Why everyone in Vienna should make a trip to the terraces in November
This month marks the return of one of Vienna’s more surprising sporting spectacles, and as quirks of the culture go, this is one you’d be forgiven for not having heard of.
November 11th sees local football clubs First Vienna & Wiener Sportklub go head to head in this season’s first so-called “Derby of Love,” but it’s not quite the macho face-off that you might expect. Rather than your typical fiery clash, the Derby of Love is a celebration of equality, friendship and fairness. Although it attracts thousands, it still flies under most people’s, erm… gaydar.
Football fan or not, you might have heard of the other Wiener Derby – Rapid vs Austria, the Violet vs the Green-Whites – reasonably good teams within the uppermost tier of the (rather dull) Austrian Football League (Bundesliga), which is punctuated with pockets of Ultras and a handful of rioters, not to mention a splash of Red Bull’s corporate money machine. Classy.
The Derby of Love is, refreshingly, a very different affair. Each of the teams involved boasts its own cult following, and both clubs are brimming with personality that most Bundesliga clubs could only dream of.
The Hernals Friedhofstribüne, the Wiener Sportklub’s home field, jingles with the sound of keys held aloft as the team go forward, and the black and white clad fans cheer on their latest bunch of hopefuls with a good sense of humor and a genuine love for the local game. Now languishing deep in the joint 3rd division (Regionalliga Ost), fans are keen to remind newcomers of the halcyon days, especially the 7-0 win over Juventus Turin in the 1958 European Cup.
The history of their once top-tier rivals 1. FC Vienna comes more from the fact that they play at Stadion Hohe Warte, the ex-national stadium built as a natural amphitheater nestled in the hillsides of Heiligenstadt (19th district), serving up the evening city skyline as a breathtaking backdrop to the action. It really is a thing of beauty, and with the record attendance from the 1920s being a whopping 85,000, it’s easy to get goosebumps imagining the place all those years ago.
Although those days are sadly long gone, the Derby of Love still regularly attracts around 8,000 fans, a notable feat in a league that often counts home attendances in the 100s. Why do so many people attend? Well, as an antithesis to all things modern football, the Derby of Love sees both sets of fans bedecked in rainbow colors, bringing along bright balloons and banners showing their support for issues from gay rights to world peace, and all the while having a good spirited evening of friendship and, I suppose, a bit of football, too.
There’s a rivalry here, oh yes, but these two teams want their matches to be remembered for all the right reasons, and as a result, the fixture has turned into something of a hidden gem for those in the city.
An evening on which sport and solidarity go hand in hand; making a date with the Derby of Love is highly recommended.
Derby of Love Fixtures 2016/2017 Season:
Friday Nov 11, 2016; Kick-Off at 19:00
Care Energy Natur Arena – Hohe Warte Stadium
19., Klabundgasse 11
Tickets: €8 – €50
Monday May 1, 2017; Kick-Off 14:00.
17., Alszeile 19