lot of them are simply replays, and having to justify doubling our subscriber TV bill to my fiancĂ© just isn’t worth the hassle.

So, for a lot of Australian-based Bundesliga fans, it’s down to crummy live streams on our impossibly slow internet, usually in German. Now, meine Deutsch ist nicht schlecht, aber es ist nicht sehr gut. I’d kill for some English commentary, just every now and then. I also find myself activating the ‘Tor Alarm’ on the Sport1 iPhone app and setting the phone right next to my pillow in the middle of the night. The missus loves nothing more than when the beeping sound wakes us both up, and then I ask her to translate the German for me so I can work out
what’s happening ... not. She likes Mainz 05, but as she so often points out, she’s happy to wait for the morning to find out the score.

So, these are the challenges of being an Australian Bundesliga fan. When my wife-to-be inevitably gets her way and we move to Mainz, then I’ll be faced with the same set of challenges to watch my other two loves, Perth Glory (A-League) and the Geelong Football Club (Aussie Rules), in action from the other side of the world.

But, as I said at the start, you can’t have it all.

Andrew van Leeuwen is the assistant editor of Australian Motorsport eNews. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @avlmelbourne.

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