Freefalling (KFC Uerdingen)

The Grotenburg-Stadion has a long history having first been opened in 1927 when athletics and handball held sway over football. Although an early football match between a combined Krefeld team and Dukla Prague had taken place at the Grotenburg, Uerdingen did not play regularly at the stadium until they joined the Regionalliga West for the first time in 1971. The stadium was completely rebuilt between 1980 and 1986, with the main West Stand being the built in just eight weeks at a cost in excess of six million Deutschmarks. Both current sides and the two ends date from this period as the rebuild saw the removal of the athletics track. In fact the oldest part of the stadium are the magnificent floodlights which first saw service in 1976. The most recent addition to the Grotenburg was the huge and impressive scoreboard at the Zoo end.

FC Uerdingen 05 had been a relatively modest club before World War II and it was a merger of convenience during the war years with VfB 1910 Uerdingen that pre-empted a rise to prominence. The two clubs went their own ways after fielding the combined team in the war leagues but in 1953 FC Uerdingen would merge once again. This time they merged with Werkssportgruppe Bayer AG Uerdingen, the sports wing of the hugely successful chemical company Bayer AG.

Having spent their entire existence in the amateur league the newly renamed FC Bayer Uerdingen 05 quickly rose to the then third tier Amateurliga Niederrhein. By 1971 they were promoted to the second tier which saw them leave Uerdingen for the Grotenburg in nearby Krefeld. Four years later Uerdingen were in the top flight for the first time. However, it was the 1980’s that proved to be Uerdingen’s halcyon period. First came a DFB-Pokal final victory when Bayern Munich were beaten 2-1 in Berlin in 1985. The following season saw a best ever third place finish in the Bundesliga and a run to the semi-final of the European Cup-Winners-Cup. After beating Zurrieq (12-0 on aggregate) and Galatasaray (3-1), Uerdingen were drawn against Dynamo Dresden in the quarter final. The first leg in East Germany had been lost 0-2 and Uerdingen found themselves 3-1 down at half time at the Grotenburg. Manager Karl-Heinz Feldkamp must have performed some sort of miracle at half time as his troops rattled in six goals in the second half to win 7-3. The game was described by top German football magazine 11 Freunde as the greatest match ever played. Sadly the glory ended there as Atlético Madrid beat them 4-2 on aggregate in the semi-final. The 1980’s success was reflected in the club’s youth teams, in 1987 the under 19’s and under 17’s both won their respective championships, Uerdingen becoming the first club to achieve this feat.

The turn of the 1990’s saw an end to the success, the club flitted between the first and second tier and, crucially, at the end of the 1994/95 season Bayer withdrew their funding completely. 1995/96 was the clubs’ first as Krefelder Football Club Uerdingen 05, and their last as a Bundesliga. The club has been pretty much in freefall ever since, consumed by financial problems. With German football restructured in 2008 to create 3.Liga, Uerdingen found themselves in level six, the Verbandsliga, where they stayed for three seasons. Having climbed briefly back to the Regionalliga the club will compete this season in the fifth level Oberliga Niederrhein.

Today’s game was one of those strange early season regional Verbandspokal that randomly pitches the tiniest of Kreisliga clubs, who often play on nothing more than clay or cinder pitches, against pretty heavyweight opposition. In this case a tiny club from a Krefelder suburb, Bockum, got to play at the town’s biggest stadium, the 34,500 capacity Grotenburg-Stadion. The bigger clubs generally will use this sort of game as shooting practice in a competitive scenario rather than a friendly. It is very much a case of not if Uerdingen would win but by how many. With all of three minutes on the clock Kai Schmidt opened the scoring and would go on to score five before being substituted.

A near 2,000 crowd looking a little lost in this cavernous venue, but the gathering enjoyed twelve unanswered goals in probably the most one sided game I have ever seen. The Uerdingen goalkeeper, Daniel Schwabke, touched the ball just five times in the 90 minutes, four of those merely to field back passes from team mates given in order to insure he hadn’t dozed off from prolonged inactivity.

What happened to Uerdingen when Bayer pulled the plug is a really salutary lesson in relying so heavily on one backer. The Grotenberg is a huge and wonderful arena built in far more prosperous times, sadly its vast stands and melancholically empty swathes of monstrous terracing are never likely to creak to anywhere near capacity. And that is the real tragedy of Uerdingen.

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Niederrheinpokal 1st Round – 09/08/2015

KFC Uerdingen 12 (Schmidt 3, 42, pen 45, 50, 51, Sekkour 20, Fahrian 31, Gerstmann 34, Hirsch 53, Ellguth 71, Kubo 80, 81)

TSV Bockum 0

Att: 1,930 (at Grotenburg-Stadion)

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Uerdingen ticket

 

 

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