I heard this week along with all volleyball fans about the closing of ZF Arena, the iconic volleyball stadium in Friedrichshafen. My history there literally goes back to the first official match played. For whatever reason, the opening match of the stadium was VfB Friedrichshafen against my team, SV Bayer Wuppertal. A quick look through hard drive tells me the match was played in front of 4,000 spectators on December 3rd 2003. We lost 3-1. They were much better than us, and the word after the game was that they had let us win a set on purpose to make it a decent spectacle. Of course, I have no way of knowing if that is true, nor does it matter if it is. I do remember that the stadium was impressive. Much was made of the state of the art lighting system, from which no direct light reached the court.
There were many stories over the subsequent years.
- Losing a set in a playoff match 9-25, and winning the next set.
- Our manager (not Helmut Glimpf) being shouted at by the Friedrichshafen manager for having the nerve to address him in the informal tense, even though we had paid to eat in VIP Room.
- For many years it was the only stadium in Germany which refused to let the visiting team take the key to the changerooms, or use balls before the match, or have lights on. The first resulted in a player being locked (accidently?) in the changerooms before a match, with the Hausmeister (accidently?) nowhere to be found. The second and third led to a hilarious exchange between the Friedrichshafen coach and his Moers counterpart during the only Bundesliga coaches meeting held during my ten years in Germany.
In the end, the ZF Arena became a happy hunting ground. With Berlin, we won seven matches in a row over three seasons, a feat I am 100% sure that no other visiting team has managed. Among those seven victories were two championships, including one that bled, or more accurately spilt, into my birthday. I am sad that I will never have another chance to visit the stadium, but happy to be able to look back on great times.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.