A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today
Hannover 96 may have only won two national titles either side of the war – but both were big surprises against the major football power of the day and pushed die Roten into the limelight. Hannover 96 have also recently enjoyed a revival, with two consecutive seasons of European football, albeit overshadowed by the suicide of German international goalkeeper Robert Enke.
Though formed, as their name suggests, in 1896, Hannover 96 didn’t become principally a football club until 1899. Merging with various smaller outfits and changing colours until settling on red, Hannover 96 were a minor power in the shadow of Eintracht Braunschweig until breaking through under coach Robert Fuchs in the 1930s.
Winning through to the national final in 1938, the Reds held the mighty Schalke to a 3-3 draw before overturning them 4-3 in the replay.
Under another influential coach, Helmut ‘Fiffi’ Kronsbein, Hannover 96 made another national final in 1954. Against a Kaiserslautern who would provide half West Germany’s World-Cup winning side a month later, little-known Hannover steamrollered the favourites 5-1 after being 1-0 down early on.
Overlooked when the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, Hannover made the top flight a year later, performed well but spent most of the 1970s and 1980s in the Zweite.
The first non-Bundesliga side to win the cup, thanks to penalty saves by Jörg Sievers, Hannover first tasted European football in 1992 (albeit against Werder Bremen) – but it took the talent of Gerald Asamoah and Sebastian Kehl to lift the club back to Bundesliga stability.
With strong home form at the revamped HDI-Arena – a 1-0 win over Bayern in 2008-09 lives long in the memory – and the team reacted strongly after Robert Enke’s suicide with a record fourth-placed finish in 2010-11.
The Reds then gave creditable performances two seasons running in the Europa League, beating Sevilla, Club Bruges and Standard Liège to make the knock-out stages both times.
The field of dreams – and the stands around it
Rebuilt for the 2006 World Cup, the HDI-Arena basks in a splendid verdant setting by the Maschsee lake, close to the city’s major landmarks. Between 2002 and 2013, it was known as the AWD-Arena.
Organised sports have been played in this area of recreation since the late 19th-century, though Hannover 96 were based in another green belt to the east, Eilenriede. Known for a brief time as the Hindenburg-Kampfbahn after the honorary club president and former national leader, the Eilenriedestadion was where The Reds played until as late as 1959.
By then, the Niedersachsenstadion (Stadium of Lower Saxony) had been built by the Maschsee, shortly after Hannover 96 won the national title in 1954. An original capacity of 86,000 was large enough to stage several internationals and German cup finals but reduced to 60,000 after modifications for the 1974 World Cup. Capacity was further reduced, and seating similarly increased, for Euro 88.
The €65 million redevelopment for the World Cup of 2006 transformed the stadium from a sports arena to a football ground, replacing the signature ‘toothbrush’ floodlights and installing hundreds of headlights into an equally new and impressive roof structure. Intimacy was created by moving the pitch closer to the West Stand and setting the new East Stand at an angle.
Also favoured by visiting rock bands – the Stones have played here six times – the HDI-Arena is divided into the home north end (standing lower N1-N8, upper N10-N19), with away fans allocated eight sectors (standing lower S6-S9, upper S15-S19) in the south-west corner of the stadium. The best seats and VIP/press areas are in the main stand, the Osttribüne.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
Match tickets are valid for public-transport access to and from the HDI-Arena from 3hrs before kick-off. The stadium has its own bus stop on the 100 and 200 lines (serving focal Kröpcke), set between the arena and the swimming pool the other side of narrow Lodemannweg. On match days, buses set down on Arthur-Menge-Ufer near the Courtyard Marriot hotel and set off from Ritter-Brüning-Straße/Lavesallee, the main road near Stadionbrücke.
From the train station, trams 3 and 7 run to Stadionbrücke, a short walk to the stadium past the SC Elite clubhouse bar that you’ll see straight ahead of you as you head for Stadionbrücke itself. Many get off two stops before at Waterloo (also served by line 9), with its beer garden, a pleasant walk short walk away. Those staying near Marktplatz in town are no more than a 15min walk away in any case.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
Of the many outlets, the main ones are the ticket desk within the FanShop (Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-3pm, Sun match days 2hrs before kick-off) on the lake side of the stadium; beside the 96 Gäststätte (Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-noon, closed on match days) near Clausewitzstraße tram stop; and the central City-Fanshop at Rathausstraße 21.
They are also available at the Tourist Office diagonally left out of the train station. The club also have an online service.
Games are divided into two categories, with prices set at €38-€52 for prime spots in the Osttribüne, and €24-€32 in the upper West Stand running along the opposite sideline, upper tiers behind the goals. Standing places (€14) will be sold out for nearly every league match.
what to buy
Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts
You’ll find the club’s main FanShop (Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-3pm, Sun match days 2hrs before kick-off) at the stadium by walking parallel to the lake from the Nordkurve bar. Note the Burberry-style caps in 96 green and black, and button-collar short-sleeved shirts in both colours.
There’s also a City-Fanshop at Rathausstraße 21 and merchandise sold at the outlet (Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-noon, closed on match days) alongside the 96 Gäststätte near Clausewitzstraße tram stop.
Explore the ground inside and out
The HDI-Arena organises infrequent stadium tours (€7/€4 under-14s) for individuals that last 70-90mins.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
The lovely 96 Gäststätte is near the club’s old ground towards Eilenriede. Take trams 4, 5 or 11 to Clausewitzstraße, and head towards the main road that runs at right-angles ahead of you. Once under the railway bridge, this bar/restaurant decked out in pre- and post-war team line-ups is on your right. Open from 5pm Tue-Fri, from noon Sat-Sun.
Those alighting at Waterloo can take advantage of the Waterloo Biergarten with its maxi screen, kebabs and Bavarian sausages. On Stadionbrücke by the tramstop of the same name, Elite 96 is a traditional terrace clubhouse by a training pitch. Local ladies’, veterans’ and kids’ teams are honoured with wall space, along with club and match pennants from the immediate post-war era in the lobby, where a photo labelled ‘German Champions 1941-42’ doesn’t appear to be the Schalke team of legend.
Nearer the ground, diagonally opposite the Courtyard Marriott hotel, Nordkurve is a classic fans’ bar and beer terrace, with a huge screen set across its wooden façade. The Marriott itself houses Julian’s, a pleasant sports bar and restaurant with tables overlooking the lake, a view it shares with the equally convivial Seeterrassen.
Payment for drinks at the stadium is by smartcard, available around the ground and at the FanShop for a minimum outlay of €20, including €3 deposit. Your €3 and any remaining credit can be refunded from any sales point after the match.