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TRAINING CAMP DIARY DAY 7: GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES

Training camp in Herzlake – FC St Pauli's pre-season preparations are underway! What goes on during the energy-sapping workouts and friendlies? And what happens in between? Each day, Colin from the club's media team brings you an informative and sometimes irreverent look at what it's like to be in training camp.

When I opened the curtains in my hotel room to usher in the day on Sunday morning, a pigeon was perched on the front of the balcony as calm as you like, staring into the distance. Perhaps it was seeking shelter, as it was raining cats and dogs. My opening the window startled the pigeon, however, and off it flew. It must have been there a while, or have kept coming back, because the balcony was full of… well, I'll leave the rest to you. I, for my part, was left hoping it wasn't a bad omen for the rest of the day.

After the morning core session and an extensive breakfast, the players took to the training ground. The prime northern German weather was just made for throwing yourself around the goalmouth or invoking memories of Walter Frosch with a sliding tackle on the rain-soaked surface. Lars Ritzka launched himself into one in an attempt to keep the ball in a play during a game of five against two. Rumour has it he's still sliding – aquaplaning olé.

In among them all, the lifeguard. Otherwise known as Timo Schultz, whistle round his neck, barking out set piece instructions in the pouring rain. No diving into the pool here! Little did the players know, but the real fun and games were still to come. For instead of another session in the afternoon, a mystery trip had been lined up for them *drum roll*.

It got racy, in the true sense of the word, and wet – though that was more to do with the weather than the activity itself – as the destination was a go-kart track in Dankern to the north of Meppen. Now my driving skills on these diminutive beasts are rather limited, though better than at Mario Kart on Nintendo, of course. So which of the Boys in Brown would make the podium?

The delegation was divided into three groups A, B and C. An eight-minute qualifying round was followed by the race itself, which was run over 12 minutes and with the times counting to their final score. I was in the first group along with some genuine pros such as Maximilian Dittgen, Guido Burgstaller, Marvin Knoll and performance coach Karim Rashwan, all of whom made the final.

After receiving our instructions, we went over to the karts. The only thing missing on the grid was the little guy in the funny cloud and the traffic light from Mario Kart. A brief flashback to long forgotten childhood days – fantastic! To begin with, we had ample time to practice. These small petrol-engine karts are definitely not to be underestimated. They can do up to 70 km/h, so you can really put your foot down. Though one or two players let ambition get the better of them on track, there's no need for concern. No one came to grief, though some did the clip the odd advertising board on their way round – me included.

My group had the misfortune of having to deal with a heavy cloudburst during the final qualifying laps. Where was the windscreen wiper for the helmet visor? I'm sure I wasn't the only one who could have done with one. You could tell the difference right away in the corners. The track surface was really greasy, and the pouring rain and the wind slapped against your wet skin, especially when you picked up speed on the straights. Yet despite the trials and tribulations, it was such a blast.

I then had the pleasure of watching some gripping duels as a spectator, such as the one between Christopher Buchtmann and Leart Paqarada. Both of them made the final, along with the lads already mentioned earlier plus Jakov Medić, Luca Zander, James Lawrence, Lukas Daschner, osteopath Florian Lechner and assistant coach Fabian Hürzeler.

So, what do you reckon? Who made the running to take his place on top of the podium? In an exciting battle for every second, back in dry conditions fortunately, Luca Zander raced to the front to claim victory ahead of Christopher Buchtmann and Leart Paqarada. Congratulations!

By the way, and simply for the record, I finished ninth out of 12 in my group. "Oh, mamma mia," as good old Super Mario might have said to my final placing. Better to try again on the console – it'll be drier, that's for sure.

Photos: FC St. Pauli

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