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Hamburg offers fans team graveyard plots

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Hamburg offers fans team graveyard plots
Photo: DPA
07:50 CEST+02:00
Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once famously declared 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.

On September 9, 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 team's stadium, 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 €2,350 ($3,500), while a blue-and-white urn decorated in silver will cost €390 ($571).

The idea is the brainchild of Lars Rehder, the gardener of the 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 were 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," Christian Reichert, a member of Hamburg's board, told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. "But our plan is to capture worldwide attention, not with a gimmick, but with a serious venture."

An area of the 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 renovate 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.

Plots in the specially allocated area will cost the same as in the rest of the cemetery.

Reichert said he does not want to sell all the plots to young, healthy fans and wants to keep some back for Hamburg's more elderly fans - either sick or old - who have expressed interest.

"I don't know if they are still alive, but I will contact them personally," added Reichert.

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