29.11.2021Bayer 04

#RoadtoGlasgow – Travel organiser: ‘And then we telephoned our fingers to the bone’

Matthias Grimm was the office manager at BaySports Travel GmbH (now HRG Sports Travel) from 2000 to 2006 with responsibility for the organisation of Bayer 04 away trips at home and abroad. The 54-year-old has been working as the travel manager for the German Football Association since 2006. We talked about probably the most curious and strenuous journey on the #RoadToGlasgow – the double trip to the fogbound capital of Piedmont at the end of November 2001.

Matthias, let's talk about Turin.

Grimm: Gladly, Turin is a wonderful city.

You were able to experience it intensely back then and were there twice in one week.

Grimm (he laughs): Yes, and we really had great weather both times with lots of sunshine – during the day. I really like the kilometres of arcades in the city centre. It was my first tour to Turin. It's actually incredible that I've never been there again with Bayer 04 since those trips. The city has so much to offer.

However, it can turn unpleasant there in the evenings when the fog comes up from the Po – as it did back then. To be serious: How stressful were these two trips for you as a tour leader?

Grimm: Well, there were no big organisational problems the first time. After the game was called off and postponed by a week, we flew back on the same night as we would have done on a normal matchday. A week later, with the second trip, it became more complicated. First of all, it was a déjà vu experience. Again a wonderful day and fog again from six in the evening. The referee came onto the pitch at the stadium to see if the match could possibly go ahead. The players warmed up in the tunnel. Because we don't know how UEFA would react to another postponement, we prepared for the worst case. Playing the game on the next day was discussed.

What did you do?

Grimm: We started at 6 o'clock in the evening calling all hotels in Turin and the surrounding area were options for us. As the week before, we had booked our hotel rooms with a late checkout because we assumed we would fly back straight after the game. In our hotel everything was occupied for the following night. So we had to leave and find accommodation for our travel group. In addition to the team and staff, that also included the Bayer 04 delegation with the club management and the members of the press. We knew it would be difficult to find hotels. There was a big doctors conference on at the same time.

How long did the search last?

Grimm: It took a couple of hours. You have to remember the Internet had not been around long. We were more or less in analogue times. So all our search was done via telephone books. We had a local travel agency we worked with – and then we telephoned our fingers to the bone. We even went to different hotels nearby and asked if they had rooms available. It's also worth knowing that the range of hotels in Turin at that time was not extensive. In the end we only found one hotel with suitable capacity for our team outside Turin in the Aosta Valley. In a wonderful location but incredibly far away. Purely a lucky strike. We were able to book a few rooms for the media and our delegation in Turin. We organised that from the stadium under difficult conditions.

In what way?

Grimm: When the game was called off and the Juventus players were on their way back home they just switched off the lights at the Stadio delle Alpi (he laughs). That was the way for the Italians to tell us: Time for you to get out now. We were in the middle of organising how everything should carry on.

The fans invited by Bayer 04, who were there for the first trip to Turin, and the VIPs were able to fly back in the night.

Grimm: Yes, it would have been impossible for us to find rooms for everybody. We were very grateful to the airline for that. It was not a given that they would still be flying due to their heavy fog at the airport in Turin and it was down to the pilots. Lufthansa sent us a small jet on the same evening that brought the team back to Cologne on the day after the game.




The decision to postpone the match the next day came quite late in the evening after hours of discussion with the UEFA representatives. The team then add a long coach journey ahead of them. How did the team react to the situation?

Grimm: Very professionally. I went with the team in the coach to the hotel through the night and the fog. We were on the road for two hours and only arrived in the middle of the night. But nobody got upset. We organised pasta for the journey from a pizzeria near to the stadium in Turin. Many of them tried to sleep. But it obviously wasn't optimum match preparation because we had to travel two hours again on the same day. Normally it’s a journey of about half an hour. There's no question the players were knackered. And I didn't sleep the whole night.

You've worked in travel organisation for a long time and since 2006 you have been the Travel Manager with the DFB. Have you ever experienced a similar situation as you did back then in Turin?

Grimm: No, never again. I did learn my lessons from it. We never again had late checkout but always added another night on. So that we – if necessary – could spend another night in the hotel. Never again should it happen to me that I had to look for rooms in such a hectic manner (he laughs). But the whole story also has its positive side.

That is?

Grimm: In this especially stressful situation, we proved ourselves as the team behind the team. My colleague from BaySports Travel, as HRG Sports Travels call back then, worked with Silke Steinhausen looking after the travelling VIPs. There was also a fan liaison officer for the Werkself supporters on the trip. Team liaison manager Hans-Peter Lehnhoff took a lot on in terms the squad and staff. The group around the head of security Ralf Ziewer did a great job. It was really great teamwork. At that moment, you could see that there was a great group around the team. I think Turin brought us closer together and also prepared us for other big events like the final in Glasgow.

Up to then you went all over Europe. What are your personal highlights?

Grimm: Really difficult to say because all the trips were great back then and each had its own attraction. I thought La Coruna was particularly beautiful. I'd never been to Galicia before. We had a fantastic evening in that wonderful city by the sea the day before the match. Everything was very close together. After the 3-1 win, we were able to walk back to our hotel from the stadium. And, of course, the many trips to England were great. I thought the atmosphere was fantastic at Arsenal at the old Highbury stadium. And really so in Liverpool. I had goose bumps at Anfield when the fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone. At first, there was a minute’s silence because the Queen Mum had died at the age of 101 four days before. It was completely silent at first and then came the song.

It's well known that the former managing director Reiner Calmund placed great value on as perfect as possible travel organisation and not just in relation to hotels and restaurants. What was it like working with him?

Grimm (he laughs): Calli was obviously keen. Everything always had to happen quickly, quickly quickly. I learned an incredible amount from him during that time. What completely impressed me: Calli always stuck up for the fans. It was important to him that as many supporters as possible could afford to do these away trips. When you think that there were only two weeks between the quarter-final against Liverpool and the semi-final against Manchester United then you can imagine that the organisation of the trips was very intensive. Especially at that time when we were already working on Berlin and the DFB Cup final. You were in a tunnel and had to deal with everything bit by bit. The further the team went on the competition the more fans wanted to come along. I didn't sleep much in those months but experienced and learned an incredible amount. It was a fantastic time.


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