Wiener Sport-Club 1-1 SR Donaufeld
📍 Wiener Sport-Club Platz | Vienna, AT
🏆 Regionalliga Ost
⚽ Austria (Tier 3)
📅 Fri 3 Mar 23 | 7.30pm
🎟️ €11 | Att: 1,431
During my last visit to Vienna, Ryanair’s tardiness meant that I missed out on several planned lower league fixtures. At the time, I still managed to tick off the city’s “big two” (or a variation of, in the Young Violets’ case), but with the opportunity arising for a return trip to the Austrian capital this weekend, I’m keen to right a few perceived wrongs.
For those who haven’t been, Vienna itself is the quintessential Danubian capital, dripping in culture, grandeur, and historical significance. Rarely does the reputation of a place match the reality (as a friend once remarked, Vienna is the city “you expect Paris to be”), but its tourism board could easily phone it in; here, romanticism co-exists effortlessly with the practicalities of cold European modernity.
For weekend visitors, it’s an ideal destination. The entire city is an architecture enthusiast’s wet dream, tailor-made for a liberating afternoon of wander-coffee-repeat. It also boasts one of the most efficient, well-organised, and cheapest public transport systems that I’ve ever experienced. Germanic habits may not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy that culture’s actual greatest exports – football, beer, and sausages – Vienna is as underrated as it gets. And Wiener Sport-Club is a perfect example of why.
The Original St Pauli
Having arrived in the city several hours earlier, I dump my bag at the hotel, take the U3 line all the way to Ottakring, and change for the overground train to Hernals. It’s a bitingly cold evening in the Dornbach quarter of the city, but I’ve been looking forward to ticking off this ground for some time now.
For those not in the know, Wiener Sport-Club is one of the most outwardly political clubs in the country. Even non-football fans may have seen images of the ground’s famous staircase manifesto (see below if you haven’t); inside the ground, the many assorted banners, flags, and stickers reiterate the point, just in case.
But it isn’t just necessarily provocative political messages or affiliations that have piqued my interest. Wiener Sport-Club were a serious domestic proposition in the 1950s and 60s, winning two national league titles, reaching two European Cup quarter finals, and handing out what, to this day, remains Juventus’ (indeed, any Italian club’s) heaviest-ever European defeat.
Another quirk is the club’s deliberately English terrace culture, which is at direct odds with the ultras-focused approach prevalent in Austria and the rest of Europe. Here, the regulars prefer catchy chants and dry humour to big pyro shows; in the Friedhofstribüne, many songs are even sung in English. It’s slightly jarring when, prior to a corner, 500 Austrians break out into an ironic rendition of “we’re going to score in a minute”.
Welcome to Wiener Sport-Club Platz
At the rear of the ground, under the aforementioned Friedhofstribüne, is clearly where the pre-match action is to be found. There are several merchandise stands and food and drink vendors, and I decide to show my support by purchasing a fan club t-shirt (€20). I follow that up with quite possibly the best bratwurst sausage I’ve ever encountered (€4.80) and a cold Kasekrainer beer (€5.90), and by the time I’ve purchased my match ticket (€11), I’m €42 down. Disclaimer: there are some downsides to watching football in Austria.
The small ticket window opposite is manned by two rather abrupt-looking middle-aged Austrian frauleins, one of whom clearly isn’t in the mood for my shit. When I ask her which section I should purchase a ticket for, she asks me if I care about being comfortable. When I respond that I don’t (within reason), she barks “tribune” with a disdainful energy, and sends me packing like a beleagured cop show sergeant dealing with his rookie’s latest bullshit. Luckily, the steward/retired Hell’s Angel who takes my ticket is a little friendlier, and I take up a neat little spot behind on the terrace behind the goal.
When you’re stood directly behind a goal, there’s an undeniable buzz of excitement that, at some point, a rogue ball might come your way. It’s a discreet thrill that isn’t openly discussed, but we all know it’s there. And there’s no greater chance of it occurring than in the pre-match warm-up, where wayward sighters thunder menacingly into the void beyond.
Etiquette dictates that you should play it cool, of course. If you’re feeling particularly suave, you might even turn your back to talk with friends. But as an alarmingly high number of balls start coming our way, even the most modish bystander is forced to take evasive action, lest their face – or worse, their pint – take a critical hit.
As the thunderous tones of Motorhead (and the less thunderous tones of The Bangles) begin to dissipate, the match eventually kicks off. As indicated by their league positions, both sides are well-matched, and although the quality is a little indifferent (especially compared to the following day’s fare), it’s a full-blooded Friday night contest under the lights.
I don’t realise at first, but there are only actually two of those floodlights at diagonal ends of the pitch, although the abandoned, construction site aesthetic of the far corner suggests there is room for a third; indeed, symmetry isn’t necessarily this ground’s strong point. The largest stand – a covered, all-seater behind the far goal – lies unused, while there is nothing but a small line of fencing along the near touchline.
If anything, though, it all just adds to the charm, a sentiment that is further validated when the home side get a free kick in a promising position. Out of nowhere, dozens of fans suddenly start jangling their keys, creating an eerie crescendo of unnerving but impressive noise that deserves more than the wildly overhit set piece that follows it.
Despite the enjoyable experience, it’s an inescapably cold evening, with glistens of frost kissing the handrails. It’s a welcome respite, then, when a strong and undeniable wave of marijuana smoke heads my way, although not enough to take my evening to the next level.
Luckily, for the home fans at least, the evening does take a warmer turn when imposing frontman Marcel Holzer – sporting as short-sleeved and tight a shirt as logistically possible – opens the scoring early in the second half. It’s a clinical finish from a man who, up to that point, has simply been trying to elbow his marker as forcefully as he possibly can; with his flowing blonde locks and sizeable physique, Holzer is every part the Austrian Darius Henderson.
In a way that Henderson’s former clubs would be proud of, shit then hits the proverbial fan. Donaufeld midfielder Merzak Bouguerzi is given a straight red card for an overzealous tackle, seemingly ensuring that the home side will collect all three points. But in the final six minutes, they somehow manage to concede an equalizer and have two of their own men sent off, meaning that tonight’s spoils are shared.
This is a great little club and a proper football ground, and while I don’t often plan to repeat visits to grounds abroad, I will definitely aim to attend another game here. No sexism, no homophobia, and no doubt: Wiener Sport-Club is one of European football’s truly hidden gems.