LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Schalke 04

Relegation for Royal Blues tests huge supporter base

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Schalke 04, die Königsblauen, enjoy a legendary status in the German game. Although modern honours have been confined to the remarkable UEFA Cup victory of 1997 and the odd domestic cup, their reputation stems from the glory days before the formation of the Bundesliga.

As their name suggests, Schalke were founded in 1904, as Westfalia Schalke, changing their colours to royal blue after World War I. Adopting a tactic of short passing and fluid movement, the so-called  ‘Schalker Kreisel’, a team starring in-laws Fritz Szepan and Ernst Kuzorra made nine national finals between 1933 and 1942, winning six of them. 

FC Gelsenkirchen-Schalke 04 would drew 70,000 crowds to the Kampfbahn Glückauf, where they never lost a league match for 11 years. The locality, renamed Ernst-Kuzorra-Platz, remains a hub of classic Schalke bars today, halfway between Gelsenkirchen city centre and the club’s contemporary stadium, the VELTINS-Arena.

The stretch of Kurt-Schumacher-Straße between Berlin Bridge near the city centre and the pre-war ground still in use today is known as the Schalker Meile, a heritage walk established by fans after the 2006 World Cup. Themed tours take in the signs, plaques and tobacconist’s shop where Kuzorra once worked.

The mythology stemming from a century ago has stayed with the club through thick and thin – though there’s been a bit too much thin in recent seasons, with two relegations from the Bundesliga in 2021 and 2023 after an unbroken stay of three decades.

The early 2000s saw two absurdly tight title races and a run to the semi-finals of the Champions League. As recently as 2019, Schalke were competing in the knock-out rounds of Europe’s premier competition. Yes, they were comprehensively knocked out by Manchester City, but it seems incredible that a club with such huge support and 180,000 members are now in such desperate circumstances financially.

Schalke even own the VELTINS-Arena, the third-largest club stadium in Germany after Bayern’s and Dortmund’s, nearby Borussia being 04’s bitter rivals in the fiery Revierderby. Opened in 2001 after Germany had secured its bid to host the World Cup in 2006, Schalke’s home ground not only reflects the club’s substantial heritage but is rarely less than 95% full every league game – top tier or second. 

This means that crowds of 60,000-plus are still drawn to this venerable institution, whatever mistakes have been made in the boardroom to bring about the current dire situation.

A century ago, it was prescient management that enabled Schalke to become Germany’s best. Formed by working-class youths in an area of coal-mining hub Gelsenkirchen called Schalke, the club lagged behind the brighter lights at local level until a team developed in the immediate aftermath of World War I.

Returning from England, where they had admired the swift-passing game introduced by the Scots, the Ballmann brothers Hans and Friedrich used the same approach at Grenzstraße, the modest pitch where Westfalia Schalke played. Two players in particular were quick to pick up on this sophisticated interplay: Ernst Kuzorra and Fritz Szepan. 

Dropping the gymnastics branch of their operation, Schalke focused purely on football from 1924 on. This was when Westfalia became Schalke 04, and began to generate a grass-roots following in this mining and manufacturing community. The new colours of royal blue helped forge that identity.

A year later, Schalke showed further intent by hiring their first coach, Heinz Ludewig, a former German international whose career was cut short by injury – his only game for his country was the last one before the Great War, in 1914. A stalwart for nearby Duisburg, Ludewig was a disciple of the same passing game as the Ballmanns. With Kuzorra and Szepan just starting out on their careers, he couldn’t have picked a better time to take over the reins at Schalke.

In 1927, Schalke reached the national finals for the first time. Though defeated by 1860 Munich, the team’s heroics generated such interest that it was agreed a decent football ground should be built. Opened in 1928, the Kampfbahn GlückAuf would soon witness Schalke’s rise and domination of the German game, spanning the Weimar and Nazi eras.

No club captured the public imagination quite like Schalke in the 1930s. At the helm was coach Hans ‘Bumbes’ Schmidt, a star of the all-conquering 1.FC Nürnberg side of the 1920s. The Fürth-born disciplinarian was another believer in the combination game of quick passing and delicate ball skills, having learned tactics and technique at Greuther Fürth from the influential English coach, William Townley, an FA Cup winner with Blackburn Rovers in the late 1800s.

Schmidt was brought in right after the painful 3-0 defeat to local rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf in the national final of 1933. The power base in German football was shifting west from Prussia and Bavaria. This was best illustrated the following year, when Szepan and Kuzorra hit two late goals in the national final to overcome the previous masters, Schmidt’s old club of Nürnberg.

Winning every regional title from 1934 right up to 1944, the Königsblauen went on to reach every national final but one up until 1942.

The most memorable occasion, with Kuzorra and Szepan still starring and scoring, was probably the replayed decider of 1938, crowds of 90,000-plus twice filling Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the high-scoring clashes with Hannover, 3-3 and 3-4. The pair last appeared at the national final in 1942, by which time Viennese clubs were part of the German football set-up.

Schalke’s decade-long domination of the German game suited the Nazi régime perfectly, of course. Not only was this a club with cast-iron working-class credentials but its stars had their roots in areas of the Reich where strong anti-Polish sentiment had been fomented. The coal mines of Gelsenkirchen had employed significant numbers of Poles in the early 1900s – second-generation Poles Kuzorra and Szepan were both assimilated  into German life and culture.

The high point came in 1937, when the later-named Breslau Eleven, captained and orchestrated by Szepan, gave a stunning demonstration of football in Germany’s 8-0 thrashing of Denmark. Today the setting is called Wrocław and is no longer part of Germany. 

After the war, both Szepan and Kuzorra saw out their playing careers at Schalke, both having started in the same season, 1924-25, and ended it together, a quarter of a century later, with a friendly against Atlético Mineiro of Brazil.

Szepan was then coach of Schalke, before leading Rot-Weiss Essen to the title in 1955, which in turn meant that he became the first manager of a German club to compete in the European Cup. Schmidt continued as coach elsewhere, most successfully at Borussia Dortmund in the 1950s.

With Gelsenkirchen and the Kampfbahn GlückAuf in ruins, Schalke took longer to emerge from the war than many of their rivals, playing all games away, sometimes for food rather than local currency. Competing in the inaugural post-war Oberliga West in 1947-48, Schalke initially struggled but won the regional title in 1951.

By then, the old ground was back in use. As the effects of Germany’s economic miracle impacted everyday life, so crowds returned in numbers. In 1956, floodlights were added to Schalke’s stadium. There was another link to the pre-war glory days: the Klodt brothers, goalkeeper Hans, who played in national finals for Schalke from 1937 onwards, and striker Berni, who made his senior debut in 1943 at the age of 16.

Both won several caps for Germany, Berni Klodt in the original first XI at the 1954 World Cup before being replaced by the eventual hero in the final, Helmut Rahn. His Schalke team came within 0.666 league points of making the national final in 1956 then, with Klodt top scorer, won the title two years later.

Overshadowing a young Uwe Seeler at the other end, Berni Klodt hit two in the 3-0 win over Hamburg, the 1958 crown Schalke’s first since 1942 – and last to date. It also provided passage to the European Cup, in which Schalke overcame an illlustrious Wolves side in front of 43,000 at the Kampfbahn GlückAuf, only to succumb to Atlético Madrid in front of 110,000 at Real’s Bernabéu.

Founder members of the Bundesliga in 1963, Schalke failed to shine despite the arrival of a mercurial young winger in Reinhard ‘Stan’ LIbuda. Sold to Borussia Dortmund in 1965, where he went on to hit a wonder goal to win Schalke’s rivals the Cup Winners’ Cup, Gelsenkirchen-born Libuda returned to his home-town club. A regular for West Germany by then, Libuda was a key member of Helmut Schön’s team that claimed third spot at the 1970 World Cup. 

A year later, Libuda was implicated in the bribery scandal that rocked German football. Although he was far from the only player to be fined and suspended as the revelations of match-fixing touched more than half the clubs in the Bundesliga, this former Schalke youth player was the most affected. Away from Schalke for a single season, he returned but soon retired. Unemployed and drinking too much, he was given work at Ernst Kuzorra’s tobacconist’s. He died in 1996, only 52.

Schalke played their last game at the Kampfbahn Glückauf in 1973. Built to co-host the 1974 World Cup, the Parkstadion was located north of the old venue in a greenbelt area towards Buer. Holding 62,000, it staged five games, including Yugoslavia’s 9-0 thrashing of Zaire and Holland’s sublime 4-0 demolition of Argentina.

Schalke, too, notched up goals aplenty, bouncing back thanks to the prolific strike duo of Gelsenkirchen-born Rüdiger Abramczik, the Bundesliga’s youngest ever player when made his debut in 1973, and Klaus Fischer. Known for his bicycle kicks, not least in the one that took the 1982 World Cup semi-final to penalties, Fischer hit four in Schalke’s 7-0 whitewash of European champions Bayern Munich in 1976. 

Another scorer that day was Erwin Kremers, who starred for Schalke with his twin brother, Helmut, both also German internationals. With Schalke back in the hunt after a lean period, the Königsblauen picked up their first German Cup since the war, the 5-0 win over Kaiserslautern featuring a brace from Kremers – Helmut Kremers, the defender of the duo.

Schalke had already competed in the Cup Winners’ Cup, the losing domestic finalists of 1969 reaching the semi-finals a year later only to be defeated by eventual winners Manchester City. Making regular forays into Europe through the 1970s, Schalke had to wait nearly 20 years before their next adventure, but it proved to be a memorable one.

Spending much of the 1980s in the lower tier, the club had been revived by flashy owner Günter Eichberg, elevating Schalke back to the Bundesliga but leaving behind a pile of debt before he swanned off to Florida. In his place came meat mogul Bernd Tönnies.

Eichberg had, at least, brought back cigar-smoking Rudi Assauer as general manager, the former Borussia Dortmund defender an astute, no-nonsense voice in the German game. Persuading 1990 World Cup winner Olaf Thon to return to his home-town club after six years at Bayern, Assauer put together a squad that could compete again in Europe.

The other key hire was Dutch coach Huub Stevens, a former PSV defender plucked from his first senior coaching post at Roda Kerkrade. It proved a masterstroke, for the one-time Dutch international had also spent seven years as head of youth development at his former club in Eindhoven. He knew how to get the best out of raw talent and unsung but ambitious players.

Together, Assauer and Stevens instigated a new golden age at Schalke, just as impressive as its pre-war predecessor, and having to compete with some of the world’s best, too. There were echoes of the Schalke of yore in the resurgence of striker Martin Max, whose family had come over from Poland, whose career was going nowhere at Mönchengladbach and whose belief and technique returned at Schalke.

Schalke’s UEFA Cup campaign of 1996-97 was one of the great European runs, from the Black Sea to the Atlantic, and ending in utter drama at the San Siro. It began with Huub Stevens on the opposition bench at Roda Kerkrade, his team impressing Assauer enough for Schalke to hire the losing manager there and then.

Assauer had also just signed Belgian international midfielder Marc Wilmots, whose quality shone through from the First Round onwards. Orchestrated by captain and sweeper Olaf Thon, a Schalke player par excellence, the’ Königsblauen could also rely on an inspired Jens Lehmann in goal, the later Arsenal star having started his career as a teenager in Gelsenkirchen. A full house at the Parkstadion witnessed the extra-time win over Tenerife to take Schalke to the UEFA Cup final, the last two-legged affair in the tournament.

Facing a star-studded Internazionale, Schalke didn’t buckle at home nor away at the San Siro, despite a late goal from Iván Zamorano to level the aggregate in Italy after Wilmots’ solitary goal in Germany. Lehmann had the last laugh with a simply magnificent penalty save against the Chilean, having held off Roy Hodgson’s Inter for 120 minutes. 

Fittingly, it was Wilmots who settled the spot-kicks, allowing Rudi Assauer to light another cigar and Olaf Thon to lift the trophy. It was an emotional night, one that former owner Eichberg would have enjoyed had Schalke fans not set upon him during a pre-match training session where he had turned up uninvited.

There was more drama four years later when Schalke won the German title – for all of f0ur minutes. Still with the same Huub Stevens/Rudi Assauer steering the ship, Schalke had thrilled in Europe, with tight games against Hajduk Split, Anderlecht and, again Inter, who gained revenge for the 1997 UEFA Cup final by dumping the holders out of the same tournament the following year, after extra-time and on enemy turf.

In the league, Schalke hadn’t had a sniff of the salad bowl since the high-scoring campaign of 1976-77. This would change in astonishing fashion in 2000-01. Going into the last day, perennial champions Bayern were three points ahead of Schalke and only needed a point at Hamburg to secure the title. The Königsblauen required all three at the Parkstadion – the stadium staging its last competitive fixture before it would make way for the Arena AufSchalke later that summer, today’s VELTINS-Arena.

Trailing to lowly visitors Unterhaching, Schalke looked doomed until Jörg Böhme hit two goals in two minutes to send a heaving Parkstadion doolally. Over in Hamburg, a 0-0 scoreline and the fate of the title were overturned in the 90th minute when Bosnian Sergej Barbarez put HSV ahead from close range. 

The news hits Gelsenkirchen. Bedlam. Their game now ended, Schalke have won their first league crown since 1958, ahead of the richest, most titled club in Germany. Fans begin to turn the pitch into a sea of blue. Word goes round! It’s all over! On his feet, Assauer urges calm – and confirmation – as fans and players weep around him.

Then everyone’s attention turns to the huge screen at the Parkstadion, relaying stoppage time from Hamburg. The other game’s not over! Incredibly, lifelong Schalke fan Mathias Schober, former understudy to Lehmann at the Königsblauen and now at Hamburg, had inadvertently picked up a stray back pass. Indirect free-kick in the fatal rectangle. The goalline is a traffic jam. Bayern keeper Oliver Kahn is barging around the opposition box like some wounded buffalo.

Stefan Effenberg, never the most popular of players in German football, gestures to bullish defender Patrik Andersson as they hover over the dead ball, and whispers “Smack it in and we can all go home”. This the Swede duly does, plunging the dagger into 65,000 blue hearts 350km away, agog at the Parkstadion scoreboard. Up in Hamburg, Bayern’s mild-mannered mathematician of a manager Ottmar Hitzfield has lost it on the touchline, Kahn is copulating with the corner flag and Beckenbauer is celebrating with the crowd.

Never in football history, not Aguerooooo, not the La Coruña penalty of ’94, has a league title been so cruelly won and snatched away. And Schalke were the victims. Four days later, Bayern won the Champions League, Andersson missing in the penalty shoot-out. His goal of May 19, 2001, would be his only one in a Bayern shirt. A week later, Jörg Böhme hit another brace to win Schalke the German Cup at the Olympiastadion.

While the events of May 2001 would live long in the memory, the event of August 2001 would have a greater effect. Overseen by Rudi Assauer, the construction of a new stadium would take Schalke into the new century, owning their own home and dictating their own fate. It would also saddle the club with a debt of around €200 million, depending on which newspaper was revealing the ugly truth of the club’s finances. Rumours that Assauer had been passing on information cost the influential manager his job.

Still, there was Champions League football, first in 2001, and then again in 2005, after fans’ favourite Gerald Asamoah enjoyed his best season for Schalke and Germany. Huub Stevens had moved on, and it was later RB Leipzig supremo Ralf Rangnick who oversaw the titanic clashes with PSV and AC Milan in the Champions League.

With Assauer out of the picture and owner Bernd Tönnies dead at 42 in 1994, it was down to his younger brother Clemens to run the club and Germany’s biggest meat business, no small undertaking. In addition, the billionaire was at constant loggerheads in the company boardroom with his nephew, Robert.

Having to service Schalke’s huge debt and keep apace in the Bundesliga and in Europe, Clemens Tönnies was always in need of significant sums of money.  One man could help him keep these plates spinning: Vladimir Putin. Signing a sponsorship deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom in 2007, Schalke had the wherewithal to bring the likes of Ivan Rakitić to the club, then a promising teenager.

This kept the Königsblauen in the hunt, beating Porto on penalties to face Barcelona, and a narrow defeat in the Champions League quarter-final of 2008. Narrow defeats in both legs  Upping the ante in 2010, Tönnies persuaded an ageing Raúl to abandon everything he’d ever known at Real Madrid and come to Gelsenkirchen. At the same time, Rakitić was offloaded to Sevilla for half the fee Schalke had paid Basel for him. The Swiss-Croat, of course, went on to star in the all-conquering Barça side of the 2010s.

Coach Ralf Rangnick returned to lead Schalke to the Champions League semi-final in 2011, after an unexpected 5-2 win in the San Siro over Internazionale in the quarter-final, Raúl scoring in both legs. Dreams of a European final were dashed by Manchester United, who showed Schalke that there was more to the elite level than the signing of marquee stars for a couple of seasons.

Nevertheless, Schalke could still produce its own top-quality players, young prodigy Julian Draxler most catching the eye, his speed and shooting taking Schalke to a Champions League spot before he was called upon for national duty in Germany’s successful World Cup campaign. Supplying the pass to Draxler for the so-called €20 million goal in the Champions League play-off was another teenage prodigy, Max Meyer, burdened with wearing Raúl’s number 7 shirt.

Tellingly, Draxler was then sold on to Wolfsburg for €36 million in 2015. The period in between proved to be the most consistently successful in Schalke’s history since the 1930s, finishing top six in the Bundesliga for five seasons running. Scoring the goals was prolific Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, salvaged from a miserable time at Milan in 2010. 

The run meant regular appearances in the Champions League, with easy wins over Steaua Bucharest and Basel, and tonkings by Chelsea and Real Madrid. When the crunch came in the knock-out stages, against Galatasaray in 2013 and Real again in 2015, Schalke didn’t quite have enough.

With Huntelaar now just off the pace, Schalke struggled for goals. Max Meyer had been shifted to defensive midfield, a very promising Leon Goretzka was often injured and Argentine striker Franco Di Santo performed far better at the club he abandoned, Werder Bremen. 

Schalke had one last decent domestic season in them, 2017-18, featuring a stirring fightback in the Revierderby at Dortmund, pegged back to 4-4, and one more throw of the dice in the Champions League, both under young coach Domenico Tedesco. Then owner Clemens Tönnies lost the plot, even before the pandemic decimated his meat business and removed the club’s considerable match-day income. 

After his controversial speech disparaging Africans drew justifiable criticism, an outbreak of the Coronavirus at one of his factories, under suspicion for its working practices, led to Schalke fans forming a human chain around it. In August 2020, Tönnies was out, thus ending a quarter-century connection between Schalke and one of the richest family-run firms in Germany, with strong personal ties to Vladimir Putin.

Despite the efforts of German-American manager David Wagner, Schalke were now in deep trouble. Clutching at straws to find a coach who could stem record-breaking runs of defeats, bringing back the veteran Huntelaar, Schalke were a study in sorry incompetence in 2020-21. Relegation was a relief.

Despite disruption around the boardroom and the breaking of the Gazprom sponsorship contract after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Schalke bounced back straight away, buoyed by the efficacy of experienced Simon Terodde in front of goal.

Out of their depth in the Bundesliga, Schalke then struggled in the second tier in 2023-24, an uninspiring squad of journeyman players suggesting a long stay out of the limelight for the Königsblauen – and a long queue of creditors getting longer.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

A stage for the World Cup 2006, a Champions League final and Euro 2024, the VELTINS-Arena is a multi-functional (speedway, ice hockey, American football) venue that replaced the Parkstadion adjacent to the same site in 2001.

The Parkstadion had replaced the legendary Kampfbahn Glückauf in 1973, the pre-war ground still hallowed turf for Schalke followers. Schalke were unbeaten there for 11 years – admittedly, playing teams they towered above in the Westphalia division, but the close ties between the packed crowds and the players, all born and raised in or near Gelsenkirchen, are the foundations for the club’s evergreen legacy.

The ground, halfway between the centre of Gelsenkirchen and today’s VELTINS-Arena, was specifically selected as the fan zone for the 2006 World Cup for very good reason. It was here, nearly 80 years after the Glückauf opened in 1928, that Schalke supporters decided to form an organisation to offer themed football tours through Gelsenkirchen, a city steeped in soccer history.

Before 1928, the club used a modest pitch on Grenzstraße, the cross-street that formed the border between the centre of Gelsenkirchen and the area of Schalke north of it. With Schalke’s populist following, originally the Glückauf – one miner’s greeting to another – was going to be all-standing.

A stand for 1,200 privileged spectators was added, almost reluctantly, the top-paying spectators glad of the safety when 70,000 squeezed into the ground for a friendly with local rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf in 1931. Capacity was 34,000.

Schalke played at the Glückauf for a whole ten years after the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963, World Cup stars such as Reinhard Libuda, Klaus Fischer and Willi Schulz cheered on by a crowd clustered right around them, just like the 1930s.

The Parkstadion was obviously long overdue, but its setting, surrounded by the flat greenery of residential Erle beside the A2 Autobahn linking the Ruhr to Berlin, could not have been a greater contrast. There was no denying its functionality, however, hosting five games at the 1974 World Cup, two at Euro 1988, including Ireland’s defeat to Holland, and eight internationals, all of which die Mannschaft won or drew. 

And for a send-off, as the Arena AufSchalke was almost completed next door, you couldn’t have asked for anything as dramatic as the final league game of the 2000-01 campaign, Schalke fans swarming the pitch in the four-minute belief that the Königsblauen had just won the title. Reduced and rebuilt, the Parkstadion is today home to Schalke’s reserve and youth teams.

A few hundred metres south, the new stadium, to gain the sponsors’ name of the VELTINS-Arena, reverting to the Arena AufSchalke for major tournaments, was designed with the contemporary game in mind. A capacity of 62,000 for Schalke games can be converted for international matches by replacing the 16,000 places in the home Nordkurve with seats for an overall 54,000 gate. 

Both pitch and roof are retractable. As well as huge video screens, the stadium features a superb club museum and a 5km pipeline of beer (Veltins, natürlich) that dispenses 50,000 litres on match days.

Visiting supporters are allocated blocks V and W in the corner of the STÖLTING-Südtribüne and the Osttribüne. If required, they may also occupy the upper tiers above, odd-numbered blocks 55-65, even-numbered 56-66. The press area is in the premium Westtribüne, above the business seats – the VELTINS-Arena is both corporate and passionate, while the Parkstadion was neither.

getting here

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

S-Bahn 302 leaves the lower level of Gelsenkirchen station every 10-15 mins from platform 1 (right at the bottom of the escalator), direction Buer Rathaus. It’s 12 stops to Veltins-Arena and takes 15 minutes. Match-ticket holders travel there and back free, anywhere on the VRR network – otherwise you need an Einzelticket Preisstufe A (€3.30) from the machine upstairs. 

The main Schalke bars are by Ernst-Kuzorra-Platz, eight stops from the station. Once you get to Veltins-Arena statlon, cross over the high walkway and veer right.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets can be bought after free registration online. The main information outlet is the S04-Servicecenter (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, match days) by the training pitch and Charly’s Schalker bar on Ernst-Kuzorra-Weg. Alternatively, you can email service@schalke04.de.

Visiting fans pay €26 for a seat in sectors V or W in the Südkurve. A seat higher up behind either goal is €31, €41.50 lower down. The best seats are €52. Standing places (€15.50) in the Veltins-Nordkurve are invariably taken.

Students and spectators aged 13-26 get discounted ‘Jugend’ rates, €20-€32.50 for seats in most parts of the ground, €42 for prime spots, €12 to stand. Children (‘Kind’) up to 12 are charged €9 to stand, €15.50-€24.50 to sit around the ground, €31 in the best seats.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Schalke oversee three shops, two in Gelsenkirchen, one on the north side of the training pitch (Ernst-Kuzorra-Weg 1, Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-2pm, home games until kick-off) and one in town (Ahstraße 4/Heinrich-König-Platz, Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-2pm, match days up to 6pm).

The current iteration of the storied royal blue comes with a traditional V-necked white collar and cuffs. Away kit is white with sky-blue sleeves and shoulders. Third-choice is black with a royal-blue chevron topped with white over the chest.

Branded seat covers carry the message ‘Glück auf!’, Santa hats come in royal blue, as do Christmas decorations.

Museum & tours

Explore the club inside and out

Arena tours (€9) last 75 minutes and take place at least twice most afternoons. They allow free access to the wonderful Schalke Museum (Tue-Sun 10am-5pm; museum only €5/under-6s €3), where tours start, from stairwell 12, entrance WEST-1. Tours take in the Schalke dressing room, the media area, the stadium chapel and the players’ tunnel designed like one once used by miners.

Tours led by Schalke legends Olaf Thon or Klaus Fischer (€19) can also be booked. While you need to book your appointment time online, you pay (contactless only) when you arrive.

In the Schalke Museum, German-speakers will love original interviews with old stars, even as far back as Ernst Kuzorra, while everyone can enjoy the pre-war archive footage, and 500 exhibits of original shirts, match posters and trophies. Note also the stadium corner, showing the club’s homes from the Kampfbahn Glückauf to the Parkstadion through to the VELTINS-Arena.

The Kampfbahn Glückauf is one of the highlights of the Mythos Tour, one of several guided by lifelong Schalke fan Olivier Kruschinski, whose foundation set up the Schalker Meile from Berlin Bridge to the old ground and the sights around it.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Two classic spots sit along Kurt-Schumacher-Straße at Ernst-Kuzorra-Platz, near the old ground four tram stops from the stadium. Auf Schalke at No.119 is party central pre-match, a DJ spinning booming club songs to two packed rooms bedecked with Schalke imagery. 

Further up at No.143, officially located at Ernst-Kuzorra-Platz 1, the traditional Vereinslokal S04 Bosch offers a taste of the pre-war days, with related imagery decorating the wooden interior. This really was the post-training local for Ernst Kuzorra and his team-mates – a small plaque marks his Stammtisch. 

At the stadium, the best choice is Charly’s Schalker, by the training pitch on Ernst-Kuzorra-Weg, with a tasteful display of Schalke history on the walls and a terrace overlooking the training-ground turf. 

If you just want a quiet pre-match meal somewhere, the Bistro aufSchalke at Parkallee 1 beside the stay by Friends hotel belongs to a local educational institute and opens for home games and during the week. By the multiplex at the other end of the stadium, the Café Del Sol at Adenauerallee 128 serves Krombacher beer of all colours and strengths, as well as crowd-pleasing dishes.

Around the stadium, payment at the many outlets for beer – VELTINS, of course, brewed in nearby Grevenstein since 1824 – is contactless.