Saturday, October 12, 2013

When we speak of German football, it is about Bundesliga. The lower division is hardly ever considered, as every other second division, save the English one. Yet, carefully planning Germans created the Second Bundesliga with the clear aim of making the system stable and productive. The idea was to elevate the competitive level by having professional second division from which stronger clubs would be promoted and flock of new talent will come. It was not to happen by night, yet, so far Second Division was struggling and clearly did not deliver. Yes, it was competitive and tough, but there were few clubs worth playing in the top division. The promoted cubs hardly lasted longer than two seasons among the best. And pretty much the same was happening to the clubs promoted from the regional leagues to the second division. Perhaps the formula was not perfected yet – in 1977-78 there were still two second division leagues – North (Nord) and South (Sud), each consisting of 20 teams. May be too much for good quality – already a whole bunch of smaller clubs found comfortable niche in midtable, save from relegation, but not interested in aiming higher. One big concern was the steady drop of attendance – by 1977 the diminishing crowds were concern all around Europe, but the drop in the Second Bundesliga was quite telling: so far, the biggest number was achieved during the first season, perhaps because of the newness of the league. After that it was downhill, but during the 1977-78 season the numbers plunged down drastically: almost 800 000 people less attended than in 1976-77. North Division was better attended – 5041 on average vs 4591 in the South. It was 4816 average combined – the previous year the average was 5973. Going down sharply... and dangerously, when compared to rising numbers in the Bundesliga. Huge difference – Bundesliga attracted almost 5 times more people per match than the Second Bundesliga. Obviously, quality of the game was an issue – and no doubt about it, because relegated from Bundesliga teams were immediately left by most of their top players. Karlsruher SC was point in case:

This is the squad for 1977-78, when KSC joined second division thanks to relegation. The only figure capturing attention is the club official Reimold – because of his outlandish green suit. The team is entirely insignificant, even their Yugoslavian Balevski. Typical second division squad, good enough for midtable. And no wonder: in the summer of 1977 their better players – Norbert Janzon and Kurt Niedermayer – joined Bayern. Wilfried Schafer went to Borussia (Moenchengladbach). Stripped Karlsruher finished 7th in the Sud.

They were not alone – of the three relegated from Bundelsiga clubs only Rot Weiss (Essen) had strong season, finishing 2nd in the Nord. Tennis Borussia (West Berlin) ended even lower than Karlsruher - 10th in Nord. But the promoted from the regional leagues fared no better than the relegated – 4 of 7 total clubs winning promotions in 1976-77 lasted only one year, going right where they came from: 1. FC Bocholt and OSC Bremerhaven finished 18th and 19th in Nord; VfR OLI Burstadt and Kickers Wurzburg took the same places in Sud. The survivors were just that – survivors: Rot Weiss (Ludenscheid) finished 13th in Nord, the same place took Freiburger SC in Sud. VfR Wormatia (Worms) was the best newcomer - 9th in Sud. Of all newcomers, promoted and relegated, only Rot Weiss (Essen) had really strong season – and even theirs was not exactly satisfactory.

To a point, there was no race in the South Second Division: SV Darmstadt finished first 5 points ahead of 1. FC Nurnberg, who also had no real competition, for 3rd placed FC 08 Homburg was 4 points behind them. And judging by the clubs playing in the league, there was hard to imagine even the winners establishing themselves in the Bundesliga.

An old club, Darmstadt, but equally old were their triumphs. The creation of the Bundesliga was terrible for such smaller clubs, depending on regional success – they were doomed to insignificance. Second division was more or less the highest level they hoped for. Darmstadt never played in the Bundesliga, so winning a promotion was their biggest success. Good for them going up as champions of the lower league.

Top row, from left: Hahn, Weiss, Sprey, Bechtold, Lindemann, Frey, Wagner, Krumbein

Middle row: Lothar Buchmann,Masseur Zacheis, Dörenberg, Kleppinger, Cestonaro, Drexler, Westenberger, Schneider, Co-Trainer Sclappner Sitting: Weber, Pampuch, Rudolf, Seyffer, Metz, Schabacker

Good for them, but it was clear that the most this squad could hope for in the Bundesliga was escaping relegation for a year or two. The best they had were Kleppinger and Cestonaro – second division stars, no more.

1. FC Nurnberg was another victim of Bundesliga – ones upon a time, it was strong club, often champions of Germany. Perhaps the 1950s were their peak, followed by significant slump. Nurnberg won their last title in 1968 and after that they lost their place among the top German clubs, eventually sinking to second level. And not able to win even there... second place gave them still a chance for promotion, though: they were to play promotional play-off against the second-placed team in Northern group.

At the bottom the fight for survival was not very heavy either: dead last were FK Pirmasens, finishing with 6 points! 1 win and 4 ties in 38 matches, 25:120 goal difference. Kickers Wurzburg, 19th, were way above with their 17 points, yet... no fighters either, for they were also 8 points behind the 18th team, VfR OLI Burstadt. Who were doomed early too, for 8 points divided them from the 17th spot. It was this last relegation spot where clubs fought to escape from – six clubs trembled to the end. SV Eintracht (Trier) and Freiburger SC eventually finished 12th and 13th with 35 points. Three clubs finished with 34 points – FC Augsburg was 14th with curious positive goal difference 57:54, followed by FSV Frankfurt and KSB Baunatal. The unlucky one was FC Bayern (Hof). They ended with only 33 points, 17th and out of the league.