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The pitiful, helpless giants of the league

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When the 1.Fc Cologne and Borussia Mönchengladbach walk on the pitch for the 18th round of Bundesliga action both are in dire straits, looking straight at relegation. How could two giants of the league fade into the cruel fight against relegation?

When young Germans are asked what they think about Cologne and Gladbach their response might be that they are two teams not good enough for the Bundesliga, but that are too good for the 2. Bundesliga. Recent history is on their side. Cologne has spent four of the last ten seasons in the 2. Bundesliga, and Gladbach had to participate in the 2nd highest division for three seasons. Germany’s older generation on the other hand has a lot of respect for these two sides.

A brief detour through history
The idea of starting a national league, the Bundesliga, was actually the idea of the legendary FC president Franz Kremer and came to fruition in 1963. Under his, at times, authoritarian leadership did the club from the cathedral city win the championships in 62 and 64. The club structure that existed at Cologne was miles ahead of the competitors, and while many teams still were put together with amateurs, were almost all FC players professionals.  Cologne’s stars of the 60’s were Helmut Rahn, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger and Wolfgang Overath.

After Kremer’s death in 1967 the FC continued to produce impressive results. Amongst them are the win of the Bundesliga in 78, reaching the UEFA-cup final in 86, and winning the DFB-cup four times.

The 90’s started well, the team came in second in the league, but they ended in tears for the fans of the red and whites. The team was relegated for the first time in its history in 98.


Berti Vogts chasing another player.

The story of Borussia Mönchengladbach reads similar. After Cologne’s domination in the league, the team from west-Germany took over the reins. Winning the German league a total of five times during the 70’s and the UEFA-cup twice the future seemed to be bright for the Foals.  Star players of the 70’s side included Berti Vogts, Günther Netzer and Jupp Heynckes.

But financial troubles forced the team to sell off many of their best players in the 80’s, and the glory days were over. After the golden decade of the 70’s the team managed to win one title, the DFB-cup in 95. The biggest blow in the club’s history came, when the team was relegated in 99.

Why are they struggling?
Football has evolved a great deal since the glory days of Gladbach and certainly the glory days of Cologne. Besides new rules, higher wages for players, bigger stadiums and the media frenzy around the game of football, the management style of football teams has also underwent a big change.

Gladbach and Cologne are the two last clubs in the league where the daily business is ran by the president and his two vice-presidents. None of these presidents are paid a penny, and all of them have to earn their money elsewhere. An executive of a German insurance company remarked about these conditions: “These clubs are ran like the local rabbit breeding association.”

It is easy to attribute the clubs recent poor decisions to the out-of-date structure at the clubs. For instance, hiring Micheal Meier in Cologne’s case wasn’t a good move. Meier came with a bad reputation from his days at Dortmund, and has now left his second club in the Bundesliga with a huge amount of debt to pay off. Gladbach would probably fared better with another sporting director then Max Eberl, according to many of their fans. The club spent a lot of money before this season, and are bottom of the league. Having said that, Gladbach has been the club that has had the highest amount of injuries in the league.

What are the solutions?
In Borussia’s case have the fans attributed the club’s poor performances in recent years to the out of date management style of the club. The newly founded Initiative Borussia has combined fans, and local big-business players, and they demand change. Away with the old time-structures, ending the reins of volunteer-ism at the club. The club members will vote on these demands in may. If the fans agenda is implemented stands to be seen. Both Borussia and Cologne have in the meantime only one objective: Avoid relegation.


Cologne's president Wolfgang Overath is struggeling to keep the FC in the Bundesliga.

In the next blogpost I will go down nostalgia lane and highlight some of the most memorable anecdotes these two great clubs have produced.Will Gladbach or Cologne manage to turn the corner? Or will their fans always have nothing else, but memories from the glory days to contend with? Leave a comment below. 


About Niklas

Niklas Wildhagen has been following the Bundesliga for over 20 years and he is the editor in chief of the Bundesliga fanatic.

One response »

  1. Pingback: Another detour through history | norwegianmusings

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