Bayer Leverkusen have muscled their way into the top shelf of Bundesliga clubs, with regular finishes in the top four and qualification for European. Stephen Cazjewski paid a visit to the Bay Arena and nearby Duisburg.
“The first match we attended was the Bundesliga game between Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig. RB Leipzig have quickly established themselves as big hitters with the backing of Red Bull. Bayer Leverkusen were once Champions League finalists and it’s OK to call them Bayer – the pharmaceutical firm – as they used to be the works footy team.
“In terms of pre match drinking and food options Leverkusen has the usual German quality sausage and beer options, and don’t forget you can take beer into the ground. Prior to the Leverkusen match we went to a big neighbourhood bar restaurant called Manforter Hof about 10 minutes walk from the ground. Good beer and fine service to get Saturday underway.
Leverkusen’s ground, the Bay Arena, is a modern 30,000 capacity stadium with a thriving standing home section. The away end held about 2,000 away fans.
We witnessed Red Bull take a 1-0 lead from a soft penalty, Leverkusen equalise just before half time against the run of play, Leipzig then going two one up early in the second half from another penalty and Leverkusen having a player sent off for handball prior to the penalty. Down to 10 men Leverkusen found some team spirit and resilience and eventually earned a deserved equaliser. Final score- 2-2.
Post game we took advantage of our location – near to Köln (Cologne) – and toddled off there for numerous small beers (kolsch), traditional beer halls and highly calorific food.
Twenty minutes on the train from Leverkusen we were in Köln city centre, right outside the massive cathedral. I would recommend the two Köln pubs we went to, both very central, ‘Brauhaus Sion’ (where we ate and witnessed a live display of 18th century German cavalry and soldiers in full armour), and ‘Früh am Dom’.
Our second game was a 2 Bundesliga game. On the Sunday morning we dropped our bags off in our hotel in Düsseldorf and made the short journey up to Duisburg.
We made our detour to the club shop for essential purchases and after the customary beer and sausage at the match settled in our seats. Duisburg’s ground is modem and despite its blueness looks like Leverkusen’s (Leverkusen is red). The 13,000 present made a good noise in a 30,000 stadium and again there is a noisy home standing area. Away fans were outnumbered by the balloons they brought but it is a long way to Aue – a seven hour road trip from out east for a Sunday lunchtime game is not easy!
Of note – as at Leverkusen – was the standing area and the club song sung with a passion.
The first half was dire but as Duisburg had failed to win any home game prior to this it was not surprising. The second half was livelier and Duisburg’s Brazilian starlet, Cauly Souza, scored two in a 3-0 win. Post match we went back to a bar called Taxi, where Duisburg fans, excited by a rare home win, were in good voice.
Post match we went off to Düsseldorf and again ate and drank there. We ate and drank in the old town. Düsseldorf pubs that we frequented were ‘Uerige Hausbrauerei’, we had the Killepitsch schnapps at the ‘Et Kabuffke Killepitsch Stube’, then ate at the ‘Brauerei Schumacher’. All are heartily recommended.
It turns out that there are tons of first and second, and lower league teams, in and around the Düsseldorf and Cologne area. Within an hour and half, using the efficient rail structure, Bundesliga and 2 Bundesliga options include Köln, Leverkusen, Schalke, Bochum, Duisburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf. So you could easily do three games depending on the schedules.
This is an edited version of a feature that first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, the fan’s guide for great trips in Europe and the UK. Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk for more details.