It has been reported on The Guardian website today that up to 900 away end tickets have been returned by Manchester City to their hosts Arsenal ahead of the forthcoming Premier League clash between the two teams. The reason is suspected to be that, at £62 a ticket, it is simply either too expensive or a case of fans not wanting to pay such an extortionate amount of money out of principle. For fans of the English game this is simply not a surprise anymore; indeed the only surprise is that anybody still puts up with being ripped off.
Since the formation of the English Premier League in the 1992-93 season ticket prices have been rising at an alarming rate. Even in the last year, a survey published by the BBC revealed that the cost of the cheapest adult ticket in the top four divisions had risen by 11.7%. Of course it is Premier League clubs who will be largely responsible for the biggest of price hikes especially as the clubs are finding it more difficult to pay ever increasing wages to top stars, despite the fact that the Premier League is raking in more money than ever before due to increased television revenue. The advent of all-seater stadia was supposed to herald a new era of safety and comfort in English stadiums with the TV money a prime reason to help keep ticket prices as cheap as possible. In recent years, however, it seems that clubs will rip the fans off anyway, a situation which has arguably been a factor in increased calls for the re-introduction of standing areas in English football grounds. Fans simply cannot keep forking out at the current rate for match tickets along with all the usual necessities that going to a football stadium brings such as a match programme, food, drink and transport.
In recent months many English newspapers and football websites have made comparisons between the situation in England and that in Germany and how fans of Bundesliga clubs get such a bargain. Current German champions Borussia Dortmund, for example, charge as little as €190 for a season ticket which allows a fan to see seventeen home league games, an average of €11 a game. When one takes into account that the possession of a match ticket allows free travel on public transport to the stadium and the fact that one can drink beer whilst watching the match (something that ceased to be the case in England years ago where beer must be drank in designated areas away from the seating) and it is clear that fans in Germany have a much better deal. Even when clubs have tried to raise prices for big games in the Bundesliga fans have always been ready to vote with their feet, a most famous example was when fans of Borussia Dortmund boycotted a derby match against arch rivals Schalke 04 due to their hosts raising the ticket price to €20. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve been to watch many games as a fan of Eintracht Frankfurt, the most amazing deal was going to the Olympiastadion in Berlin to watch Eintracht play against Hertha BSC five years ago. The cost of a ticket? Only €9! And in a stadium which has hosted the FIFA World Cup final too.
Such a ticket price, which would work out at £7.30 at the current exchange rate, would be a dream to any English football fan in the current climate. The worst offenders in the English game tend to be clubs from the south of the country, the worst being Chelsea at £41 for the cheapest ticket, perhaps not surprising given that the cost of living is much higher than elsewhere in the country. Even Manchester United, who are the par excellence example in the commercialisation of the game throughout the Premier League era, still keep their cheapest ticket prices to a reasonable £30. Season ticket prices are an even more obvious example in how fans are having to dig deep in their pockets with Arsenal being the most expensive. There wouldn’t be much change given from £2000 if you were to get a season ticket at the Emirates stadium.
The fact is that Premier League clubs will always be prepared to charge what they want as long as people are prepared to keep paying the money. If fan movements in England had any importance, such as they do in Germany, then perhaps there would be no need for clubs to have to send batches of tickets back in the first place for such big games. After all it is the big games which fans want to see but the clubs should know where to draw the line and, in the name of fairness, stop testing the patience of loyal, hard-core fans whose bank balances suffer terribly in order to subsidize those of their heroes.
Marco Reus, the rising star in the German Bundesliga having helped Borussia Mönchengladbach to a respectable fourth place during the winter break, will be leaving the club at the end of the season to play for Borussia Dortmund.
It was announced today on Mönchengladbach’s website that the player will remain at the club for the 2011-12 season before signing a five year deal with the current German champions Dortmund for a transfer fee of 17,5 million Euros.
Having started his career at Rot-Weiss Ahlen in 2007, Reus moved to his current club for the 2009-10 season during which the club sealed a twelfth placed finish. In the following season Gladbach looked set to go down but some fantastic form late in the campaign helped them avoid the drop thanks in no small part to Reus’s goals including one in the promotion/relegation play-off match against VfL Bochum.
Now in his third season with the Rhine club Reus finds himself amongst the league’s top scorers with ten goals, six behind leading scorer Mario Gomez of FC Bayern, and many had been tipping him to leave for the Bavarians before news of his impending transfer to Dortmund broke today.
FC Bayern München secured the tag of Herbstmeister (autumn champions) in Germany last night. Despite going down to ten men following Franck Ribéry’s red card on the half hour mark, FC Bayern were seldom troubled by visiting 1.FC Köln as they strolled to a 3-0 victory. The win leaves Bayern with a six point lead at the top of the Bundesliga standings with everybody else left to play the 17th round of matches this weekend before the league undertakes its customary winter break.
FC Bayern started off the season with a shocking defeat at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach, a team who scraped their way out of relegation trouble at the end of last season, but soon recovered to win their next six games in a row including a 7-0 hammering of SC Freiburg to top the table. A minor blip on matchday 8 saw a goalless draw away at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim before the Bavarians got back to winning ways with a 4-0 rout of Hertha BSC. Just when things looked good for Bayern, however, they began to suffer some inconsistency in form with wins in the Bavarian derby to 1. FC Nürnberg and an expected win over 1.FC Augsburg coupled with defeats such as the top of the table clash against defending champions Borussia Dortmund as well as succumbing to the challenge of a struggling 1.FSV Mainz 05 side on Matchday 14, a game which saw Bayern lose their leadership of the standings. But such is life in the Bundesliga that one can never write Bayern off and they came back to win their last three matches in the first half of the league season. Impressive victories at home to Werder Bremen and away in the “Derby of the South” against VfB Stuttgart were complimented by last night’s win over 1. FC Köln.
French international Franck Ribéry got himself in a spot of bother when getting involved in a petty squabble with Portuguese forward Henrique Sereno in the 33rd minute. Following a yellow card for the initial altercation Ribéry then appeared to put his hands on Sereno’s throat, a move which gained him an instant dismissal. Despite this FC Bayern came out fighting in the second half and went ahead just three minutes after the break with league top scorer Mario Gomez helping himself to his 16th goal of the season. Further goals from David Alaba and Toni Kroos helped the Rekordmeister (record champions) seal a 3-0 win and the top spot at the winter break.
Traditionally the team who leads the table at the halfway point of the season will go on to win the league trophy in Germany. This has happened 32 times in the Bundesliga’s 48 year history so far but FC Bayern do face some stiff competition this season with the likes of Dortmund, Schalke 04, Werder Bremen and surprise package Mönchengladbach all ready to pounce in the event of a rare slip from the Münchener.
The Bundesliga game between 1.FC Köln and 1. FSV Mainz 05 was called off today following the attempted suicide of the match referee Babak Rafati.
The news of Rafati’s situation was learned by the two teams around one hour and a half before the game and, being unable to find a replacement official at short notice, it was felt by all concerned to postpone the match. Thankfully Rafati’s attempt on his own life proved unsuccessful but following the much publicised case of former Hannover 96 goalkeeper Robert Enke last season the subject of suicide in the German game is still fresh in everybody’s minds.
A future date for the game has yet to be determined.
Things really have gone from bad to worse for Eintracht Frankfurt since the winter break. Only one win in 16 games going into their final game of the season away to the newly-crowned champions of Germany saw the club who occupied seventh place at the winter break start the day in second bottom and were involved in a real relegation dogfight which hadn’t looked like coming at Christmas.
I set off from Manchester airport on Friday morning and was very surprised to see a group of men wearing T-shirts with the club badges of Oldham Athletic, who currently play in England’s third tier, as well as that of Eintracht. Curiosity got the better of me and so I asked if they were going to the game on Saturday to which they said yes. It was a pleasant surprise, no doubt to the Oldham lads as well as myself, that there were quite so many English who not only wanted to go to the game but were playing an active supporting role in a club not many people in our country probably neither know nor care about. I’ve been following Eintracht since 2006 but these guys had a good 20 years experience on me so I was even more impressed by their love for the club.
I travelled to the game on Saturday morning with a fan group called EFC 11er-Freunde, about whom I wrote a piece in a previous Away Days trip to Nuremberg. With the beer flowing from just before 10am the fans were in good spirits despite the mammoth task which lay before the Eintracht team. We had to beat title winning Borussia Dortmund and hope that VfL Wolfsburg (away at Hoffenheim) and Mönchengladbach (away at Hamburger SV) both got inferior results. Upon arriving at the stadium I was surprised to bump into the Oldham group yet again as I got off the coach and our thoughts turned to the game before we had to separate into our respective areas of the Eintracht fan block. When I got into the stadium the Dortmund fans were preparing a chereography to herald their heroes and it seemed that the famous Yellow Wall, the nickname given to the massive 28,000 capacity Südtribüne which stands behind one of the goals, would generate a cracking atmosphere.
But once the game got under way the Yellow Wall resembled a real wall insofar as it didn’t make any noise for most of the first half. During the first 45 minutes Eintracht keeper Ralf Fährmann saved a penalty from Lucas Barrios whilst, at the other end, Theofanis Gekas hit the crossbar in the last minute, meaning that the game was goalless at half-time. At the same time Wolfsburg were also goalless whilst Gladbach were leading in Hamburg which meant that, if the scores remained the same after 90 minutes, Eintracht would be going down. But, just sixty seconds after the break, Eintracht took the lead through midfielder Sebastian Rode. Almost at the same time came the news that Hoffenheim had taken the lead in their game against Wolfsburg meaning that Eintracht’s destiny looked positive.
Sadly for us the hope began to fade once more in the 68th minute when Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios, following some clever play from Łukasz Piszczek, restored parity. Just four minutes later Eintracht’s world turned upside down as a Marco Russ own goal gave the champions the lead whilst Wolfsburg had turned it around in their game winning 2-1 with fifteen minutes still to play although Hamburger SV had equalized in their game against Gladbach so a bit of luck for Eintracht could still have kept die Adler up in the top flight. The last ten minutes of the game for Eintracht, however, proved to be a nightmare as substitute Marcel Titsch-Rivero, who came on in the 79th minute to replace goal scorer Rode, got himself sent off just 43 seconds later after bringing down Marcel Schmelzer in the box to give away another penalty. But one person who didn’t lose his nerve was Fährmann who, having saved a penalty from Barrios in the first half, then kept out Dede to keep a glimmer of hope alive. This hope would finally be extinguished in the last minute of the game when Barrios headed home a Robert Lewandowski cross from the right flank to secure the three points for Dortmund who could now finally begin their championship celebrations.
Strangely there were many Dortmund fans, acclaimed by the club’s stadium announcer as “the best fans in the world”, who seemed more intent on coming outside to give Eintracht fans grief about their oncoming relegation rather than see captain Roman Weidenfeller lift the Meisterschale inside the Signal Iduna Park stadion. Thankfully the heavy police presence outside ensured that trouble was kept to a minimum around the stadium as emotions ran high on both sides after the game. For the record Mönchengladbach drew 1-1 at Hamburger SV which means that the former will take place in a two-legged Relegation Play-Off match with VfL Bochum, who claimed third place in the 2. Liga on Sunday. VfL Wolfsburg, meanwhile, managed to secure 1. Liga football next season following their eventual 3-1 away win at Hoffenheim.
After nearly 800 minutes without a goal in the Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt finally managed to hit the back of the net in Saturday’s game away at Schalke 04. Greek full-back Georgios Tzavellas’ hopeful punt from deep inside his own half was initially looking for his compatriot Theofanis Gekas in the Eintracht attack but the bounce of the ball wrong-footed Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer and the ball found its way into the goal from 73 metres to equalize the game at 1-1. Alas it would be another Greek who would deprive Eintracht of a much-needed point as Angelos Charisteas secured the three points for the home side in the 86th minute, thus adding to the pressure on Frankfurt coach Michael Skibbe.
Skibbe hasn’t always been the most popular figure with Frankfurt fans. Having succeeded Friedhelm Funkel at the start of the 2009-10 season he started off his tenure by taking away the captaincy from fans’ favourite Ioannis Amanatidis. But he hasn’t always been popular with the upper echelons of the club’s staff either; last season Skibbe consistently questioned the future direction and ambition of the club which led many pundits to believe that he wouldn’t see out the season as club coach. After talks with the club chairman Heribert Bruchhagen, Skibbe made peace with the Powers-That-Be and led the team to an respectable 10th place.
At the start of the current campaign Skibbe boasted that his team should be aiming to finish the 2010-11 season on 50 points, four more than the club achieved last term, and perhaps look towards fighting for European club competition. After a dreadful start to the season which saw the club lose four of its first five matches, Eintracht recovered to win seven out of the next twelve including a 1-0 home victory against runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 17. This left the club with 26 points and lying in seventh place in the table at the halfway stage and it seemed that Skibbe’s pre-season points prediction was back on course.
But Eintracht is never an easy club to predict, which is why many of its followers refer to it as “The Moody Diva”. Just when the club appears to doing something right you can (almost) always guarantee that something will go wrong. After the winter break Skibbe went on a collision course with Amanatidis, dropping him from the squad altogether, before the adverse fan reaction and subsequent meeting with Bruchhagen forced him to do a U-turn. In the meantime the club had lost the knack of goalscoring. Theofanis Gekas, who was the Bundesliga’s second highest scorer after Matchday 17 with 14 goals, hasn’t hit the back of the net since but then that’s not totally his fault as the rest of the team hadn’t seen the back of the net either before Tzavellas’ freak goal on Saturday. Whereas last season many of Eintracht’s goals came from midfield players such as Alexander Meier (10), Benjamin Koehler (4), and Caio (4) now there is a drought coming from all areas of the field which has led to the side going 794 minutes without a goal. It says much about the side and its lack of confidence at the moment that the only way it could eventually find the back of the net was not from a shot inside their opponent’s penalty box but from a defensive clearance!!
For many Michael Skibbe has run out of ideas and is looking increasingly isolated in a way which has already affected other coaches at more successful teams in the league such as FC Bayern’s Louis Van Gaal, Hamburger SV coach Armin Veh (who was sacked following their 6-0 defeat to FC Bayern on Saturday) or, ironically, Schalke 04 coach Felix Magath who’s future is in doubt despite reaching the German Cup final and the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. What’s worse for Eintracht is that clubs they finished higher than in the 2009-10 season such as Hannover 96, 1.FC Nuernberg and SC Freiburg are in the midst of successful seasons and are all challenging for Europe with each team lying in 3rd, 6th and 7th places respectively.
Eintracht, on the other hand, have dropped to 15th place and are only above St. Pauli on goal difference before this weekend’s crucial home game against the Hamburg based club. For Skibbe it could well be his last chance to salvage his job and the club’s season, assuming he hasn’t already been sacked by then……………..
This weekend sees this season’s biggest match in the Bundesliga so far. Rekordmeister FC Bayern München play host to Tabellenführer Borussia Dortmund on Saturday hoping to claw back three points in the chase to win the 2010-11 German championship.
Dortmund, coached by the charismatic Jürgen Klopp, have defied the critics this season by maintaining the impressive form that has seen them rocket up the table. Following their opening day defeat at the hands of Bayer 04 Leverkusen the Schwarzgelben have lost only one game – away at Eintracht Frankfurt in round 17 – and remain undefeated in six games since the resumption of the league after the winter break. With only Leverkusen separating Dortmund from their hosts this weekend the game takes on increased importance to the powerhouses of FC Bayern who aren’t used to having to chase teams down.
In saying that FC Bayern did make a success of hunting down Leverkusen last season. Following a slow start to the 2009-10 season Van Gaal eventually got to grips with the task facing him and overturned a deficit of six points into a lead which saw the Bavarians win a record extending 22nd title by five points over eventual runners-up Schalke 04. This time, though, FC Bayern face a much more difficult task against the league leaders who are, without doubt, the most organised and efficient team in the league. Whereas Bayern have more stars and players of greater individual quality, Dortmund have a much more effective unit who know how to kill teams off when it matters.
This weekend’s match isn’t just anticipated because of the current plight of the two teams but also due to the fact that this is one of the country’s top fixtures. In fact if Germany is to have a fixture to rival some of the other Clasicos of world football then this is it. Although Borussia Dortmund may lag some way behind their Bavarian adversaries in the honours stakes (e.g. Bayern 22 league titles to Dortmund’s 6; Bayern 4-times European champions to Dortmund’s one triumph in 1997) this is a match-up which had the seeds of a real rivalry sown in the early to mid 1990s when Dortmund was a regular challenger to FC Bayern for the Meisterschale (championship trophy). Sadly, after the club celebrated its most recent title in 2002, Dortmund’s flirtation with the stock market and subsequent financial difficulties saw the club have no choice but to get rid of good quality players and sell the stadium, thus ruining all of the good work, allowing Bayern to reclaim their virtual monopoly of German football.
Thankfully, though, Dortmund are back and are leading the way under coach Klopp who has steadily guided a young, talented team up the table in his first two seasons in charge of the Ruhrpott club and go into this game having won three and drawn three of the last six games. Louis Van Gaal can, at least, be thankful to the fact that Arjen Robben is now back in the team following a six month absence through a hamstring injury and the form of the Münchener has taking a turn for the better as a result. FC Bayern go into this match on the back of a fantastic UEFA Champions League victory away at European champions FC Internazionale, the team who defeated the German champions in the final last May, and have the advantage of playing in front of a sell-out Allianz Arena crowd in Munich on Saturday evening.
FC Bayern still have Ivica Olic out through injury whilst Dortmund will still be without the services of players such as Florian Kringe and Shinji Kagawa. Despite this both clubs will be able to field strong teams this weekend and one can only hope that a classic match awaits.
Two games take place in Germany this weekend with local pride as well as three points at stake. The games in question, however, highlight the differing fortunes between football in the west and east of the country. The 1. Bundesliga on Friday night sees the biggest derby in German football between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 whilst Saturday afternoon, in contrast, witnesses a very different contest in the country’s second division between capital clubs 1. FC Union and Hertha Berlin.
The Ruhr Valley in western Germany, known to many as the Ruhrpott, is one of German football’s hotbeds with a multitude of teams occupying the area. The two that stand out above all others are the giants of Borussia Dortmund, currently in pole position to claim a seventh German championship title, and Schalke 04 who, having been the powerhouse of the region for many decades in the first half of the 20th century, have had to get used to playing second fiddle to their rivals for most of the last few decades. This Friday night sees the latest meeting between the Ruhrpott’s finest with both teams having won 27 times against their rivals since the inception of the Bundesliga in 1963. Recent history shows that this will be a fiery encounter full of goals (31 in the last ten meetings) and with no love lost (five red cards in the last seven games) in a fixture which is arguably the most competitive and aggressive in the league.
The last meeting saw the Schwarzgelben from Dortmund win 3-1 in enemy territory with Shinji Kagawa scoring twice in Gelsenkirchen in a game which caught many a headline around the world, not for the football but for the hardline stance taken by thousands of Dortmund fans who refused to travel to the game on the back of what they saw as an extraordinary price hike by their neighbours. The price of a ticket? 19 Euro – English fans take note!!
1. BUNDESLIGA: Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 (Friday 20:30 CET)
In the east of the country there’s a very different encounter taking place on Saturday between capital clubs Hertha Berlin and 1.FC Union in the former’s Olympiastadion home. Unlike many countries around the world Germany, whether you talk about the situation before or after re-unification, has never had a capital city with a vibrant footballing culture. Having a divided city for four decades certainly didn’t help matters but, even before Berlin became rather more famous for political tensions, the city never had a club of which to be truly proud. Hertha BSC, undoubtedly the biggest club in the capital, have only ever savoured two championships in their history but for those one must go back to the turn of the 1930s. Since then Hertha has had its moments in the spotlight – three DFB Pokal final appearances (all lost) and a 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League campaign – but has failed to give the capital the footballing spotlight that a city of its size and importance truly deserves.
This will be highlighted all the more on Saturday afternoon when they face off against local neighbours Union in the latest tussle for points in the second division. Their meeting earlier in the season was their first ever league derby encounter and, perhaps fittingly, finished in a 1-1 draw between two teams who have never allowed a city rivalry to develop due to constantly playing in different divisions before this season. Hertha BSC currently lie on top of the 2nd division with a five point gap over the next three teams in the race for promotion whilst Union occupy 13th place and could do with a win to aid their fight against relegation. At least the signs are good that the Olympiastadion could enjoy a great crowd for its first capital derby with a sold-out stadium expected.
2. BUNDESLIGA: Hertha BSC v 1. FC Union Berlin (Saturday 13:00 CET)
Borussia Dortmund are already confirmed as Herbstmeister (Autumn Champions) before their weekend game against 1.FC Nürnberg on Sunday. That’s because their nearest challengers 1.FSV Mainz 05 lost out in their local derby against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Both Eintracht and Mainz came into the match in the Frankfurter Waldstadion with contrasting fortunes in their last two games. Whereas Eintracht had lost in consecutive games to FC Bayern München and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Mainz had won their previous two against Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1.FC Nürnberg. The game was level at 1-1 at the half-time break following goals from Marco Russ (Eintracht) in the 35th minute with Mainz equalizing from the penalty spot seven minutes later through André Schürrle. The game was ultimately decided in the 82nd minute after another penalty was scored, this time for the home team. Deadly striker Theofanis Gekas scored his 13th league goal of the season to give Eintracht all three points and thus deny Mainz any chance they had of becoming Herbstmeister. Borussia Dortmund have a seven point lead (played 14, points 37) over Mainz with the former having three games left before the winter break whilst Mainz have just two games to play.
The tag of Herbstmeister is a very important one in German football. Since the inception of the Bundesliga in 1963 only on sixteen occasions have the Herbstmeister not gone on to win the Meisterschale (Bundesliga trophy) at the end of the season. Overall history shows that it is better to go into the second half of the season in the favoured first place although recent history shows that it’s not always the case that the Autumn Champions ultimately win the Bundesliga. Three of the last four champions – VfB Stuttgart in 2006-07, VfL Wolfsburg in 2008-09 and FC Bayern last season – were not Herbstmeister before going on to win the title.
Nevertheless for Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp the achievement of finishing first at this stage shows just how well the Ruhr side have improved since his reign. Klopp joined the club as head coach in the 2008-09 season when he guided die Schwarzgelben to a respectable sixth place, seven places better than their showing in the previous season under Thomas Doll. Last season Klopp improved Dortmund’s position by one place and he is now gaining the respect of his peers as he sets about bringing Borussia Dortmund a first title triumph since 2002.
The German Bundesliga saw an intriging clash between champions FC Bayern München and top of the table 1. FSV Mainz 05 this afternoon at the former’s Allianz Arena home. The away team came to Munich as the only side with a perfect 100% record after five games in the 2010-11 campaign and was the biggest test yet for the club who had previously beaten VfB Stuttgart, VfL Wolfsburg, 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and 1.FC Köln.
FC Bayern, the Rekordmeister, are favourites going into every game in Germany but it was the table toppers who showed that they had no respect for their hosts by having the first major chances of the game through Ádám Szalai and Lewis Holtby before the latter’s 15th minute cross was turned home skillfully by Sami Allagui to put the Rheinlanders in front. The game continued with both teams making good chances and it seemed that Mainz were going in with a one goal advantage at the break before an unfortunate Bo Svensson own goal restored parity for the home team in first half stoppage time.
At this point many people would’ve predicted the champions to do what they always do and put the young pretenders to the sword but the misfortune that Mainz suffered at the end of the first half did not affect their game after the pause and it was they who continued to take the attack to FC Bayern. They got their reward in the 77th minute after substitute André Schürrle crossed the ball from the right and it arrived at the feet of forward Ádám Szalai who had his back to goal but was able to hit the ball on the turn into the top right hand corner of the goal from 14 yards out. The Hungarian, who was signed from Real Madrid after last season’s loan period, scored his third goal in Mainz colours and it was without doubt his most spectacular and important.
FC Bayern did have a couple of chances towards the end of the game but coach Louis van Gaal and his players would be left shell-shocked at the sight of the scoreboard at the end of the match. Mainz had preserved their 100% record and for coach Thomas Tuchel, who has only held the job since August 2009, it is just reward for what he has done for the team in such a short space of time. Having led the club to a respectable ninth place in 2009-10, it is fantastic to see an under-rated coach achieve early success with a young team who have defied all expectations. Mainz lead the table with 18 points, ten ahead of FC Bayern who lie in an unfamiliar 8th place. Now, of course, the tough job is only just beginning: how long can they stay there?