Berlin Writes History in Soccer

The Stadium Altere Försterei, where FC Union Berlin plays at home. Photo taken by Christian Liebscher via wiki-Commons 

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FC Union Berlin advances to the German Bundesliga for the first time ever after ousting VFB Stuttgart in the Relegation Round.

BERLIN- In the end, only the strongest survived. The strongest in terms of nerves but also in coherency. The strongest is the one that makes history. This was done last night with FC Union Berlin. After a 2-2 draw against VFB Stuttgart, who had been sitting in 16th place during almost the entire 2018/19 Bundesliga season, all the iron men could have done is put the iron curtain in place- literally in front of goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz  and let Stuttgart fire their shots- to the left, to the right and right into the goalie’s hands. And while the offense was on autopilot, a 0-0 tie was enough for Berlin to make history.

For the first time ever FC Union will play in the premier league this upcoming season, competing with the likes of Bayern Munich- fresh off its seventh consecutive title but poised to lose its top two players in Frank Ribery and Ariel Robben- the Robbery Duo- similar to the Killer Bs of the Pittsburgh Steelers in American football before Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown left the team after the 2018/19 season and its lone B- the quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger. It will be facing other teams with multiple years of experience and armed with deep pockets for 1st class players, such as Frankfurt, Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bremen. And while Freiburg, Cologne and Augsburg may be push-overs, like it was with Hamburg SV during its time in the second tier (winning 2-0 and tying 2-2), Union Berlin will have two rivalries to contend with:

  1. Inner-City Rivalry: FC Union Berlin will have to contend with Hertha BSC Berlin, which has been in the premier league for all but two seasons since 1997. While FC Union Berlin has had many soccer rivalries in the German capital, even during the Cold War era, this one will be the battle of the iron fists that will attract tens of thousands, and whose victories will be very close. While FC Union lost a close one 2-1 on 3rd September, 2012, the two teams finished tied at 2-2 on 11 February, 2013, the last time the two played. When the rivalry continues this upcoming season, it will be the first inner-city derby in the Bundesliga since the 2010/11 season with Hamburg vs St. Pauli.
  2. East German Rivalry: Apart from its western city rival, FC Union will have to contend with Leipzig. But not the Leipzig that many soccer historians are accustomed to. While Union and VfB Leipzig’s rivalry attracted thousands of fans during the 1980s and 90s, the Leipzig they will be facing is one that will have a new (and fiery) head coach and a talented group that is regrouping after losing the 2019 German Cup to Munich and finished third in the regular season- meaning RB Leipzig. Even they have played three games, FC Union has yet to beat Leipzig, having lost two and tied one- but all in 2015 and 2016.

FC Union Berlin will be the sixth East German team to be in the top league in almost three decades- the others were Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock, VfB Leipzig (now FC Lok), Energie Cottbus and Hertha. It is the 56th team in history to reach the top tier. And after years of toil and disappointment, the team has entered chartered waters bound to make history. The team has the largest fan club in German soccer and its culture is implanted in Berlin soccer, with a stadium that has hosted soccer games, Christmas events and concerts and crowds that come to enjoy the game and not rampage it, like in some cities. This was noticeable with last night’s relegation game with Stuttgart- it ended in celebration and with no incidences! One could blame Stuttgart for its shortcomings, which will land them in the second league for the first time in three seasons, but the timing of FC Union Berlin’s rise to the top could not have come at a better time. All it needed was unity and the team got it.

And should this unity continue in the upcoming Bundesliga season, then FC Union Berlin will be making even more history as it climbs in the rankings at the expense of those who have been there for years. Seven years ago, one wondered whether professional soccer will return to the east. With first Leipzig and now Berlin, that question has been answered.

 

Congratulations to FC Union Berlin on making it to the big leagues! 🙂

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FC Union Berlin won the relegation based on the “Goal Away from Home” rule. This means the team that has scored more goals “away from home” wins, if the total goals scored by each team are otherwise equal. This is sometimes expressed by saying that away goals “count double” in the event of a tie. In this case, Berlin won against Stuttgart based on that rule by a score of 2-0 because of the 2-2 draw in Stuttgart. 

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Photo Flick 13

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This photo flick gives us a true meaning of the classroom learning exercise known as “Think, Pair and Share.”  All you need are two chairs, a table, a notebook with pen and a good environment to brainstorm and exchange ideas, like this art exhibition room in a district in Dresden’s Neustadt, taken in April 2019. 🙂

 

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Aus! Vorbei! Und Tschüss, Jogi und Co!

 

German Soccer Team sets all time lows in their earliest exit from the 2018 World Soccer Cup in Russia in history.

There is a quote to start off this column about the defeat of the defending World Cup Champions of 2014 Germany, and it is a very simple one to swallow: Glauben und Sagen sind Gut; Kontrolle und Beweise sind besser. In English, it goes along the lines of Belief and Talk are good; Proof and Evidence are better. Germany was suppoosed to defend their 2014 World Cup title in the way it performed four years ago. However, a 2-0 pasting by South Korea in the last game of the first round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia sealed the deal in setting all new lows for the German soccer team in history.  To start off with, it was the first time in 80 years that Germany was eliminated after the first round in the World Cup. The last time it happened, it was after the Anschluss with Austria, which had been the better team before HItler took over.  It was also the first time in 18 years that the national soccer team was eliminated after the first round in an international tournament. The last time it happened was in the Euro-Cup in 2000. And like in this tournament, it featured a very lackluster performance that consisted of a tie and two defeats- a 1-0 shutout to England, its first in 32 years, and a 3-0 freightliner to Portugal.

While the German national coach  Erich Ribbeck eventually resigned after the early exit in 2000, the question is whether Joachim Loewe (Jogi, for short), Germany’s present national coach will do the same after this disastrous outing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  After all, the ball started rolling after the team suffered its first World Cup defeat in the opener of the first round since the 1982 tournament as West Germany. And like the upset to Algeria, the German soccer team of 2018 appeared clueless and defenseless against Mexico, having been upset in the first game 1-0.  After redeeming themselves in game two with a 2-1 win against Sweden, they needed their third win against South Korea, which not only did not happen, but they were humbled, spanked, annihilated, and embarassed. The last 10 minutes of that match summarized their latest outing in the tournament.

Before going further, let’s have a look at the highlights of the three matches:

Game 1:  1-0 for Mexico

Game 2: 2-1 victory over Sweden

Game 3: 2-0 loss to South Korea.

 

Surely the pressure is on Jogi to resign, yet when asked if he was going to do so, the response was simple: “It’s too early. I’m deeply disappointed. I never thought we would lose to South Korea.”

Those were his words. The head coach, who has led the team since 2006, with two second place finishes in the Euro-Cup (2016) and the World Cup (2010) and the World Cup Championship in 2014, plus the 2017 Confederations Cup title, is considering stepping down.  My advice to Jogi is: Don’t do it.

Why take this bold approach?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leichter als das  (Not easier than this.)

Germany has a long tradition of producing the finest soccer players as much as the finest coaches. In fact, some of the best players have become even better coaches, be it Rudi Voeller, Franz Beckenbauer or even Jogi himself. Each coach has had their own way of training their players to become the best in them.  Even players like Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller or even Manuel Neubert would be potential coaches for local soccer teams or even a national team if they wanted to take that path because of their experience. However, Jogi’s  time has not come to step down just yet.

It has nothing to do with the contract that takes him through 2023. It has more to do with the coach with his character versus the personalities of the players.  That has to do with how he and the German team have projected themselves so far. One doesn’t need to go further than listening to some of the parodies many German radio stations  have produced, looking at the German soccer team in general: a coach who is cool under pressure, trying to keep the team together, despite all the minor personal issues each player and personnel had up until the most recent game with South Korea. The best parody so far has been with Jogis Eleven, a comedy produced by central German radio station Jump Radio (powered by MDR Radio).  If one has a team that is coherent like a family, on the same page and have the same values and goals, then one can go far.

However, if one has a team where one promises to win it all but loses it all because of the lack of will to pull it all off, then it is very obvious that a disaster like this would happen. Already the team struggled to win even one game in 2018, having won only one game in the friendly matches prior to the opening game of the World Cup- a 2-1 squeaker against Saudi Arabia, the same team that they had spanked 8-0 in the opening round of the 2002 World Cup. Otherwise, they had two additional losses and one tie. Very atypical for the 2014 Champions. There, the red flags were going up. Then came the arrogance of the team, which revealed its ugly face after Tony’s Kroos’ last second win against Sweden in game 2 of the first round.  This altercation came after the game was over:

This is just as poor sportsmanship as a man slapping a woman, invoking spousal abuse. Even as a husband of a wonderful German wife and proud parent of a German-American daughter, this act of cockiness is an act of cowardness revealing the biggest weakness of the German soccer team, which is they were just not good enough- physically but especially mentally. It would be a matter of time until this disasterous third game that exposed everything and scared every naked woman taking a shower by a peeping tomcat.

In simpler languages, the performance by the team was just not cool, and Loewe as a coach only has part of the blame.  The players themselves have at least half the blame, if not the majority. But to be diplomatic, there is enough blame to go around because of the lack of attention to the other teams and how they have improved in comparision to how Germany has improved, making their shortest showing on record look like round one of the Rocky Balboa- Clubber Lang boxing match in Rocky III:

And even that defeat presents a good quote by Robert Collier: In every defeat is a lesson showing you home to win the victory the next time.

And so, we are going home, starting over from scratch. The poor performance shows that the team is in dire need of a change. Most of the players on the roster are past their prime, beset by injuries and a change of attitude since the 2014 Cup. The gap between the has-beens and the rookies is as wide as ever before, with the latter not undertanding the importance of  representing Germany and the world on the international stage. The personnel on the team is ready to step aside from their duties in soccer, especially the ones involved with the altercation with the Swedish soccer team after the second game. And basically, the team is in total disarray- in need of a total makeover. Yet it does not require the change in guard as the coach of the German national team.

In fact, keeping Jogi would represent continuity for Germany, for he can form the next set of soccer players who are ready to redeem themselves and prepare for a shot at the Euro-Cup in 2020. For himself, staying on would provide him with a chance to achieve the impossible, which is winning of Euro-Cup. The last time Germany won that was in 1996, the only time the team won since West and East Germany reunited in 1990. If he was to keep a couple members from the 2014 team, it would be the first for them as well.  Yet one thing is  certain, the team that showed up for  the 2018 World Cup will have all but maybe one or two  players disappear come 2020. Jogi will definitely look for ways to bring the next generation onto the international stage, while looking at ways of saying good-bye to the older generation, who is ripe to move on.

Yet Jogi must be aware that in the event that he stays on as coach for the German national soccer team, it will be his last chance to redeem himself, both for the Euro-Cup and for the 2022 World Cup. He must make it count but he must have the support of his personnel to make it happen. And it is very obvious that there must not be a repeat of what happened in the 2018 World Cup. The revival and return to relevance will be long, hard and bloody, like in the second boxing match between Rocky and Lang (see below). But with the right coach, like Jogi, and a set of players with as big of an appetite for an international title, the quest for success will be well worth it.

So without further ado, get back to work and look ahead to 2020. Go get ’em, Coach!

 

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FINALLY! SG Flensburg-Handewitt Wins German Premere League Handball Championship

SG Flensburg-Handewitt wins German League Title for the second time in 14 years; its first title since 2015. 

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FLENSBURG- Schleswig-Holstein has had some interesting times lately as three teams tried to advance onto the (inter)national scene after finishing in the top three. Holstein Kiel tried to break the 36-year Bundesliga drought in soccer. But the fighting storks finished third in the Second League standings and lucked out in the relegation playoffs against VFL Wolfsburg 4-1 in two games.  SC Weiche Flensburg won the Regionalliga North title in its inaugural season after the merger between two teams in Flensburg. They came one goal and a possible shootout short against Energie Cottbus in the playoffs to become the second team from Flensburg to enter the national scene in Third League German Soccer.  The score in two games: 3-2.

While the two teams are licking their chops and reloading their manpower for another run in the 2018/19 season, one team finally broke the drought and put the northernmost sea-locked state in Germany back on the map; and that was the Albatrosses of SG Flensburg-Handewitt (FH)!  😀

After finishing in fifth during mid-season, FH capped off its comeback of the season under first-year coach Maik Machulla by holding off Göppingen (in Baden-Wurttemberg) 22-21 in the last game of the season. FH needed an outright win in order to seal the deal, for a tie would have meant a heartbreaking loss, and a third, second place finish in a row, two of which would have been behind the Lions of Rhein Neckar. The Lions defeated Leipzig 28-25 thus closing the door on the opportunity of a tie between Flensburg and Göppingen. Both teams were tied at half-time at 12-12 before FH started an offensive to take a three-goal lead with six minutes left in the game. A furious comeback was stuffed by FH’s defense despite cutting the lead to one before the buzzard. Once the game ended, it was pandemonium in Flensburg!

In its 28th season, this is only the second German Premere League Handball title ever, the team’s first since 2004. As far as (inter) national titles are concerned, while the team has yet to win the triple crown like its rival in Kiel, this is Flensburg’s first title since winning the German Cup (DHB Pokal) in 2015. In this decade alone, FH has won each of its international and national titles once: The Champions League in 2014, The Super Cup in 2013 and the European Cup in 2012, the same year Kiel won the Triple Crown (German League, Champions League and German Cup).

With the monkey off its back, Flensburg will be focusing on bigger goals as it enters uncharted territory. It will compete in the Champions League together with Rhein Neckar, Berlin Foxes and SC Magdeburg in Germany. The European competitors will be tougher to beat. Yet even though it will defend its German League title, it may face an old nemesis when in the German Cup: HSV Hamburg. The team reemerged from bankruptcy with winning the Third League title this season and will be in the Second League. Hamburg and Flensburg had battled back and forth before the team went into administration after the 2016 season. Hamburg’s last title before that was in 2011.

But in the meantime, let’s celebrate this victory and rearm for the next season. You guys deserve this title! 🙂

Highlights of the game can be found here.

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Bundesliga Guessing Quiz: The Answers

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After a season of records in 2017/18 and the decisions have been made for the teams winning the relegation playoffs (a heartfelt congrats to the teams that won successfully), let’s have a look at the answers to the quiz dealing with the history of the Bundesliga. As we know, Hamburg was the last founding team to relegate into the second league. But what about the history of the other teams. After doing your homework, let’s check our answers, shall we? 🙂

Guessing Quiz:

1. Who were the founding fathers of the Bundesliga in 1963? There were 18 of them.

Eintracht BraunschweigWerder BremenHamburger SVBorussia Dortmund1. FC KölnMeidericher SV (now MSV Duisburg), Preußen MünsterSchalke 041. FC Kaiserslautern1. FC SaarbrückenEintracht FrankfurtKarlsruher SC1. FC Nürnberg1860 MunichVfB StuttgartHertha BSC

 

2. Bayern Munich entered the top league later on and has been in the Bundesliga ever since. It now holds the title for being in the top league the longest without ever being demoted.

When did the team enter?  1965   When did the team win its first title?  1969

 

 

3. Another team entered the Bundesliga and has yet to also play in the second league after being demoted. It holds the second longest record of its kind. Which team was it and when did it enter the first league for the first time ever?

Bayer Leverkusen entered the Bundesliga in 1979 and has been there ever since. 

 

4. One of the founding fathers actually had to play in the second league only once. After four years it returned to the top league and has been there ever since. It currently holds the title as the second longest tenured team even after it had been demoted before. Which team was that and how many years has it been in the league since its last demotion?

Borussia Dortmund entered the second league in 1972 and  had played there before reentering the top league in 1976, where it has remained there ever since. 

 

5. Prior to HSV’s demotion to the second league, there were two other founding teams that had been in the top league for at least three decades before being demoted for the first time. Which teams were they and when did they get demoted for the first time?

FC Cologne and FC Kaiserslautern

 

6. Which (current) founding team in the Bundesliga has never won any titles since the league’s creation?

Hertha BSC Berlin

 

7. Which two founding members of the Bundesliga has been in the top league the shortest time (and has still yet to return)?

Preussen Münster and FC Saarbrücken

 

8. Which German cities used to host two Bundesliga teams, one of which was a founding member of the team? Which teams are they?

Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart

 

9. Which German cities used to have two professional teams in the second league competing with each other before one of the two was promoted to the top league?

Berlin and Frankfurt

 

10. Which team would have competed with HSV as the longest tenured Bundesliga team had it not been for the one-year exile in the second league? Hint: This team has been in the second and third tiers since 2006.

FC Kaiserslautern

 

11. Which seven teams have won doubles at least once (meaning the national cup and the Bundesliga title)? Hint: Four were from the former western half and three from the eastern half of Germany.

On the western side, we have Bayern Munich, FC Cologne, Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund.

On the eastern side we had Dynamo Dresden, Dynamo Berlin and Hansa Rostock

 

12. Of the three in the former East German Bundesliga (which dissolved after German reunification in 1990), which of them was the longest tenured team in the Bundesliga?

Hansa Rostock: 1995- 2005

13. Of the three above-mentioned teams, which ones defeated FC Bayern Munich once before 1990 and at least once since then?

Dynamo Dresden

Fast fact: Rostock and Bayern Munich were rivalries before Rostock’s demise beginning in 2005

 

14. Since when has FC Bayern Munich finished no worse than third place? Fifth place?

Bayern Munich has finished no worse than 3rd since 2007 and no worse than 5th since 1995, when they finished 6th. The worst they have finished was 12th in 1978. 

15. The following teams had mascots. What were they?

Eintract Brunswick           Lions

MSV Duisburg                   Zebras

FC Kaiserslautern             Devils

Hertha BSC Berlin            The Iron Ladies

Eintracht Frankfurt          Eagles

Hamburg SV                      Dinosaurs

FC Cologne                        Billy Goats

 

Bonus: Holstein Kiel, whose mascot is the flying stork  has not been in the Bundesliga since 1981.

 

ONE MORE THING: 1899 Hoffenheim still holds the title as the only “small town” team that is in the Bundesliga. The community of only 4,000 people marched through the ranks and entered the league in 2007 and has been there since.  They play at a stadium near Mannheim. 

 

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RB Leipzig Atop of the German Bundesliga in Soccer

Stadium woes

FC Bayern Munich dethroned of top spot for the first time in almost one and a half years.

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DORTMUND/LEIPZIG- Before this weekend, two questions were burning in the hearts and minds of soccer fans in Leipzig, Munich, Dortmund and Leverkusen. The first one is how long the team of FC Bayern Munich can stay on top, having conquered the top spot for 39 soccer matches and 425 days. The second one is whether the team’s closest competitor, RB Leipzig would overtake Munich, given its record-breaking debut in the German Bundesliga. After all, the team had previously set a record for winning the first six matches and being undefeated after ten matches (the three ties included) as a newcomer from the second league.

Both questions have been answered thanks to Leipzig’s victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Friday and Borussia Dortmund’s victory over FC Bayern Munich a day later. Leipzig became not only the first team since Dortmund to take over first place, but also the first East German team to reach the top since Hansa Rostock did that in 1991.

The highlights of the game in short:

Leipzig   3:2    Bayer Leverkusen

Leipzig and Leverkusen were deadlocked during much of the game, with the latter taking the lead twice until the 67th minute, when Emil Forsberg tied it up. 14 minutes later, Willi Orban sealed the deal with a shot of his own. It was then the defense and the team’s goalie that made sure the lead was never relinquished. Leverkusen had the ball for most of the game, but it shear luck and strategie that has now kept Leipzig the lone undefeated team left in the Bundesliga. Details here.

Bayern Munich    0:1     Borussia Dortmund

As expected, Bayern Munich came out aggressive and played the black and gold team as if they owned the game. However it was Dortmund that figured them out and came out attacking during the game. While the game ended in a 1:0 victory in favor of Dortmund, it was a relief for many, including coach Thomas Tuchel who explained that it was a narrow-escape. After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the lone goal in the 11th minute, it was up to the rest to keep the red-white-blue team in check, as it could not find any answers. Details here.

With Leipzig now holding the top spot in the Bundesliga, the question now is will they be there to stay or will Munich take revenge and reclaim the top spot? There’s still a month left until they meet for the first time on 21 December. In the meantime, there is still a lot of soccer left in this season.

frage für das forum

This latest development in German soccer has led to a pair of questions for you to think about before 21 December:

The last time Leipzig won a national league soccer title was in 1903. But this record may fall after this season. Therefore…..

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RB Leipzig Atop of the German Bundesliga in Soccer

Stadium woes

FC Bayern Munich dethroned of top spot for the first time in almost one and a half years.

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DORTMUND/LEIPZIG- Before this weekend, two questions were burning in the hearts and minds of soccer fans in Leipzig, Munich, Dortmund and Leverkusen. The first one is how long the team of FC Bayern Munich can stay on top, having conquered the top spot for 39 soccer matches and 425 days. The second one is whether the team’s closest competitor, RB Leipzig would overtake Munich, given its record-breaking debut in the German Bundesliga. After all, the team had previously set a record for winning the first six matches and being undefeated after ten matches (the three ties included) as a newcomer from the second league.

Both questions have been answered thanks to Leipzig’s victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Friday and Borussia Dortmund’s victory over FC Bayern Munich a day later. Leipzig became not only the first team since Dortmund to take over first place, but also the first East German team to reach the top since Hansa Rostock did that in 1991.

The highlights of the game in short:

Leipzig   3:2    Bayer Leverkusen

Leipzig and Leverkusen were deadlocked during much of the game, with the latter taking the lead twice until the 67th minute, when Emil Forsberg tied it up. 14 minutes later, Willi Orban sealed the deal with a shot of his own. It was then the defense and the team’s goalie that made sure the lead was never relinquished. Leverkusen had the ball for most of the game, but it shear luck and strategie that has now kept Leipzig the lone undefeated team left in the Bundesliga. Details here.

Bayern Munich    0:1     Borussia Dortmund

As expected, Bayern Munich came out aggressive and played the black and gold team as if they owned the game. However it was Dortmund that figured them out and came out attacking during the game. While the game ended in a 1:0 victory in favor of Dortmund, it was a relief for many, including coach Thomas Tuchel who explained that it was a narrow-escape. After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the lone goal in the 11th minute, it was up to the rest to keep the red-white-blue team in check, as it could not find any answers. Details here.

With Leipzig now holding the top spot in the Bundesliga, the question now is will they be there to stay or will Munich take revenge and reclaim the top spot? There’s still a month left until they meet for the first time on 21 December. In the meantime, there is still a lot of soccer left in this season.

frage für das forum

This latest development in German soccer has led to a pair of questions for you to think about before 21 December:

The last time Leipzig won a national league soccer title was in 1903. But this record may fall after this season. Therefore…..

 

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