Image courtesy of Tobias Hänsch at www.unveu.de
In the press conference before the Leipzig game last week, Union’s coach, Urs Fischer, was gushing in his praise of his two strikers, Sebastians Andersson and Polter. Even though we all knew that their chances would be hard to come by in the thin air of the Bundesliga.
Andersson, he said, was more of an all-round player. He’d drop deeper, he’d work harder. He’d create more chances. Polter though was different, he needs to be in the box, to be a pain in the arse. Andersson is technically better, but Polter’s greatest qualities, we all thought, were the ones on show as he celebrated the draw against Stuttgart that had lead them to this point in the first place.
His bloodshot eyes, his voice scratching like Tom Waits in the throes of pneumonia told us what we all knew anyway. He’d drunk a hundred beers in celebration that night. He’d down them so we didn’t have to.
In the flush of promotion he looked like Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff did after they’d won the Ashes in 2005. They were invited with the rest of the victorious English cricket team to Buckingham Palace where they could be seen at the bottom of the royal garden, tins of lager in their hands, sunglasses on, sweating out the booze. Eyes like piss-holes in the snow.
I loved them for that as I love Polter to this day. It made them real. Like us.
But Polter’s and Andersson’s roles would be reversed on Saturday afternoon, with almost 70 minutes played. Polter picked up the rebound from a lazy ball out from the Augsburg back line. He burst onto it, into the inside left channel before he spotted his Swedish team-mate in a better position in front of goal. He squared it where it was all too easy for Andersson to score with the instep of his right boot.
The poacher had turned provider. The worker become finisher. Andersson had been the best player against Stuttgart in the second leg. He deserved it. Polter gave him a hug like a honey bear climbing a tree. He lifted him up the way that the presumed deaf mute Chief Bromden lifted the washbasin out of the white tiled floor at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
It was Union’s first ever goal in the Bundesliga.