Monday, March 26, 2012

With England limping, West Germany was undoubtedly the best championship in Europe. Well, in the world really. Sound financial and managerial policies, solid youth system, new stadiums, very little fan violence. Perhaps West Germany had more high caliber foreign players than Spain, for the Germans had cooler eyes: they did not go for the name alone, but for the usefulness of players. The Germans resisted expensive transfers, but on average they paid better than anybody else, and living in Germany was more comfortable than anywhere else: the press was not hysterical and the clubs hardly ever panicked over momentary bad form. Spain was having more famous players, but not coaches – the best coaching stuff, a mix of Germans and Yugoslavians, was working for the German clubs. Planning, hard work, and constant thinking of the future – the German way was maybe a bit cold and too much business, but everybody was accommodated well enough to think only of his job. It was well oiled machine, too close to factory structure, but so far the assembly line was too young to stifle the game with robotic players and look alike teams.
The Second Division produced its second crop: Tennis Borussia,1.FC Saarbr├╝cken, and Borussia (Dortmund). It wasn’t much, but it was a league in infancy and, apart from the English leagues, no lower tier league is ever great anywhere. Tennis Borussia won the Northern Second Bundesliga – for the West Berlin’s club it was to be second effort to establish themselves among the top clubs of West Germany.
Top, from left: Eggert, Heun, Kraus, Zimmer, Sackewitz, Hoffmann, Stade, Hanisch, Subklewe, Gutendorf-coach.
Bottom: Schneider, Sprenger, Jakobs, Maras, Birkenmeier, Otte, Bittlmayer, Brockhoff.
TeBe did not look like survivor: the squad was unimpressive and in the long run only two names became known: Ditmar Jakobs, who climbed to the West German national team, but when playing for Hamburger SV, and… the coach. Rudi Gutendorf is, so far, the man who managed the most national teams – a total of 18. They were mostly exotic, Nepal and Fiji, for example, but a world record is a world record.
The Southern Second Bundesliga was won by 1. FC Saarbrucken.
Like TeBe, they were returning for a second try of the best league in the world. Like TeBe, they run into political troubles immediately after the World War II, but in a way were ‘reformed’ enough to be selected to join the inagural Bundesliga season. In 1963 their inclusion was controversial: since they were not the best team in their regional division, it was believed that the influential Hermann Neuberger ‘helped’. Justice was restored at the end of the first Bundesliga season – in the summer of 1964 Saarbrucken were dead last and relegated. Now, in 1976, they were returning to top flight fairly and hoping to establish themselves among the big boys.
The third promoted club was the winner of the play-off between the second-placed teams of the Southern and Northern groups: Borussia (Dortmund). Unlike TeBe and Saarbrucken, the Dormunders were considered one of the best German teams in the first half of the 1960s, unquestionable selection for the Bundesliga in 1963, and a big city club considered to be one of the leaders of German football. It was for awhile, but by the end of the 1960s Borussia was in in big decline. In 1972, the season of the infamous corruption scandal in the Bundesliga, Borussia was relegated. Now they were coming back, but without vengeance – unable even to win Second Division, Borussia was not expected to be a new revelation – the aims were modest: to survive in the Bundesliga. Yet, of the three newcomers, Borussia was the only club expected to become better one day.