Late December Back In ’59 (ETB Schwarz-Weiß Essen)

Essener Turnerbund (ETB) was a gymnastics club formed in 1881 although the football wing, ETB Schwarz-Weiß Essen, wasn’t formalised until 1900. As with many embryonic German clubs finding a suitable place to stage games wasn’t easy and initially the members fashioned a playable surface from a disused brick field at the Ernestine colliery in Essen-Stoppenberg.

In 1903 the club moved to a field in Kruppstraße and ten years later to an existing site in Meisenburgstraße which was home to Fortuna Bredeney. Schwarz-Weiß invested 50,000 Deutschmarks in the facility, capital raised from a share issue and generous donations. By 1914 Meisenburgstraße was good enough to host an international match between Germany and the Netherlands.

The club grew rapidly and had great success in the Ruhrgau championship. In 1922 the club made a momentous decision to construct its own stadium as Meisenburgstraße would only ever be leased to them. Despite the City of Essen failing to deliver money promised to the club for the new stadium, the 3,500 members at the time raised an astonishing 750,000 DM in order to purchase a large area of land which became the Uhlenkrugstadion. In a time when wood was king grandstand construction Schwarz-Weiß lavishly invested in a large stand built from iron. It was the most modern stadium in all of Germany and the club became a household name, attracting a visit from MTK Budapest in 1925 and competing in a high profile tournament in Paris in 1932 that featured Red Star and Kispest Budapest (Honvéd).

Schwarz-Weiß were assigned to the Gauliga Niederrhein when German football was reorganised by the Third Reich and were unlucky to finish runners up to Fortuna Düsseldorf for three consecutive seasons from 1938 to 1940. The stadium capacity was expanded further in the war years and in 1951 held 45,000 people as Germany took on Luxembourg.

The 1950’s were a purple patch for the club which culminated in the greatest achievement to date, winning the DFB Pokal in 1959. ETB beat Westfalia Herne, Hertha BSC and Hamburger SV before beating Borussia Neunkirchen 5-2 in the final, staged in front of 20,000 people at the Auestadion in Kassel. With neighbours Rot-Weiß Essen having won the DFB Pokal six years early it meant that Essen became only the second German city to provide two Pokal winners, Munich being the other (Bayern 19 wins and 1860 twice)

The advent of the Bundesliga in 1963 saw ETB excluded from the new set up and consigned to the Regionalliga West. It was the period which saw city rivals Rot-Weiß Essen overtook them as the city’s senior club. ETB would run into serious financial problems in the early 1970’s and were forced to sell the stadium to the City of Essen to survive. The stadium had deteriorated so badly the the DFB decreed it wasn’t fit for second tier games and for a while ETB played home games at the Essen Grugastadion.

Fortunately the City of Essen funded renovations and the Uhlenkrugstadion was soon hosting football again. ETB were last in the 2.Bundesliga in 1978 and nowadays lurk in the fifth tier Oberliga Niederrhein. The Uhlenkrugstadion still has delicious swathes of open terracing but the City have once again announced plans to upgrade the stadium with a new grandstand. In many ways it will be a shame as the old stand is not in bad condition and is rather unusual. It also has a secret under stand drinking den at the far end.

Today’s game has a rather end of season feel to it with the hosts rarely getting out of first gear. Visitors, TuRU Düsseldorf, canter to an easy win including a quite sumptuous free kick towards the end.

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Sunday May 19th 2019 – Oberliga Niederrhein

ETB Schwarz-Weiß Essen 0
TuRU Düsseldorf 2 (Ucar 76, Munoz-Bonilla 84)

Att:258 (at Uhlenkrugstadion)

Entry €8, no programme

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Rheydt On Time (Rheydter SV)

Rheydter Spielverein (pronounced Ride-ter) were formed in 1905 by members of the Rheydter Turnverein, a gymnastics club formed in 1847. The gymnastics club refused to diverge into football so a separate club was formed which nowadays not only maintains a football club it has handball, tennis, table tennis and hockey sections. Within three years of forming the club had won the Rheinisch-Westfälische district league.

The club are based in the outskirts of Mönchengladbach and have played at the incredible Jahnstadion since September 1922. During its heyday, following expansion in 1947, the stadium could accommodate 40,000 spectators. In 1950 Rheydter had reached the top level of German football, the Oberliga West, and enjoyed a further season at that level in 1954.

The club steadily declined from this heady zenith and the Jahnstadion grew older in the way only football stadiums can. The terraces began crumbling and became overgrown with moss and other vegetation. At one end of the ground the war memorial with the names of fifty odd lost sons grew a little more faded. The only cosmetic change to it came in the mid 1990’s when RSV acquired the scoreboard from Borussia’s old Bökelberg Stadion and it was sited on the opposite end to the memorial. Times grew tougher for RSV and they eventually sold the scoreboard back to Borussia so it could be used by their second team whose home games are played in the Grenzlandstadion, an athletics stadium next to the Jahnstadion. It still has vintage floodlights which emit a strangely ethereal greeny/orange glow and look like it they would fry anything that happens to fly too close to them.

RSV last played at level five of German football in season 2002/03 when a sixteen season stay in the now obsolete Oberliga Nordrhein ended in a bottom place finish. More recently the club has been toling away in the murky depths of the Bezirksliga, the seventh level of German football. With home games rarely in three figures these days the local authorities have decided there is no longer a need for such a vast stadium in Rheydt, albeit these days with a reduced capacity of 20,000. The plan is to renovate the main stand and effectively have a one sided ground with all the terracing removed. This will make space for two full size artificial pitches for the club which will see new revenue streams open up.

While it was initially stated the work would begin at the end of the 2018/19 season the club have been told they will be staying put at least until the end of 2019. So if you want to see this magnificent relic before it’s substantial reduced in size and appeal make sure you visit before Christmas. For an old stadium romantic like me the planned downsizing will be an act of social vandalism, terracing is as elemental to a grandstand as the sun is to rain.

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Friday May 17th 2019 – Bezirksliga Niederrhein Gruppe 3

Rheydter SV 2 (Berberoglu 24, Haklaj 58)
SV Schwafheim 3 (Boyacilar 40, Derikx pen 70, Hilla 71)

Att:138 (at RSV-Stadion)

Entry €5, free programme

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Part Of The Union (HFC Falke)

Hamburger FC Falke were formed in 2014 by disillusioned fans of Hamburger SV. Frustrated by the over commercialisation of their club they took a lead from the success of the FC United of Manchester club who have rapidly climbed climbed the ladder in England and have also built their own ground at Broadhurst Park. Falke are completely fan owned and financed.

They give an interesting account of how they found a suitable ground to use, not yet having the means to build their own. They considered a number of factors and grounds with artificial surfaces were immediately ruled out for aesthetic reasons. Limiting their scope in this way saw the fledgling board cast their net all around the Hamburg area for a club willing to share their natural grass pitch. They also wanted a clubhouse on site, sufficient capacity and a “facility with charm”.

One club that responded positively were SC Union 03 Altona, whose fantastic home at the Rudi Barth Sportplatz in Waidmannstraße ticked all of Falke’s boxes. They had previously sublet to the second team of Sankt Pauli so talks were held, and as the fit seemed right for both parties, a lease was duly signed for Falke’s first season in 2015/16. The Rudi Barth Sportplatz has a decent clubhouse, opened in September 1961, and the pitch is surrounded on three sides by steep terracing and a listed capacity of 6,500. The stadium takes its name from Rudolf Barth who was elected to the board of Union 03 in 1906 at the tender age of just 16. He would serve Union in numerous capacities for over 50 years. Originally Union had played in Langenfelde but had quickly moved to a better facility adjacent to the old Kaltenkirchener station. While they still attracted big crowds the ground never really recovered from losing the grandstand totally destroyed in the 1943 air raids, a fateful occasion as Union also lost all their club records. Eventually , this area was cleared when the current parcel sorting office was built in Kaltenkirchener Platz. Union were offered a piece of land a little to north of their old ground which became the Rudi Barth Sportplatz.

Union 03 were a major force in the 1920’s, qualifying for the North German championship round nine times and boasting a membership in excess of 2,000 people. They also played at a high level in the post World War II seasons but by 1963 when German football was reorganised, Union failed to qualify for the Oberliga Nord. This precipitated a sharp decline for Union who by the turn of the millennium had asked Altona ‘93 about a possible merger, a request that ultimately failed. Union struggled on and by 2012 had sunk as low as the ninth tier Kreisliga, although they soon won promotion to the Bezirksliga West they will be in the Kreisliga again in 1919/20 having finished nine points adrift at the bottom of the table this season.

HFC Falke though are heading in the opposite direction winning Kriesliga 2 in their first season they are competing in the Bezirksliga Nord this season. At the start of this season Falke welcomed Dulwich Hamlet in a pre-season friendly played at SC Nienstedten. Falke are riding high in the table when the reserves of Victoria Hamburg arrive for this morning’s game. After getting out the at Diebstiech S-Bahn station its a five minute walk to the stadium where entry is €5 and a further 50 cents gets you a very decent glossy programme. It’s immediately obvious that the Falke fans have tried to do something different and have cultivated a very friendly social vibe to attending a football match. There is a well stocked merchandise stall and a DJ plays some vintage 70’s and 80’s music from the likes of Buzzcocks, The Members, Cock Sparrer and the UK Subs! There is, of course, a barbeque and beer tent but also a pop up homemade cider stall and pétanque style game set up to encourage the social aspect. It has worked well, there are nearly 300 people enjoying the early morning sun including a higher than average proportion of women and children. Something good is building with Falke and the team continue to climb, going top of the table with a 2-0 goals with both goals coming in the last seven minutes of the match.

Footnote

HFC Falke have the motto “dankbar rückwärts mutig vorwärts” which translates as “grateful backwards, courageously forwards” so it’s a shame to say the season petered out someone with the club finishing third and missing a promotion spot on goal difference. The club also announced after four happy seasons at the Rudi Barth Sportplatz they will spend the 2019/20 season at least at the Sportzentrum Steinwiesenweg, home of SV Krupunder/Lohkamp. They also marked their fifth birthday with another prestigious friendly against Belgian side YB SK Beveren on July 13th.IMG_4964
Saturday April 6th 2019 – Bezirksliga Nord

HFC Falke 2 (Nicolae 83, Schönfeld 89)
SC Victoria Hamburg II 0

Att:290 (at Rudi Barth Sportplatz)

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The original version of this article was published in issue 31 of STAND fanzine.

Hunter Of The Lost Pennies (Altona ’93)

The Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn was opened in Griegstraße in August 1908, just three years after Germany’s oldest stadium, the Waldau-Stadion home of Stuttgarter Kickers. The club were formed in 1893 as Altonaer Cricket Club and were Northern German champions in 1909 and 1914. They played continuously in Germany’s top level from 1918 to the end of the Second World War. The Third Reich then reorganised German football into 16 regional Gauligas.

The 50’s and 60’s were something of a heyday for the club, playing in the then top tier Oberliga Nord. They would finish third in the league in 1953/4 and 1957/8 as well as being DFB Pokal semi-finalists in 1954/55 and 1963/64 losing to Karlsrüher and TSV 1860 München. 1860 needed extra time to defeat Altona, in a match that drew 15,000 to the AJK. These days the Kampfbahn can still accommodate 8,000 people, even with one end partitioned off with new fencing. In more recent years Altona have been coming and going between the fourth and firth tiers. Currently the first team compete in the fifth tier, Oberliga Hamburg.

Once inside, the stadium is just glorious. Massive open terracing which extends well past the goal line attesting to the running track that once surrounded the pitch. The grandstand is huge and looks better for the seating acquired from the old Volksparkstadion in 2001. The players’ tunnel has a floral tribute to Adolf Jäger, Altona’s most famous player. He played for them between 1907 and 1927 and was reputed to have scored over 2,000 goals in his career, which saw him win 16 international caps for Germany. He was 55 when he was killed in Hamburg in 1944 working for bomb sweeping in the city.

The AJK is about a ten minute walk from Bahrenfeld S-Bahn station which itself is bedecked in images from Altona ‘93’s long history. In the well known fan bar adjacent was Jan Stöver, a key mover in Altona’s link up with Dulwich Hamlet, who were also formed in 1893, and editor of their excellent fanzine, “All to Nah”, some editions of which are solely in English. Jan has also done a historical fanzine, which is in German, called “Jäger der verlorenen pfennigs“. This is a clever play on words for the fact that the designer of the iconic German coin, the pfennig, was also called Adolf Jäger.

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Tonight’s game is Altona’s second team in seventh level Bezirksliga Süd action against SV Wilhelmsburg, and costs just €2 for entry. The game is quite remarkable as Altona II, resplendent in their iconic white, black and red kit, race into a 5-2 lead and look totally dominant when the visitors are reduced to ten men. They then start playing considerably better and promptly rattle in three goals to share the spoils in a remarkable 5-5 draw! The open terrace has a veranda for Altona’s ultras group the “Maniacs” even though they are small in number as it’s a reserve game they still create a decent atmosphere. As expected the sausages are top notch.

In 2016 Altona announced plans for a new stadium in nearby Diebsteich, but while this has yet to get off the drawing board, a visit to the AJK is highly recommended for any groundhopper worth their salt!

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Friday April 5th 2019 – Bezirksliga Süd

Altona ‘93 II 5 (Sachs 13,20, Lipke 39, pen 69, Demiral 43)
SV Wilhelmsburg 5 (Kirchner 48, Greff 63, Rejmanowski 85, Pohlmann 89,90+2)

Att: 85 (at Adolf- Jäger- Kampfbahn)

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Casino Royale (SV Kohlscheid)

SV Kohlscheid were formed in 1927 and have somewhat lived in the shadow of the more senior club in the suburb of Herzogenrath of Kohlscheider BC whose formation came some fourteen years prior to SV Kohlscheid.

After a few seasons of both being in the same Kreisliga, Kohlscheider BC have once again become the more senior outfit, competing in the Bezirksliga. While Kohlscheider play across town at the Stadion Oststraße, SV have quietly been building a very acceptable home at their Sportplatz Casinostraße. For many years they had played at the Sportsplatz Forensberg, remembered by an etching in the clubhouse which itself was revamped in 2006. Until 2009 then Casinostraße had a clay pitch but the installation of a “kunstrasenplatz” (artificial pitch) has been a godsend for SV Kohlscheid in terms of youth development and additional revenue streams.

It has been a tough start to the season and the club recently dispensed with the services of their manager after a 6-0 defeat against Fortuna Weisweiler and then a 2-0 defeat to TV Konzen when Kohlscheid managed to score two own goals in a five minute period in the second half.

While the club lie next to bottom in the table there have been the early shoots of a revival under new coach Detlef Baczewski following a dramatic 5-4 win at FC Roetgen. This morning’s visitors are TSV Donnerberg who hold second spot in the league. The visitors are instantly in the ascendancy dominating possession and the hosts soon concede a penalty. Donnerberg take the lead when Marvin Meurer converts the spot kick. The first half ends with a horrendous injury to Kohlscheid’s Daniel Hensel. Initially it looked innocuous, no challenger, Hensel’s body twisted on the pitch but unfortunately his knee stayed in the same place and he collapsed in world of pain. Luckily an ambulance arrived within minutes and the stricken player was carted off to hospital.

Seeing their fallen comrade seemed to have a galvanising effect on the hosts and they really gave Donnerburg a battle in the second half but just could not get the goal their efforts deserved. They don’t look like an outfit with relegation haunting them and on today’s showing they should get enough points in the remainder of the campaign to stay at the top Kreisliga level. For casual visitors to Casinostraße, the club have produced an excellent glossy programme for the last ten seasons.

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Sunday November 8th 2015 – Kreisliga A (Aachen)

SV Kohlscheid (0) 0
TSV Donnerberg (1) 1 (Meurer pen 6)

Att: 91 (at Sportsplatz Casinostraße)

Entry: €2
Programme: Free

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Men Without Hats (FC 08 Homburg-Saar)

When Homburg appeared on the agenda for this trip I immediately made the association to the famous hat of the same name, sported so dashingly by Al Pacino in The Godfather. However, not untypical of Germany more than one town has the same name and the hats come from Bad Homburg in Hesse rather than this sleepy little town in deepest Saarland.

Football Club Homburg were formed in June 1908 and competed in local leagues before making a steady climb to the Regional second division. The club folded in 1936 but months later a new multi sport club, VfL Homburg, were born and football made a rapid return to the town. During World War II the Nazi party disbanded all associations including all football clubs and leagues. The club were allowed to reform as SV Homburg and were placed in the third division of the Saarland amateur championship which they duly won. At the time the Saarland region was occupied by France and, indeed, Homburg’s near neighbours 1.FC Saarbrücken played in the French Second Division at this time. Saarland was eventually returned to Germany after attempts to become part of France or their own independent state, failed. Saarland competed as its own entity at the 1952 Olympics and in qualification for the 1954 World Cup.

After Saarland returned to Germany, FC Homburg as the club was now known, competed in the Saarland Amateur leagues before climbing up to the 2.Bundesliga. Incredibly they won this league in 1985/86 and ascended to the top tier for the first time in their history. After a two season stay the club were relegated but made an immediate return to 1. Bundesliga when they finished runners up to Fortuna Düsseldorf. Aside from beating Bayern München in the DFB Pokal in 1991 that was the zenith of Homburg’s golden era.

Financial trouble lead to a steep decline and by 1999 Homburg had been refused a licence for Regionalliga football and were demoted to the Oberliga Süd-West. Ups and downs between the fourth and fifth tiers have marked the clubs recent history with their latest ascent to the Regionalliga coming after an Oberliga title win in 2011/12.

Homburg play at the photogenic Waldstadion which boasts a capacity of nearly 22,000. The ground was opened in August 1937 when Jahn Regensburg were the inaugural visitors. The council had engaged architect Willy Schwilling from Ludwigshafen to design a suitable arena for the newly formed VfL Homburg. The old disbanded FC Homburg had previously played on a modest ground at Schlossberg. In its heyday the Waldstadion boasted a 38,000 capacity but an extension to the grandstand in 1990 saw this reduced to the present capacity but providing far more seats than the original stand. The renovations included the current floodlighting system which looked glorious sited in front of tall autumnal leaved trees.

Having been to Hennef 05 last season, another club promoted from an Oberliga, it would appear there is a yawning gap in playing standards between levels four and five in Germany. Tonight’s visitors, Saar 05 Saarbrücken were promoted from the Rheinland-Pfalz/Saar Oberliga last season but have struggled at the higher level, accruing just two points and losing all eight away games so far. They had one chance on this game, a whipped in corner saw a header smack the Homburg crossbar, the visitors wilted after this as if they knew they would not muster anymore chances in the game. In the first half Homburg were awarded a soft penalty when a powerful shot hit a defenders arm and the referee decreed it was a deliberate handball. Kai Hesse dispatched the spot kick with customary teutonic aplomb. After Saar’s solitary goal attempt the hosts duly wrapped up the points when Thierry Steimetz scored a really well taken goal.

Just before the end the stadium announcer declared the crowd to be 1,118 which was greeted with howls of derision by the home fans, there were clearly significantly less than that there tonight on a rainy night in the Waldstadion.

As we slunk out of the ground and into the dark of the night the rain continued. Sure could have done with one of those hats.

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Friday November 5th 2015 – Regionalliga Südwest

FC 08 Homburg-Saar 2 (Hesse pen 32, Steimelz 68)
SV Saar 05 Saarbrücken 0

Att: 1,118 (at Waldstadion)

Entry: €8

Programme: Free

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One Step Beyond (FC Hennef 05)

FC Hennef 05 were formed in July 2005 when TuRa Hennef and FC Geistingen decided to pool resources and merge into one club. The roots of the merger start in 1916 when Viktoria Geistingen were formed at a meeting in a restaurant called the Gaststätte Waldfrieden. In the neighbouring town of Hennef a football wing of 1895 Hennef Turnverein was established and in 1938 merged with a field sports club called TuRa Hennef. After a brief merger between Hennef and Geistingen as SSV Viktoria Hennef-Geistingen, the clubs re-emerged after World War II continuing as TuRu Hennef.

The 1950’s proved to be a zenith in the achievements of TuRu Hennef rising to the then third tier Mittel Rhein Liga. In 1968 a new club, FC Geistingen were formed, but never reached the levels of their neighbours in Hennef.

The 2005 merger proved mutually beneficial with the club going on to enjoy unprecedented success. In 2011/12 they won the Mittel Rhein Liga and also took the Mittel Rhein Pokal when they defeated FC Erftstadt 3-0 in the final in Bonn. As regional cup winners Hennef entered the DFB Pokal for the first time in their history and were drawn against Bundesliga 2 opponents, the mighty TSV 1860 München. The game was staged at Sportpark Nord in Bonn and the guests unsurprisingly won by six goals to nil.

The club then won the Mittel Rhein Liga in both 2012/13 and 2013/14 for a hat-trick of championships. The club then decided they were on a sound enough financial footing to seek promotion to the fourth tier Regionalliga West.

The club play at the 2,000 capacity Stadion im Sportzentrum Hennef which lies in Fritz-Jacobi-Straße and has seen a considerable sprucing up since their elevation to the fourth tier. €400,000 were spent on a new stand for away supporters and big improvements have also been made to the dressing room facilities. It is now a very smart arena and today welcomes SV Rödinghausen who are themselves finding their feet in the fourth tier following an incredible five straight promotions.

The transition to a higher level has been tough for Hennef and they go into the match rock bottom of the table with only one point to date. This is a game left over from round nine which was a midweek round, Hennef unable to stage evening games due to the lack of floodlights at present. The game is slow paced and very few chances are created, those that came were squandered with alarming profligacy. Unsurprisingly the match finishes goalless so it is nice that the very friendly hosts have finally got the points column of the league table clicking over again. A lovely club with a great spirit but it looks almost certain that Regionalliga may prove one step beyond for them this season.

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Saturday October 11th 2014 – Regionalliga West

FC Hennef 05 (0) 0

SV Rödinghausen (0) 0

Attendance: 418

Hennef:

21. Rene Monjeamb; 2. Lucas Inger; 3. Andy Habl; 6. Kami Niewiadomski (c); 11. Denis Wegner; 12. Rachid Bouallal; 16. Marius Ehrenstein; 17. Nikolas Klosterhalfen; 18. Stefan Ullmann; 19. Christoph Binot; 25. Daniel Jamann.

Subs: 1. Alexander Heil; 4. Marcos Rieck; 7. Dennis Eck (for 12, 77 mins); 10. Florian Schöller (for 17, 46 mins); 13. Tobias Günther; 22. Sebastian Hecht; 23. Andreas Moog.

Rödinghausen:

1. Jan Schönwälder; 2. Andreas Saur; 3. Felix Frank; 5. Ihsan Kalkan; 6. David Müller; 7. Florian David Rüter; 9. Christian Knappmann; 10. Nico Schneck; 21. Sören Siek (c); 24. Lars Schröder; 28. Kai-Bastian Evers.

Subs: 26. Thorben Krol; 4. Nick Grieswelle; 14. Malte Beermann; 17. Aytürk Geçim; 23. Yannik Jaeschke; 27. Lennart Madroch (for 9, 89 mins); 29. Marcel Andrijanić (for 6, 67 mins).

Yellow Cards: Niewiadomski, Binot and Jamann (all Hennef); Andrijanić (Rödinghausen).

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Spirit of Independence (1.FC Saarbrücken)

1.FC Saarbrücken have a truly fascinating history in particular relating to the Second World War and the annexing of Saarland from the rest of Germany. The club were founded on the 18th April 1903 as the football wing of Turnverein 1876 Malstatt. The club splintered away from the parent club in 1907, and rebranded two years later as FV Malstatt-Burbach.

The club played in various Bezirkligas and Kreisligas up until 1935 when the Third Reich reorganised German football into sixteen regionalised Gauligas. The club were initially placed in the Gauliga Südwest and then moved across to the Gauliga Westmark. They won this league in 1940 and 1943 and it was in the latter year they made it to the final of the play-off system but lost 3-0 to Dresdener SC. This effectively meant they were national runners up for the German championship.

As the war intensified the club could only continue fielding a side by temporarily merging with SC Altenkessel. The conclusion of the war saw Saarland, still under French occupancy, annexed from the rest of Germany. The club were allowed to reform, under their present name, and spent three seasons in the Oberliga Südwest-Nord. Under French occupancy there were attempts to get Saarland recognised as an autonomous state and, indeed, Saarland entered the qualification for the 1952 Olympics and the 1954 World Cup as their own entity. 1. FC Saarbrücken were ejected from German football in 1948 and briefly played in a hastily arranged competition called the Ehrenliga but rather than play in what was deemed as a “puppet” league, the club decided to join the French Football League having registered their name as FC Sarrebruck. The club were placed in the second tier and promptly won the championship, six points clear of Girondins de Bordeaux. The French Football Association denied them promotion and the belief was they did not want to risk a Germanic side potentially being crowned French champions. The club left the French league and played friendlies and tournaments for a few season before being readmitted to the German federation in 1952. In February 1951 one of these friendlies saw Saarbrücken take on the mighty Real Madrid who were only a few years away from five straight European Cup wins. The hosts won 4-0 with the Madridstas blaming the cold weather for the humbling defeat. The state of Saarland itself carried on producing its own postage stamps and coinage, the Saar franc, until July 1959 when the “Kleine Wiedervereinignung” (the small reunification) saw the demise of the Saarland Protectorate and full reintegration into West Germany.

The club remained a strong force winning the Oberliga Südwest in 1952 and 1961 before the Bundesliga was formed in 1963. It was something of a surprise however that Saarbrücken were elected to the new competition as other clubs in the area such as Neunkirchen and Wormatia Worms were considered to have better playing history. Since those momentous times the club has been only sporadically successful and in 1995 a financial crisis saw them forcibly relegated to the third tier. For the 2007/08 season the club had sunk to the fourth tier but then enjoyed two straight promotions to take their place in the 3. Liga, a new third tier of the Bundesliga formed that had been formed in 2008. The club remained at this level until last season when a disastrous campaign saw them finish bottom of the table having hired four coaches during the season!

The club has played at the Ludwigsparkstadion since it opened in August 1953, defeating Rot-Weiss Essen 3-1 in the opening game. Apart from some modest renovations in 2000 the huge bowl like stadium has changed little in the intervening years. This fantastic old stadium also plays hosts to the American football team, the Saarland Hurricanes. In March 1954 with the fervour for Saarland’s independence at its peek, the fledgling nation were paired against West Germany for a qualifying match for the 1954 World Cup. Unsurprisingly Saarland lost 3-1 but the Ludwigsparkstadion held 53,000 for that fixture. Its modern day capacity of 35,303 only provides seating for a shade over 8,000 so ample terracing survives although in recent years there have been rumblings of building a new arena style stadium within the bowl itself much in the way the old Zentralstadion was modernised in Leipzig. However any feasible plans have yet to materialise and should be contextualised in that as long ago as 1998 then club president, Reinhard Klimmt, described his own stadium as a “hovel”.

Prior to playing at the Ludwigsparkstadion the club had a somewhat nomadic existence particularly in their formative years. Initially they played on a school field before using grounds called Rotplatz and Am Wallenbaum. These venues were only short term solutions as they were both hemmed in by and subsequently lost to residential housing. In September 1910 they moved to a better facility called the Terrain an der Lebacher Straße. However, after the First World War another move was needed and the Sportplatz Ludwigspark became home until 1953, although many post World War II matches were staged at the Stadion Kieselhumes which is home to Oberliga side, FC Saar 05 Saarbrücken.

This evening’s game saw Saarbrücken take on Kickers Offenbach in a fourth tier match in the Regionalliga Südwest. It is a very evenly matched contest and many chances are squandered. A header from centre back Daniel Döringer gives the hosts the lead which lasts until eight minutes from time. The visitors substitute Steven Von den Burg scored with virtually his first touch. It’s a deserved equaliser and the bosterious pyrotechnic wielding Offenbach fans celebrate a point shared in this great old stadium.

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Friday October 10th 2014 – Regionalliga Südwest

1. FC Saarbrücken (1) 1 (Döringer 13)

FC Kickers Offenbach (0) 1 (Von der Burg 82)

Attendance: 7,011 (at the Ludwigsparkstadion)

Saarbrücken

1. David Hohs; 5. Mounir Chaftar; 6. Daniel Döringer; 9. Matthew Taylor; 14. Jan Fiesser (c); 17. Christian Sauter; 20. Marius Willsch; 22. Aleksandar Pranjes; 24. Alexander Hahn; 43. Sven Sökler; 44. Peter Chrappan.

Subs: 7. Dennis Wegner (for 20, 63 mins); 8. Lukas Kiefer; 10. Patrick Zoundi; 23. Andre Mandt (for 17, 82 mins); 25. Giovanni Runco; 27. Marco Meyerhöfer (for 22, 69 mins); 28. David Salfeld.

Kickers

16. Daniel Endres (c); 4. Klaus Gjasula; 5. Giuliano Modica; 6. Matthias Schwarz; 13. Jan Biggel; 14. Christian Cappek; 15. Alexis Theodosiadis; 20. Martin Röser; 23. Dennis Schulte; 30. Denis Mangafic; 31. Markus Müller.

Subs: 1. Lucas Menz; 8. Maik Vetter; 9. Benjamin Pintol (f0r 6, 75 mins); 11. Fabian Bäcker (for 13, 67 mins); 17. Stefano Maier; 22. Steven Von der Burg (for 20, 80 mins); 32. Jan Hendrik Marx.

Yellow Cards: Chaftar, Fiesser, Sauter (all Saarbrücken), Cappek, Müller (both Kickers).

Gallery

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All Red Now (Rot-Weiss Essen)

Rot-Weiss Essen can trace their roots back to 1907 from an amalgamation of two clubs SC Preussen and Deutsche Eiche. They were originally called SV Vogelheim, the footballing section of Turnerbund Bergeborbeck. The footballers then left the association becoming SSV Emscher Vogelheim. The two entities merged again in 1923 finally adopting the Rot-Weiss Essen nomenclature.

The pre-World War II years were pivotal for Rot-Weiss. In 1938 the ruling Nazi party reorganised German football into 16 regional “premier” divisions and RWE were placed in the Gauliga Niederrhein. They were attracting big crowds to their original Hafenstrasse ground and the club had clearly outgrown it. The club President, Georges Melches, promised a bigger, better ground and despite some planning problems regarding an existing restaurant and school buildings which stood in the way, work began. Building around the problematic buildings, the club erected a big ground with a wooden grandstand housing 1,500 people and open terracing for 25,000 more. The new grounds’ capacity was well and truly tested when a crowd estimated at 30,000 gathered for the opening match against FC Schalke 04 in August 1939.

World War II saw Allied bombing raze Essen to the ground, in 270 air raids almost the entire city was destroyed, including the new stadium. As a major industrial centre Essen was a clear target for Allied forces and in March 1943 the city was subjected to one of the biggest bombing raids of the War. Nearly 500 inhabitants were killed and thousands lost their homes. Feelings were still running high when in December 1944 three British airmen were captured and lynched by the locals.

After the horrors of the War, Rot-Weiss Essen re-emerged and began rebuilding the stadium. Led by Ernst Ruhkamp a large band of locals from coal miners to professional workers banded together and worked tirelessly to repair the damage. The regeneration ushered in the club’s golden era in the 1950’s. In 1953 RWE defeated Regensburg, VfL Osnabruck, Hamburger SV and SV Waldhof Mannheim on their way to their first ever Deutscher Pokal final. Alemannia Aachen stood in their way of a glorious triumph. In front of 40,000 people at the Rhein Stadion goals from Fritz Herkenrath and Helmut Rahn gave RWE a strong lead but Aachen pulled one back through Jupp Derwall, later the German national team manager. RWE managed to hold on for a famous 2-1 victory.

Three years later the club qualified for the play-offs for the German Championship. They defeated Kickers Offenbach, Wormatia Worms and Bremerhaven 93 to reach the final for the overall title of German Champions. In a tight match with 1.FC Kaiserslautern in front of 80,000 spectators at the Niedersachsenstadion in Hanover, RWE eventually overcame their adversaries.

As champions of Germany, Rot-Weiss were invited to take part in the first ever European Cup competition in 1955/56 and unlike their British counterparts; the DFB sanctioned their participation in the revolutionary new multi nation tournament. While the English champions, Chelsea, looked on covetously, Rot-Weiss were drawn against Scottish Champions Hibernian. The Scots won 4-0 in Essen although the Germans regained some pride in the second leg holding Hibs’ “Famous Five” strike force at bay for a creditable 1-1 at Easter Road. In 1956 the Georg-Melches-Stadion gained floodlights and staged Germany’s first ever floodlight match when RWE defeated Racing Strasbourg by four goals to nil.

Since those glory years RWE have drifted in between Bundesliga 2 and the Oberliga. Financial worries lead to the club being denied licences in 1984, 1991 and 1994 and with it came the enforced demotion. It has not, however, been all doom and gloom the Reds won the German Amateur Championship in 1992 and two years later enjoyed a run to the DFB Pokal final. Sadly they could not repeat their win of 1953, succumbing 3-1 to Werder Bremen. In 2005 the club inducted the legendary Pele as an honorary club member. As recently as 2010/11 RWE were in the fifth tier, but having won the Nordrhein-Westfalen-Liga they returned to the Regionalliga were they currently remain.

In 2012 the club said goodbye to their traditional home of the Georg-Melches-Stadion, its modern day capacity of 15,000 deemed to low for modern needs. The new stadium was built over the old one and touchingly the club keep one floodlight pylon from the old ground which is used at a meeting point for fans as well as a nod to the clubs history. The nearby railway bridge bears the legend “Forever GMS” in homage to the old arena.

The new ground opened in August 2012 and has a capacity of 20,650. Should RWE rise back up the German pyramid the plan is to infill the four corners of the ground and should the Essenes climb back to the top flight all four roofs can be removed to enable a second tier to be added all the way around.

This season has seen RWE marooned in mid table for much of the campaign and today’s final match of the campaign has that distinct end-of-season feel to it. The club do the normal German presentation to players saying goodbye to the club which is always touching to see. Then with refreshing co-operation between the club and it’s ultras, the tannoy man announces the Ultras will now begin a special choreo. And special it truly it is, superbly orchestrated and highly colourful it first pays respects to Essen’s coal mining and industrial past before the entire stand is engulfed in a huge foil flag. It finishes with a giant RWE badge in the centre of the stand which then spreads outwards to reveal the word Ultras. It was really stunning stuff and ample reason for the referee to delay the kick off for a few minutes.

After that impressive opening the match was almost inevitably going to be a damp squib. Tenth place Essen and fifth place Sportfreunde Siegen pass and move well enough between each other in the warm late May sunshine, but chances are few and far between. It takes 81 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, Jerome Propheter nudging home a lose ball from a corner. Minutes later Tim Hermes produced a god-like free kick kept out only by a stubborn crossbar. In all honesty a two goal victory would have been hard on the plucky guests.

So it was a day where ultra culture outshone some pretty run-of-the-mill on field action. I find it so incredibly sad that any fledgling ultra scene in Britain is treated with equal measure of distain, shock and fear. Why does our officialdom demonise such upstarts as, at best, pariahs and at worst, resurgent hooligans? They should come to Essen where ultras give football back its lost soul, something English football’s comatose heart desperately needs.

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Regionalliga West – Saturday May 24th 2014

Rot-Weiss Essen (0) 1 (Propheter 81)

Sportfreunde Siegen (0) 0

Attendance : 6,792 (at Stadion Essen)

Rot-Weiss:

22. Philipp Kunz, 2. Tim Hermes, 4. Michael Laletin, 9. Marcel Platzek, 15. Jerome Propheter, 18. Markus Heppke ©; 23. Kai Nakowitsch, 27. Max Dombrowka, 28. Samuel-Marian Limbasan, 30. Benedikt Koep 36. Lucas Arenz

Subs: 5. Benjamin Wingerter (for 23,54 mins), 7. Kevin Grund, 8. Alexander Langlitz, 14. Maik Rodenberg, 20. Damir Ivancicevic (for 18,64 mins), 24. Dominik Poremba, 26. Thomas Denker (for 30,89 mins)

SF Siegen:

12. Yannik Dauth, 3. Sascha Eichmeier, 4. Evangelos Papaefthimiou, 5. Christopher Schadeberg, 7. Alexander Hettich, 8. Daniel Grebe, 11. Abdelkader Maouel, 13. Mark Zeh ©, 17. Zouhair Bouadoud, 18. Andre Dej, 23. Richard Weber.

Subs: 1. Kevin Rauhut, 2. Patrick Koronkiewicz (for 4,57 mins), 6. Dennis Lang, 10. Manuel Glowacz (for 7,69 mins), 19. Serkan Dalman, 20. Sinisa Veselinovic, 24. Maikel Verkoelen (for 5,46 mins).

Gallery

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The Plate Collection (VfR Mannheim)

At the turn of the 20th century the German Football Association was founded and in its initial membership were no less than three clubs from Mannheim. These clubs were Mannheimer FG 1896, Mannheimer FG 1897 Union, and FC Viktoria 1897 Mannheim. In 1907 SV Waldhof Mannheim were formed and quickly became the leading side in the city. In order to compete with Waldhof the three original clubs merged in 1911 and became VfR Mannheim.

VfR would become very much the contempories of Waldhof in the Nazi instigated Gauliga-Baden. Waldhof won the title in 1934, 1936, 1937, 1940, and 1942. While VfR took the title in 1935, 1938, 1939, 1943, 1944. VfL Neckarau’s (a Mannheim suburb) 1941 success meant Mannheim based clubs won the Gauliga for eleven straight seasons.

The fierce Gauliga rivalry was a prelude to VfR’s finest hour when in 1949 by defeating Borussia Dortmund 3-2 they won the National German Championship. The match held in front of 90,000 people saw the first awarding of the now iconic Meisterschale, the giant studded plate somewhat churlishly referred to as the salad bowl. While 1.FC Nuremberg had won the first post war championship in 1948 the new trophy was first presented to VfR Mannheim. The new trophy had become necessary after the old German National Championship, the Viktoria trophy, which had been awarded since 1903, had disappeared during the war whilst in the care of the last pre-War champions, Dresdener SC. Post German reunification the old trophy was unearthed having been buried in a pile of coal for 45 years. The 1949 title win would become the zenith of VfR’s existence.

When German football was reorganised and the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, VfR were placed in the second tier Regionalliga- Süd. Ten years later VfR dropped to the third tier and began to struggle financially and rebuffed two attempts at a merger with SV Waldhof in 1998 and 2003. Having maintained their independence the club were denied a license and were demoted to the Verbandesliga Nordbaden. That league was won at the first attempt and VfR gained promotion to the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg where they play today despite another relegation in 2009.

The present home of VfR is the Rhein-Neckar Stadion, not to be confused with Hoffenheim’s similarly named modern arena. The current ground was built in 1971 next to the original Stadium Mannheim. The original stadium was opened in 1927 but was cleared in 1992 to make way for the opening of the Carl-Benz Stadion, the home of long time nemesis Waldhof. The grounds back directly onto each other.

Today’s game is a real “six-pointer” the hosts lie next to bottom with 24 points while there are a clutch of clubs, including visitors 1.FC Bruchsal, have two points more, a win is vital if VfR are to stay up. The club are truly convivial hosts, offering us a very welcome beer and telling us of their fundraising attempt to buy a replica of the Meisterschale to celebrate 65 years since their finest hour. I wish them well, it was an amazing title success and sadly one they will not be able to repeat. Even in the fifth tier the club need an annual budget of 450,000 euros to field a reasonably competitive team.

The hosts have a dream start when the referee awards them a penalty after just three minutes which captain Erdogdu gleefully dispatches into the net. Speaking of nets the VfR goalposts are a talking point, a sandy beige colour, like some sort of relic from Operation Desert Storm. The explanation for the colouring is due to the heavy mineral and chalk content of the local water and while the goalposts are cleaned and painted every close season, pitch irrigation sees them colourise during the campaign. While the hosts maintain the ascendancy their lead remains a fragile one until they bring on leader scorer Hans Kyei. A player of some quality he looks a threat every time he goes forward. It is no little surprise when he taps in the decisive second goal five minutes from time. The relief in the small but partisan crowd is palpable. They needed this. And we need clubs like VfR, fiercely independent, belligerent and respectful of their heritage. Wonderful stuff.

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Sunday April 16th 2014 – Oberliga Baden-Württemberg

VfR Mannheim (1) 2 (Erdogdu pen 3, Kyei 85)

1.FC Bruchsal (0)0

Attendance: 550 (at the Rhein-Neckar Stadion)

Mannheim:

1. Levent Cetin, 2. Marvin Pelzl, 4. Norbert Kirschner, 5. Oliver Malchow, 8. Daniel Herm, 9. Kaan Erdogdu (c), 13. Manuel Morilla-Morito, 14. Eric Schaaf, 16. Marko Terzic, 20. Enis Sen, 21. Piero Adragno.

Subs: 22. Robin Albrecht, 3. Dragan Peric, 7. Sven Beier (for 7,89 mins), 11. Hans Kyei (for 14,70 mins), 12. Camilo Dos Santos, 15. Peter Prokop (for 16,79 mins).

Bruchsal:

1. Sascha Rausch, 4. Isa Kaykun, 5. Jan Kahle, 6. Pavlos Osipidis, 7. Denis Schwager, 8. Marco Mayer, 9. Erich Strabel, 10. Sandio Inguanta, 16. Francisco Rodriguez Carmona, 19. Mike Weindel, 23. Georg Dis (c).

Subs: 30. Nikolai Gogol, 2. Advan Halili, 11. Valencia Rivada (for 10,62 mins), 13. Burak Güner, 15. Oliver Kraut, 17. Sinan Telle (for 23,82 mins), 22. Mattia Trianni (for 8,46 mins)

Yellow cards: Kaykun, Osipidis (Bruchsal)

Gallery

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