Euro 2024 Hello English football supporters: we need to talk about Gelsenkirchen

Meinung · The fans of the Three Lions team mock the "shithole" that is Gelsenkirchen. So why do they praise the good beer and the nice people? And don't look at their cities at all?

Blick auf die Fanmeile in Gelsenkirchen.

Blick auf die Fanmeile in Gelsenkirchen.

Foto: Sebastian Kalenberg

"You are no beauty", sings Herbert Grönemeyer about his home town Bochum. But the English soccer fans have awarded neighbouring Gelsenkirchen the prize for ugliness. Ever since a supporter of the Three Lions team called the three-time Euro host a "shithole" on the news platform X (formerly Twitter), a dispute has been raging online as to why such a supposedly dreary and run-down city is one of Germany's calling cards at the Euro 2024. After all, the England fan's post was shared more than three million times. And London-based Sky sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol gave a sophisticated explanation for the city's decline. "We're in the north-west of Germany, where the steel and mining industry used to be dominant. That's gone now and there's not really much left." Addressing the English fans, he said that there was "not much to do here”. And the landlords wouldn't even accept British credit cards. At least the people are nice and the beer is good. He shares this assessment with many other English football supporters.

The British sports reporter is right in the first place. Gelsenkirchen cannot compete with the metropolitan splendour of London. But then he gets vague. The city of the legendary football club Schalke had plenty of coal mines, but there was never a steelworks among them. That's why the coal miners were excited about Schalke, but the other steel workers were excited about Borussia Dortmund, the former center of blast furnaces and steelworks alongside Duisburg. A little more preparation would have been useful, Mr. Solhekol.

English fans generally find fault with everything and everyone. A tramway to the stadium broke down, spectators sometimes had to queue for more than two hours, and a bridge to the venue was in urgent need of renovation. Quite demanding, the supporters of Kane, Bellingham and others. The proverbial English coolness is certainly missing in these attacks. It's more like the typical German grumblers who like to scrutinize everything over-critically abroad and behave accordingly. Which in turn often drives the British up in arms. Apparently, the two nations are closer than they both like to confess.

EM-Spiel England gegen Serbien: Englische Fans feiern in Gelsenkirchen​
11 Bilder

Englische Fans feiern in Gelsenkirchen

11 Bilder
Foto: Lilli Stegner

Now, it has to be admitted that Gelsenkirchen, for one, doesn't go down quite as well on English lips as Cologne, Berlin or Munich. Even Düsseldorf is now better pronounced by visitors from Britain than Gelsenkirchen. At 12.3 percent (May 2024), the unemployment rate is one of the highest in Germany. And in comparisons, the Ruhr city always lands on one of the last places. Gelsenkirchen ranks 399th out of 400 German cities and districts on an economic institute’s research report. Only neighbouring Herne is worse. Nevertheless, the city has more young people than other German municipalities. And their numbers have even been increasing recently. So the situation is clearly not quite as hopeless.

A look at Great Britain shows that not all cities are as prosperous as London and the English South East. Sheffield and Birmingham, both major soccer cities, have still not recovered from the loss of their industrial past. Blackpool, Bolton or Bradford are hardly more beautiful than Gelsenkirchen. Middlesbrough or Stoke-on-Trent, all equipped with famous football teams and players, never really recovered from the glorious past. But perhaps Sky reporter Solhekol has never been there.

In any case, Gelsenkirchen has earned its place in the Euro 2024. Not only is Schalke one of the most famous clubs in Germany. The two regular players and national team captains Ilkay Gündogan and Manuel Neuer were also born in Gelsenkirchen and learned the game of football there. Basically, German soccer is inconceivable without Gelsenkirchen. Our English cousins should take that to heart. And judging by the photos on social media, the fans had a great time in the city's pubs, sang a lot and drank a lot. What more could they want?

My dear bilingual colleague Leslie Brook advised me on the English text.