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support from beyond

By unknown | Sep 08, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

BERLIN - Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once famously declared that football isn't a matter of life and death - it is far more important than that.

BERLIN - Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once famously declared that football isn't a matter of life and death - it is far more important than that.

And like-minded fans of German Bundesliga club Hamburg will soon be able to support their team from beyond the grave.

Tomorrow, Hamburg will become the first football team in Europe whose fans can be buried in the club's official section of a cemetery within a goal-kick of the stadium in the city's western suburbs.

The only other club in the world where fans can be laid to rest in their team's official burial area is at Argentinian giants Boca Juniors.

While fans of British clubs are often allowed to have their ashes scattered at their teams' stadiums, the laws do not permit that in Germany.

When the area is officially opened, Hamburg fans can be buried close to their beloved team's home stadium in a coffin bearing the club's logo and in the traditional blue-and-white colours.

They can also choose to have their ashes buried in an official club urn.

But devotion comes at a price - an official Hamburg coffin costs R28000, while a blue-and-white urn decorated in silver will cost about R4600.

The idea is the brainchild of Lars Rehder, the gardener of Altona Cemetery - a short distance from Hamburg's HSV Area Stadium - where the sound of fans cheering their side can clearly be heard on match day.

He noticed many Hamburg supporters were asking for plots in the cemetery nearest the stadium. A funeral director in the north German city also approached the football team to ask for the licence to produce official club coffins.

Although the club was initially reluctant, the idea gained momentum and has been over a year in the planning.

In a non-profit making venture, the football team has granted licences to allow four funeral directors in the city to bury Hamburg fans in official club coffins or urns with the money raised being spent on the cemetery's upkeep.

"Many people think it's crazy and a strange idea," admits Christian Reichert, a member of Hamburg's board.

"But our plan is to capture worldwide attention, not with a gimmick, but with a serious venture," he told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

An area of Altona Cemetery has been prepared, complete with concrete goalposts and divided into three parts - stands, terraces and a VIP area. Reichert said the club paid a five-figure sum to reno- vate the cemetery.

Each grave can be decorated with wreaths shaped like football boots or blue and white-coloured plants, but each plot can only be bought on a long-term contract and must be regularly maintained.

The cemetery owners expect to cater for up to 500 Hamburg fans. Some have already reserved their place, but you can only buy a plot when the area is officially opened. - Sapa-AFP


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