Olivier Kruschinski auf der Tribüne der Glückauf-Kampfbahn, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V

Schalk­er in mind, heart and hand

Olivi­er Krusch­in­ski - in Schalke, for Schalke

For 15 years, Olivi­er Krusch­in­ski has trav­elled to every match played by his team, FC Schalke 04. He has cel­eb­rated and suffered with them on the stands when they failed again to win the Ger­man Cham­pi­on­ship. He shared this pas­sion for roy­al blue with his fath­er and has passed it on to his own son (5). ?The first trip after he was born? the 42-year-old says with a grin, ?was to the re­gistry of­fice. No, it was straight to the club­house to re­gister?. It must be true love. It is too. However, if any­one calls Olivi­er a Schalke fan, ?I dis­pute this. I?m not a fan, I?m a Schalk­er!? Dein­NRW (your NRW) met Olivi­er Krusch­in­ski in per­haps the most fam­ous city dis­trict in Ger­many.

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    Olivier Kruschinski auf einer Wiese mit S04 Logo, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V
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    Garagen mit S04 Logo in Gelsenkirchen, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    S04 Postkarte Nahaufnahme, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V
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    Quartiersbüro Schalker Meile, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Halde Rheinelbe Gelsenkirchen Süd, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Of course Olivi­er, who is also known as Oli4 in his home town, is, as al­ways, be­hind his team. However, the people in Schalke are now even more im­port­ant to him than the pro­fes­sion­al foot­ballers in the sta­di­um. In a city dis­trict that is known to every foot­baller in the world but where few of them have ever ac­tu­ally been. Krusch­in­ski wants to change this and to make the sense of com­munity in the home of club le­gends like Ernst Kuzorra, Fritz Sze­pan and Re­in­hard ?Stan? Libuda strong again. For a num­ber of years he has been tak­ing groups of vis­it­ors around Schalke and tak­ing them to the sites of the greatest sport­ing suc­cesses. At Halde Rheinelbe (Rheinelbe sla­gheap) and in front of the rep­res­ent­at­ive Ju­gend­stil façade of shaft 8 of the former Con­sol­id­a­tion Mine, he can provide at least as much in­ter­est­ing in­form­a­tion about the his­tory of the former min­ing strong­hold. On oth­er tours, wheth­er on foot, by bi­cycle or by bus, he also gladly steers his fel­low trav­el­lers past the oth­er sla­gheaps in the city dis­trict. He likes the far-reach­ing view of the Ruhr area, which has been green again for quite some time, and the sites of in­dus­tri­al cul­ture that are spread out across the en­tire land­scape.

Zeche Consolidation Anblick auf Förderturm von unten, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

?Only someone who knows the past can un­der­stand the present and shape the fu­ture.?

The leit­mot­if of Olivi­er Kruschink­si

Zeche Consolidation Förderturm, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Of course, coal and foot­ball are in­ex­or­ably linked to the his­tory of Gelsen­kirchen. Be­cause the en­tre­pren­eur from Es­sen, Friedrich Grillo, brought tens of thou­sands of miners from Po­land to the area 150 years ago. The tran­quil town of Gelsen­kirchen grew to be­come a size­able city with 400,000 in­hab­it­ants. And FC Schalke 04 was es­sen­tially the first ?Werk­self? (works soc­cer team). Be­cause 14-year-olds also worked in the mine by day in the 1930s and 1940s.

?Foot­ball then be­came the cata­lyst for them to clear their heads once a week?.

Today ?only? 250,000 people still live in the city in the cent­ral Ruhr Area. Be­cause min­ing dis­ap­peared and with it the miners. But the people took ?their Schalke? with them, ?which is why there are Schalke fan bases all over the coun­try?, as Olivi­er Krusch­in­ski knows. So when the whistle blows for a home game for the FC Schalke 04 Bundes­liga team at Velt­ins-Arena, which to be pre­cise is not in Schalke but rather at the geo­graph­ic centre of Gelsen­kirchen in the city dis­trict of Erle, this means a jour­ney of sev­er­al hun­dred kilo­metres for lots of fans.

Mean­while, the plaster has been crum­bling for years in the place where the club cel­eb­rated its greatest suc­cesses, where FC Gelsen­kirchen Schalke 04 be­came Ger­man cham­pi­ons sev­en times. Wild grass is grow­ing over the his­tory of the le­gendary Glückauf-Kampf­bahn sta­di­um. Nev­er­the­less, Krusch­in­ski and his fel­low cam­paign­ers in the ?Schalk­er Meile? (Schalke Mile) pro­ject have suc­ceeded in hav­ing a sign erec­ted in front of the en­trance with the blue paled gates say­ing ?Ernst-Kuzorra-Platz?. Around the sta­di­um, where young foot­ballers kick about on ar­ti­fi­cial grass, two large-format pho­to­graphs now com­mem­or­ate the time when 70,000 people ? after go­ing to Sunday church, still wear­ing their hats, suits and ties - cheered for their her­oes on the side­lines. Any­one who vis­its the slightly over­grown stands and closes their eyes for a mo­ment can prob­ably hear them and will sud­denly feel that sense of unity that was felt back then. Be­cause that is the mo­ment when even non-foot­ballers are hit by the ma­gic of this for­got­ten place.

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    Graffiti Glückauf, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Fussballstadion Kampfbahn Glückauf, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Fotos des Stadions Kampfbahn Glückauf in Gelsenkirchen, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Olivier Kruschinski auf der Tribüne der Kampfbahn Glückauf, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

A place full of his­tory: the le­gendary "Kampf­bahn Glückauf"

?In cit­ies like Liv­er­pool, a sta­di­um like this would have long been a place of pil­grim­age for foot­ball fans all over the world.?

The vis­it­ors that now ac­com­pany him on his ?Myth­os-Schalke? (Le­gend of Schalke) tour nod be­fore they gath­er around and take pho­to­graphs of Ernst=Kuzorra?s usu­al spot in the rus­tic club­house full of 1960s charm next door. They breath his­tory. Club and city his­tory. And when Olivi­er then tells of when, as a youth, he him­self had the chance to serve a beer and a shot to his idol - the man who shot Schalke to the first Ger­man Cham­pi­ons des­pite hav­ing a her­nia in 1934 - a little pride and awe also res­on­ates with him.
At the same time, the city guide with the un­usu­al tat­too on his leg and the re­laxed, cas­u­al tone re­grets that the po­ten­tial of this city dis­trict and its mov­ing his­tory is only be­ing re­cog­nised little by little. The much ex­tolled Schalk­er Mar­ket is now a battered car park (?I nev­er said Schalke is just beau­ti­ful?). The old rail­way line from Con­sol Mine, once the birth­place so-to-speak of the ?Polacks and pro­let­ari­ans club? S04, is no longer in use. In places where in­dus­tri­al cul­ture has long giv­en way to nature again and been trans­formed in­to al­most secret loc­a­tions that in­vite you to ex­plore.
The Church of St. Joseph is such a place. Be­cause out­side of Gelsen­kirchen, hardly any­one knows the unique thing it has to of­fer. The church win­dow op­pos­ite St. Bar­bara, the pat­ron saint of miners, show St. Aloisi­us - with foot­ball shoes, foot­ball socks and a foot­ball. Olivi­er Krusch­in­ski does not know of any oth­er church that has any­thing like it. He even had the win­dow tat­tooed on the calf of his left leg.

Kirchenfenster Heiliger Aloisius, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

?Be­cause that is our DNA? the Schalk­er likes to say. ?And we are proud of it.?

What Olivi­er says about the win­dow in the St. Josef Cathed­ral

Olivier Kruschinski auf Ernst Kuzorras Stammplatz im Vereinsheim, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.


Fußball Reiseführer von Olivier Kruschinski, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

All the more reas­on why the busy, com­mit­ted loc­al pat­ri­ot, who has also writ­ten a foot­ball tour guide and cre­ated the Gelsen­kirchen beer GEbräu und Gesöff on the side, is de­lighted that ?the seeds are slowly put­ting down roots?. Since the Schalk­er Meile (Schalke Mile) pro­ject in 2006 began with this com­mit­ment to the city dis­trict, fan ini­ti­at­ives have been set up here again. Signs were re­placed, façades painted. Al­most the en­tire street ? with the ex­cep­tion of one yel­low build­ing - is blue and white. At the headquar­ters of the Schalk­er Meile (Schalke Mile) pro­ject, there are scarves and shirts with the shaft tower and slo­gans like ?One city, one greet­ing! Glückauf from Gelsen? (Glückauf is the tra­di­tion­al Ger­man miner­s' greet­ing).

?All hell breaks loose here be­fore home games."

The Schalk­er come back to Schalke, gath­er at the Church of St. Joseph, where a blue and white wall of fan post, scarves and jer­seys bear wit­ness to the bond between the people, their city and the club. And they cel­eb­rate in a friendly man­ner with the fans of the op­pos­ing team.

Kruschinskis "Gebräu" aus Gelsenkirchen, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

?An af­firm­a­tion of faith in the re­gion­al and loc­al?

What Olivi­er says about his GEbräu and GEsöff

Gebräu Bierwagen mit Olivier Kruschinski, © Gebräu Bierwagen Kruschinski

This sense of com­munity, talk­ing to people, is also im­port­ant to Krusch­in­ski when he goes to the sta­di­um him­self or taps his own beer at the even­ing mar­ket in the city of Gelsen­kirchen.

?That was such a typ­ic­al, crazy idea?

the 42-year-old says about the cre­ation of GEsöff und GEbräu.

And then the fun be­came something ser­i­ous. Be­cause for Olivi­er, the idea of fi­nally launch­ing a Gelsen­kirchen beer on the mar­ket again is ?an af­firm­a­tion of faith in the re­gion­al and loc­al?, which has ac­com­pan­ied him his whole life. With the two cel­lar beers that are of course - as in the past - sold in brown ?plop? flip-top bottles with the old Glückauf logo, Krusch­in­ski and his com­rades-in-arms wanted to take up the tra­di­tion of the former ?Glückauf Bier?. This was brewed in the city dis­trict of Ückendorf un­til the 1980s, where Krusch­in­ski now lives with his fam­ily in his grand­fath­er?s old col­li­ery house. Since then, there hasn?t been a single brew­ing kettle in Gelsen­kirchen, which is why GEbräu und GEsöff are still brewed in Weser­ber­g­land. But Olivi­er already has (an­oth­er) idea for this...

Olivier Kruschinski, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Three ques­tions for Oli4

Schalk­er in heart

Olivi­er, you have 48 hours of free time. What would you def­in­itely do with this time in NRW?

Olivi­er: Right now? A whole week­end? That?s easy. In good weath­er, I would spon­tan­eously jump on my bike and cycle the Ruhrtal-Rad­weg (Ruhr Val­ley Cycle Trail). I go on a cycle tour like that once a year with my clique. It?s fant­ast­ic. Cyc­ling is great all over NRW, es­pe­cially on the many dis­used rail­way lines.

Which place in NRW did you most re­cently dis­cov­er for the first time?

Olivi­er: Oh my... that's dif­fi­cult. I haven't done any­thing oth­er than NRW for 20 years. But I can think of one thing: I was re­cently at Sil­ber­see in Hal­tern for the first time. A day of that Beach feel­ing in the Ruhr Area was quite cool. I had of­ten passed it on my mo­tor­bike, but of course with chil­dren you ex­per­i­ence the area in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent way. 

Your per­son­al fa­vour­ite place in NRW?

Olivi­er: Easy, Schalke. Where else? But my fa­vour­ite place to bie is es­sen­tially where I live. In Ückendorf, with a view of the Ho­hewart and Rheinelfe sla­gheaps right next to the old rail­way line. I can go for walks and cycle here. I am at home here. 

Fa­vour­ite Spots & Tips from Oli4

Foot­ball, Slag-head-hill-hop­ping & In­dus­tri­al Her­it­age

Luftaufnahme vom Tetraeder auf einer Halde in Bottrop., © Dominik Ketz, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Slag heap-hill-hop­ping

Veltins Arena Schalke, © FC Gelsenkirchen-Schalke 04 e.V.

North Rhine-West­phalia – land of foot­ball

Luftaufnahme vom Tetraeder auf einer Halde in Bottrop., © Dominik Ketz, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Up and down in the Ruhr area

Zeche Zollverein aus der Luft, © Jochen Tack  Stiftung Zollverein

In­dus­tri­al her­it­age

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Timo Köbes Lommerzheim Köln, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Marion Strehlow Persona, © Marion Strehlow Persona