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Gelsenkirchen – Fans of German football club Schalke will soon be able to book their ticket for a final resting place near the stadium, where a cemetery for fans is being built.
The first burials are expected in December after construction of the Schalke Fans Field is completed on a site some 1.2 kilometres from the Veltins-Arena, close enough to hear fan chants during home games.
Ender Ulupinar, a former player for Schalke's amateur team who is managing the project, says he has already received hundreds of inquiries and requests for reservations at the stadium-shaped cemetery.
“What really surprised me is that not only supporters from here in Gelsenkirchen contacted us but also from Oranienburg (north of Berlin),” said Ulupinar.
The cemetery will feature a pitch with two smaller sized goals, floddlight towers and an S04 sign made of heather plants.
Artificial turf is out of the question as Ulupinar insists that “nature belongs on a cemetery.”
Ulupinar, 39, always dreamt of playing for Schalke but when his Turkish immigrant parents frowned upon the idea he completed school and became a manager of several themed cemeteries. His wife runs a landscape architecture company which also helps setting up the cemetery.
In nearby Dortmund, Ulupinar received a request from a Borussia Dortmund fan to be buried at a Christian cemetery in the city with a BVB logo instead of a crucifix on the headstone. The will could not be fulfilled because of opposition from the church.
Torsten Schmitt, a lawyer for a burial service company, says they strive to fulfil the wills of customers but this is not always possible.
“This includes taking into consideration the neighbours. In a cemetery, the relatives of other deceased are also affected,” he said.
This is not a problem at the 4,000-square-metre cemetery for Schalke fans, where all deceased fans and their families are united by their love for the club. In total, 1,904 fans can be laid to rest there, the number coming from Schalke's foundation in 1904.
Schalke will not make any profit from the cemetery which was conceived by Ulupinar in 2007. He has a free licence to use the club's logo at the cemetery.
“My idea to build this communal cemetery has only worked because I got all the parties involved in the club, the fans, the churches in Gelsenkirchen and the foundation 'Schalke helps,'“ said Ulupinar. – Sapa-dpa