Go Rapid!

(A rare non-music piece…)

With my son and I having become regulars at the home games of Rapid Vienna this season, it’s my fervent hope and expectation that they will run out champions of the Austrian Bundesliga this year. The men in green and white have been in scorching form of late, with their recent run of scorelines telling its own story: 5-2, 5-1, 5-0, 8-1… At the time of writing they are a mere three points behind leaders Salzburg in the table, with plenty of time to make up the deficit before the end of the season.

There are of course two Bundesliga teams in Vienna, but Rapid’s deadly rivals FK Austria, who play at the Horr Stadion in the 10th district, need not concern us for long. Connoisseurs of the beautiful game are advised to head instead for the Gerhard Hanappi Stadion near Hütteldorf station, where around 18,000 committed fans make their way each week to see Rapid play their exciting, attacking style of football.

Rapid’s star striker, the 6’8” Stefan Maierhofer, has had a stunning season so far, scoring 18 goals in 20 games. He forms a highly effective partnership with the team’s captain Steffen Hofmann, who creates frequent chances in the air for Maierhofer and displays a Beckham-like precision with free kicks.

There’s a certain choreographed beauty to the activities of Rapid’s hardcore fans, the Ultras, in the west stand of the stadium during a game. They let off flares, sing intricate chants and display fiercely worded banners declaring their fervent devotion to the team. On match days the streets around the stadium are thronged with real Viennese; this is about as far from tourist Vienna as it’s possible to get.

(originally published in Ether Magazine)

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