Saturday, October 26, 2013

If Stuttgart were somewhat ignored, it was easy to understand why – West Germany witnessed perhaps the most exciting ever fight for the title. Two clubs tried to edge each other to the very end – the championship was decided in the very last round of the championship. And it was decided by goal-difference. May be the football played this season was not great, may be many clubs were declining or underperforming, but the thrill of the endless duel compensated for everything. There was more to it: if the battle between coaches was very familiar, even tired by now – Lattek vs Weisweiler – but it was not the old Bayern vs Borussia duel. Borussia (Moenchengladbach) participated alright, but their foe this time was 1.FC Koln. Nothing suggested such development back in September 1977, when the championship started – 1. FC Koln visited Fortuna and was destroyed 1-5 in Dusseldorf in the opening round. Borussia suffered less – they lost only 6 matches. Koln lost eight, but they compensated with more wins. And before the 34th and last round both teams had 46 points each. Koln had much better goal-difference: Borussia was 74:44 vs Koln's 81:41. Borussia had easy match at home, hosting Borussia (Dortmund), but the away match of Koln was not difficult either – the visited already relegated St. Pauli in Hamburg. Calculations were peculiar – there was no doubt Borussia will win against the other Borussia. If the match in Hamburg ended in a tie or with St. Pauli's victory, Borussia were champions – but it was unrealistic outcome: Koln was expected to win. St. Pauli were the weakest club through the whole season and did not have anything to play for for a long, long time.Thus, it was practically sure thing the title will be decided by goal-difference – the only chance of Bortussia to win the title was huge victory. What is huge? A victory by 12 goals, as a minimum... As a bare minimum, working only if Koln won with one goal difference in Hamburg. Borussia achieved the minimum, no matter how impossible it looked like:

The final score was fantastic, perfect for legends, bizarre and... suspicious. As for the strange name of the stadium – Borussia was used to playing in Dusseldorf, for their own stadium was small. Thus, they practically never really hosted important matches – but players and fans were familiar with and adjusted to the situation. Borussia did everything what depended on them, but Koln was not to be outdone – they won 5-0 in Hamburg.

A big Japanese smile and happy hugs from teammates – Okudera scored 2 goals in Hamburg.

The race was finally over, exciting to the very last whistle. May be because of the unusual nature of the pursuit, doubts about the results of the last matches were hardly ever raised. Borussia (Dortmund) and St. Pauli had no interest - for both clubs the season was already finished. Koln scored a lot of goals, but how often even a great team wins by 12-0? Moreover, how often a team wins 12-0 when it needs a 12-0 win? Nobody should doubt the motivation of both Borussia and Koln – and also the lack of motivation of their opponents, but the results were strange. A little friendly help perhaps? No questions were really asked – the results were taken as real and fair. It was fascinating race to the very end by two clubs leaving the rest far behind – the third finisher, Hertha was 8 points behind. Shoulder to shoulder, Koln and Borussia, Weisweiler and Lattek, Flohe and Vogts, battled to the last minute. Borussia did everything possible – and perhaps the impossible too – to reduce the goal-difference advantage of their adversary: in the 33rd round they won in Hamburg, but against Hamburger SV, not against the weak St. Pauli, 6-2. Then scored 12 goals, trying to beat the odds. At the end, the record is incredibly tied – both teams with 48 points and same number of scored goals – 86 each. Their defensive records really decided the championship – Borussia allowed 44 goals, Koln – 41. Borussia finished second.

Of course,the Borussia camp was more than disappointed – they not only lost in the last minute,but were unable to continue their successful run of three consecutive titles. A record forth slipped out of their hands. Udo Lattek took revenge on Bayern,by winning with Borussia, but lost the battle with the very maker of great Borussia, Hennes Weisweiler. Yet, Borussia was still running strong – may be because they were always short of money, there was no mental stagnation in Moenchengldabach and they changed easily their squad: there was no hesitation when a star had to be sold – so unlike Bayern. Back in 1973 they sold Netzer to Real (Madrid). Before the start of 1977-78 season Uli Stielike went to Madrid too – from aside, it was more than risky selling the best players, but there was huge benefit as well: Borussia smoothly transitioned from one generation to another, new stars were rising, the team staying strong. Some of the stars were aging – Vogts, Wimmer, Heynckes – but others were at their prime – Bonhof and Simonsen. The squad was balanced, experienced, and deep – Kleff, Wittkamp, Danner, Kulik, Hannes, Kneib, Del'Haye, Klinkhammer, Ringels, Wohlers. Younger recruits were solid, if not exactly with big star potential – Lienen, Schafer, Gores. The club continued to import Danish players – so far, it was successful and effective policy: Le Fevre, Henning Jensen, Simonsen. Now they had 22-years old Carsten Nielsen. A good blend in every sense and excellent coach. It was clear by now that Borussia was unable to conquer Europe, but in West Germany was the strongest club. Second place this year was really unlucky occasion.