HSV Worldwide: Hamburger Jungs Dubai
Since its inception in 2014, one of HSV’s two official fan clubs (OFCs) in Dubai has gone from strength to strength. HSV.de caught up with club member Stefan Wieland for the next instalment in our HSV Worldwide series.
As fate would have it, Stefan Wieland and the two other founding members of the Hamburger Jungs Dubai OFC were all in the ‘Garden on 8’ pub in Dubai on the same night over six years ago. The trio were working in the event industry in the Arab state and had gone to the pub to watch some live football and unwind at the end of the working week. Just by chance, a HSV game was being shown on BeIn Sports just prior to the advertised Premier League game. As it became clear to the trio that the three of them were following the game much more intently than the other patrons in the bar, they got chatting about their shared love of the blue, white and black side of Hamburg, and the wheels were set in motion for the inception of the fan club.
After officially becoming a fan club on the 3rd October 2014, the group gradually expanded, with the end of the 2014/15 season providing a moment that stuck in the minds of many HSV fans and particularly the Dubai fan club. Stefan explains: “We watched the relegation play-off game at Philip Westphal’s house, who is one of the founding members of the fan club. After Marcelo Diaz’s goal kept us up, we partied so hard that at one point the police came knocking at his door, asking if we could celebrate a little bit quieter!” Having initially met at the ‘Garden on 8’ pub in the centre of Dubai, the location quickly became the fan club’s meeting point. “We have a deal with the pub here – they provide us with an area where we can watch the games and they set up a large screen with the commentary. We go there for every game; it’s a ritual for most of us!”
The time difference and clash of work schedules poses a problem for the members, with the working week running from Sunday to Thursday in the emirate state, meaning early Sunday and late Monday kick-off times in the 2. Bundesliga are a little difficult for some members. “The coverage on BeIn Sports is very good, the main problem is the time difference,” Stefan reveals. “In the winter time we are three hours ahead, and as you can imagine, a game kicking off at 11:30pm on a Monday night just isn’t doable for most of our members.” However, with business booming in the U.A.E., increasing numbers of internationals are finding themselves moving to Dubai for work, which has meant a gentle increase in membership for the Hamburger Jungs. “We currently have 14 full members, Jochen, our honouree member, five kids’ members and six remote members, who used to be full members but have now moved away from Dubai.” The fan club is also well structured, with a president voted in every year, a vice-president, and a social media officer who runs the club’s online presence, ensuring the smooth running of the club.
The majority of the club’s members are from Hamburg and the surrounding area, and unsurprisingly retain a strong affinity with the city of their birth and the club they have supported from an early age. “All of the members have been HSV fans for as long as they can remember, no one can really think of any other team that they supported prior to HSV. We recently had some births in the club as well, so there are some new HSV fans as well as some new fan club members!” Some of the club members still have season tickets and try to get to as many games at the Volksparkstadion as possible, whilst the “last game we managed to attend together was the last game of last season in May 2019. We got tickets in the VIP section and despite the outcome not being what we had hoped we had a great time. Our OFC banner was ‘christened’ at the Volkspark in the 2016/17 season and we are also mentioned at the OFC wall by the Nordtribüne, so we’re well represented in Hamburg.” The bond enjoyed by the members of the fan club is obviously strong, with a chapter of the OFC having also been founded back in Hamburg. The friendships formed whilst in Dubai remain, with the ‘Hamburg chapter’ coming to every home game and travelling to a number of away games over the course of the season.
Whilst the standard of local football is nothing compared to the Bundesliga, the group tries to take in as much football as they can in the Middle East, with one of the greats of the game proving to be a particular attraction: “Football here is pretty much a local affair, but a few of us have been to some local games. I went to a few Al Wasl matches when Diego Maradona was their manager.” The Hamdan Bin Rashid Challenge Cup was a particularly memorable event for the fan club in 2016, as it was HSV’s first venture to Dubai since the fan club had been active, with Stefan describing it as “the best day out ever with all the HSV fans! Our whole fan club went to the cup along with our banner, and we met so many HSV fans from different fan clubs who had travelled to Dubai for the training camp and the match.” Dubai being a popular holiday destination has also been a real benefit for the group: “There’s always a good attendance for our meet-ups, even from fellow HSV supporters who are on holidays and want to watch a game with us. We’ve also met some of the current and ex-players at beach clubs or in the shopping malls, and had some ex-players who’ve come and watched HSV games with us. We have our own stickers so make sure to leave our mark in the region and beyond!”
The large international community, as well as HSV’s history, means the club still enjoys a certain amount of notoriety in the Middle East. “Thanks to our history, people who are interested in football are very familiar with HSV, especially within the English and Dutch community. Many Arabs also know HSV – we have a great history as a club, which we can bank on. This means we’re welcomed wherever we go.” The club has also earned a good reputation amongst the international community, with Kevin, who hails from India, joining the club having caught the HSV bug whilst working with German colleagues before moving to Dubai. “We are the most active Bundesliga fan club in Dubai – everyone in Dubai knows the Hamburger Jungs and hence we got lots of referrals to our club, and we use our name for charitable events as well.”
If one thing could be improved, it would be the lack of HSV fan clubs in neighbouring countries: “We would love to see more clubs springing up in the surrounding countries and would like to support everyone who wants to set up a HSV OFC.” And Stefan believes it was the best decision he made to get involved with an OFC whilst in Dubai: “The best thing [about being in an OFC] is the camaraderie, and the ‘us, HSV’ feeling that you get. Watching the game as a supporters’ club is something different and enables you to support the team more. We’ve all found friends for life via the OFC.” Here’s hoping the Hamburger Jungs Dubai continue on the path they’ve set out on!