Green Tulip- The German Federal Environment Agency

What exactly constitutes a derby? Of course the obvious necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) condition that both teams represent the same city leaps to mind. And yet it is precisely in this regard that the sports media show themselves to be rather liberal in their usage. Looking over some of the matches from the recent Derby-Wochenende, for example, one sees that this limiting notion of "same city" can be extended to "same federal state" or even "same vague geographic region". In this manner Hannover 96, which arguably doesn't rightly belong in any kind of local duel, actually managed to play two "derbies" within a week: a Niedersachen-Derby against fellow lower saxons FC Wolfsburg, and a Nordderby against fellow "northerners" Bremen. Embracing this liberal tendency, let us simply further expand "same vague geographic region" to "same vague region of politics" and then without further hesitation label the match of 20 September between the Grüne Tulpe and the Federal Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt, or UBA) an Eco-Derby. Sounds pretty cool. In any case it is at least as deserving of the derby designation as the scintillating Südwestderby between Kaiserslautern and Hoffenheim (2:2 (0:1)), if not more so.     

 "Das war mit Sicherheit kein gutes Fußballspiel."

St. Pauli trainer Holger Stanislawski assessing the recent derby against HSV in Hamburg.

Derbies produce a singular sort of soccer. The usual concrete stakes of a league match fall away, and in their absence the two adversaries often lose their footing. All perspective is lost. Instead of a simple struggle to improve their standing in the table, the teams find themselves slipping into a murky conflict resembling nothing less than a battle with the Self. And so it was this Monday night that the technically superior Grüne Tulpe approached their shadowy Other at first haltingly, almost gingerly, as if frightened to deliver the mortal blow.

Ball possession in the first twenty minutes seemed the Tulpen's exclusive right, and yet they were not able to translate this advantage into effective, directed ball movement. Instead the ball bobbed ponderously about in no-man's land, where the Tulpe midfielders had ample time to collect it and send it on its way to nowhere in particular. Luckily UBA proved equally indecisive and tentative in its defense and before long provided the Greens with the opportunities they needed.

First a harmless shot in the 20th minute from long distance was carelessly punched away by the UBA keeper, who managed to save the consequent follow-up shot by Marek Dutschke, but then had no chance against Simon Bruhn's curt and final dispatch of the ball into the back of the net. 1:0. 

The second strike came shortly thereafter thanks to a spectacularly poorly placed goal kick ('Goal Kicks' to be added to UBA's next training camp To-Do list). The ball landed at the feet of André Bornstein not far from the penalty arc. Bornstein took two steps time to examine his conscience and then mercilessly drilled the ball into the far corner. These were the two footholds the Tulpen needed to climb their way out of the psychic mire.    

"--Hypocrite adversaire, --mon semblable,--mon frère! "

-Late BVB substitute Charles Baudelaire addressing Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer during the recent Pott-Derby between FC Schalke and Dortmund.

Who would play the roll of Cain in this match and who Abel was decided shortly before the side change. A brilliant space-clearing run across the penalty area by Aaron Greicius left a large vacuum in its wake. Defender Markus Meyer delivered a precise long-range cross to the resulting opening near the penalty spot, where an already airborn Bornstein finished things off with a vicious diving header into the upper 90's. 3:0. Bornstein lay for a second in an unsightly heap, then picked himself up, a large grin showing beneath the artificial turf plastered to the side of his face. Here at last was some evidence of joy in the Green's play!

And yet during the pause at halftime it was clear that the team was still not happy with its performance. Accordingly trainer Sebastian Wienges made a tactical switch from 4-4-2 to the classic 3-2-3-2 system to bring some more order to the midfield. And to great effect: from the beginning of the second half the Greens now attacked with focus and intent, the ball practically never entering their own half of the field.

Except once. The Greens'  undernourished defensive line (Stefan, Stephan and Markus) had  slowly  been lured in search of prey well into their opponent's half, leaving UBA's lone striker fully forgotten and waiting patiently at the centerline. He was off and running with the very first long ball that managed to reach him. Last man Jochen Schieborn used the ensuing 50m sprint to time his charge and get his angles sorted, but UBA's number 10 would not be denied and finished with a magnificent chip from just within the penalty box to the far post. 3-1.   

 "He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—'The horror! The horror!' "

--Joseph Conrad describing the death of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness.

This proved however to be the last gasp from the UBA squad, which then made a prolonged exit from the competition, their presence on the pitch becoming ever more shadowy. Two additional goals were the inevitable consequence.  In the 74. minute a deflected ball reached right midfielder Dietrich Brockhagen, who with an expert one-timer with the outside of his foot tucked it away curling to the near post. 4-1, and Dietrich's first league goal for the Grüne Tulpe after his injury 2009.

Just four minutes later a splendid one-two with Aaron Greicius left captain Kristoffer Born fully free in front of the goal. Born however would have to content himself this night with relishing the 250 goal milestone he had reached a few matches previously. The UBA keeper managed to get a glove in front of the shot, which then ricocheted off the crossbar. Showing true striker spatial intuition, Bruhn was placed perfectly to mop up the rebound, collect his "twofer" and bring things full circle with the final 5-1. 

The mood among the Greens was somehow subdued as they made the rounds and shook hands with their defeated brothers from the Umweltbundesamt. Naturally they were pleased with their derby victory and at the prospect of building a new winning streak. And yet they were afflicted too with a nagging sense that something here was lost as well, some hidden part of the self extinguished. A strange, dark feeling they eagerly tried to cover with the customary thanking of the official and a resounding "Gut...Sport!"