1.FC Köln: Germany’s first Bundesliga champions
Western Germany, 1948 – 75,000 fans made their way up north for the final match of the season. A West German Championship Final, 1. FC Nürnberg vs 1.FC Kaiserslautern. The Nürnberg players had made their way back from Cologne by train after their 2-1 victory. An eye witness report said players were ‘visibly drunk’ and one even had a bottle of wine in his hand.
However, this was not the only major event of 1948. In mid-February, two clubs from Cologne, Sülz 07 and BC Köln merged into 1.FC Köln. The new club, would go form strength to strength, with President Franz Kremer being given the nickname ‘Father of the Bundesliga.’ That same year, Rudolf Dassler moved out of his family home after returning from the war, crossing the river Aurach, and setting up his own business, which soon became Adidas.
The 1960 Köln team featured two World Cup winners, Hans Schäfer and Helmut Rahn amongst four other internationals, which included Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, who was considered to be one of the best left-backs in the world.
Schafer played his career at Köln, which lasted 17 years. The left-midfielder played 394 games, scoring 254 goals. Whilst he also earned 39 caps for West Germany, scoring 15, perhaps being one of the most underrated names in German football.
Despite having the foundations in place since the merger in 1948, Kremer knew what was coming, the foundation of the Bundesliga in 1963. However, at the time, Köln were up against Hamburg and Uwe Seeler for the Championship on a hot day in 1960, which Köln had hoped would be their third time lucky. The game was tied at 2-2 until HSV were awarded a free-kick, which Gert Dörfel lofted the ball over the wall to Klaus Stürmer, who found Seeler unmarked, to make it 3-2 HSV. That goal sealed the long-awaited title for Hamburg, who hadn’t won the title since 1928.
Having won eight titles, Nürnburg’s run was soon coming to an end. Köln beat the team from Bavaria 4-0, which proved that professionally ran teams had an edge.
A major role in German football, was the foundation of the Bundesliga. Founded in 1968 after 103 yes votes from 129 representatives, the Bundesliga was born. The key change was the new, one-tiered nationwide league. This came 34-years after Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s Primeria Liga, and 75 years after England’s football league.
The league would consist of 18 teams from the Oberliga, with the two teams that played in the West German Championship guaranteed an automatic spot. This meant that Borussia Dortmund and 1.FC Köln were the first teams of the Bundesliga, despite Köln losing 3-1 on 29 June 1963.
Hans Schäfer was still at Köln, captaining the club to the first ever Bundesliga title, whilst Uwe Seeler won the Golden Boot for Hamburg, scoring 30 goals. The same season, Köln had lost to eventually relegated, Saarbrücken.
Whilst Köln were always there or there abouts, challenging for the Bundesliga title – they couldn’t really find that mentality to go on and add to their first title. Köln mourned the death of President Franz Kremer the following year, 1967, after listening to a radio broadcast of his side beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1. A shock to everyone in Cologne, and heartbreak for the football club, the team would no longer challenge for the Bundesliga title for another decade.
An icon for Köln’s rivals, Borussia Monchecngladbach – Günter Netzer was all set to make his final appearance for his side before signing for Real Madrid. However, his mother died, and the coach had left him out, in what was one of the ‘best games played on German soil’.
The game was tied one apiece at 90 minutes when Netzer’s heir, Christian Kulik would go down with cramp. ‘Can you carry on?’ said Netzer. Kulik shook his head, and so Netzer walked by the coach, took off his tracksuit and wandered on to the pitch.
Three minutes after coming on, the playmaker gathered possession of the ball on the halfway line, dribbled 15-yards before playing a one-two with Rainer Bonhof before unleashing a shot into the roof of the net. From here on in, Netzer left Köln fans in shock.
Hamburg had won the Cup-Winners Cup in 1977 and after signing Kevin Keegan – who was once described as the most ‘complete footballer’ by Netzer, HSV were miles behind Köln in mid-table. Köln went on to win another Bundesliga title in 1978 under Hennes Weisweiler, who fled Barcelona after placing Johan Cruyff on the bench.
A small sense of rivalry began to brew between HSV and Köln, as they battled all the way to the title in the 1980-1981 season. However, it was Bayern Munich under Pál Csernai who had won the Bundesliga, whilst Köln finished mid-table that season. The following year, it was Austrian Ernst Happel’s HSV against Rinus Michels’ Köln who would be challenging for the title the following season. HSV had won the 1981-82 title, finishing just three points ahead of Köln. Bayern Munich then dominated Germany for the next decade under Udo Lattek and Jupp Heynckes.
During this time, Köln were coached by Christoph Daum in what would be his first managerial position. Whilst Daum hadn’t been a major player for Köln, he did bring a new coaching method into practice. He was interested in the scientific side of football, looking at motivational psychology. In his later years in management, at Bayer Leverkusen, Daum would get players to run over broken glass, telling them ‘they can do the unthinkable’.
Whilst Daum managed great players, Thomas Häßler, Jürgen Kohler and Thomas Allofs, he felt as though teams were running scared of Bayern Munich, and that managers had a belief that no-one could beat them.
The following year, West Germany had won the World Cup at Italia ’90, whilst the previous year, they tore the Berlin Wall down. This brought a new sense of football fever around Deutschland.
However, the future was not as bright as Köln had hoped. Köln were relegated from the Bundesliga in 1998, and the coming seasons – Köln were known as a yo-yo club, moving between the first and second divisions. During 2002, Köln supporters had to wait 1034 minutes to see their team score a goal, equivalent of 11 and a half matches. It wasn’t until unlikely hero, Thomas Cichon found the back of the net.
Köln’s ground, the Müngersdorfer Stadion was renovated through 2001-04 in order to prepare for the 2006 World Cup, which would be hosted in Germany. The 50,000 capacity stadium, hosted five matches during the World Cup, which included Portugal, England, France and the Round of 16 match, Switzerland vs Ukraine.
Following their promotion back into the Bundesliga at the end of the 2004-05 season as 2.Bundesliga champions. German football magazine, kicker had tipped the club to yet again be relegated. Their prediction was correct. Köln lost to HSV 1-0, who they battled the title for a two decades ago, finishing the season with the worst goal difference, conceding 71 goals.
However, a Köln boy was born that season, Lukas Podolski, who fans would grow up to love, despite joining Bayern Munich following the team’s relegation.
Köln had gone through eight managers in a four year period before Daum returned as manager in 2006. In 2008, Daum had got his club promoted back into the Bundesliga before leaving Köln for Fenerbahce, in Turkey. Whilst the following year, their prodigal son returned to the club, Podolski.
German football coach, Joachim Löw told Podolski that moving back to Köln would not harm his chances of playing for the national team. The transfer fee, around €10m was stretching Köln’s budget, and so the club had set up a website where fans could buy an 8×8 pixel square for €25. Michael Schumacher was thought to have spent €875. The website gathered an extra €1m to reduce the cost of the transfer.
Despite his move back to Köln, Podolski didn’t enjoy the best of seasons – scoring just three goals in his entire first season back at the club. However, the following season, Podolski netted his 50th Bundesliga goal against Hannover 96 in March 2011. Throughout the season, he scored 13 goals whilst also recording seven assists. The 2011-12 season saw Köln yet again be relegated. However, this was Podolski’s most prolific season, scoring 18 goals in 29 Bundesliga matches, which attracted the interest of English Premier League side, Arsenal. It was finally announced during April 2012 that Podolski would be leaving the club to join the Gunners. Out of respect, Köln would retire the number 10 jersey until the 2014-15 season, when Patrick Helmes was awarded the famous number.
Köln’s loss to Bayern Munich on the final day of the season sealed their fate as they headed back down into the 2.Bundesliga. The fans, unhappy at the club’s relegation, threw smoke bombs onto the pitch, the Südkurve had started a fire in the stand and fans stormed the pitch in anger of their season. Podolski was the last player off the pitch as he consolidated the Südkurve.
Peter Stöger then took over the reign from Holger Stanislawski after he failed to fire Köln back to the Bundesliga in his first year. Under Stöger, Köln averaged attendances of 46,000 in the 2.Bundesliga, winning the title and earning promotion after amounting 68 points, conceding just 20 goals in 34 matches.
At present, Köln fans possess mixed emotions. The club finish the 2014-15 Hinrunde in 11th after winning just once at the RheinEnergie Stadion this season. However, as always, players can always expect to receive full support from their fans, with the Südkurve being one of the most feared throughout Germany.