Category Archives: Wolfsburg

In Allofs and Hecking, Wolfsburg finally have a plan

Dieter Hecking and Klaus Allofs: Charged with taking the Wolves forward

Since the first departure of coach Felix Magath, in 2009, Wolfsburg have looked to appoint high profile coaches, none of whom have come close to emulating that fantastic Bundesliga title winning season at the end of the last decade. However, each appointment was a statement of intent that the Wolves regarded itself as a Champions League and Championship contending club.

Armin Veh, was a title winning coach at Stuttgart and when he didn’t work out, Steve McClaren was brought into replace him (after a brief interim stint by Lorenz-Günther Köstner, the Tony Parkes of Lower Saxony). McClaren may be regarded as something of a bum in England but the former England coach was appointed off the back of an impressive Eredivisie title win with FC Twente.

Even when the sparkly toothed wonder of York failed and the club re-installed Magath in March 2011 (dispensing with sporting director, Dieter Hoeness at the same time) there was still an expectation of a return to the big time for the Volkswagen owned club even though, by that time, they were out of Europe and almost out of the Bundesliga.

Magath’s second spell was not only fruitless but very expensive. His balance sheet after nearly two and one half seasons was approximately, £30.69 million. Needless to say when the decision came to appoint his successor the club, who cannot be accused of failing to back their coaches with transfer money, have decided to entrust the coffers with people less inclined to go on a spending spree.

The recruitment of Klaus Allofs was a surprise only by virtue of him having been associated with Werder Bremen for so many years that to an outsider, he seemed set to leave the Weserstadion in a pine box. However, with Werder no longer the force they were, it seemed a good time for a change and Allofs now faces a mighty challenge, to restore some order, stability and focus to a club that has been lacking in all three of those attributes in recent seasons.

Initially, it has been suggested that the caretaker, Köstner, may have a crack at the coach’s job  full time after receiving a public endorsement from Diego. The Brazilian playmaker has had a fractious relationship with his employers and keeping him motivated will be key to Wolfsburg success in the short term.

However, despite a modest upturn in results it was clear that a more established coach was desirable and reliable sources had former Real Madrid boss and German International, Bernd Schuster nailed on as the man for the job. But it wasn’t to be and reports suggest that the “Blond Angel” who won the European Championship with Allofs in 1980 could not agree terms so an alternative was sort from a largely unexpected place, Nuremberg.

When Dieter Hecking succeeded Michael Oenning at the Nuremberg club in November 2009 he succeeded in making the newly promoted side tough to beat. In his two years in charge, Der Club may not be the most interesting team to watch but have remained stable and brought through a number of exciting young players such as, Dennis Diekmeier, Timothy Chandler, Philipp Wollscheid, Alexander Esswein and Hiroshi Kiyotake. Hecking’s virtue’s of building teams with a strong defensive core will be of great value to Wolfsburg in the short term but his ability to turn young players into accomplished Bundesliga footballers will be of greater value in the long term.

Hecking did not have a glittering playing career which may be a factor when it comes to earning the respect of the players. However, there is no arguing with the albeit modest achievements at Nuremberg and he leaves his old club in better shape than when he arrived. With support from Allofs, he should be able to get his ideas across to his players in the winter training camp before the restart of the season. Hecking also has the virtue of not being Felix Magath and in that respect, the players should be a good deal happier.

By appointing Allofs as Sporting Director first, followed by Hecking, Wolfsburg are doing things in the right order. Both are experienced and unlikely to panic if and when things go wrong. For the first time since Dzeko, Grafite, Misimovic and co were winning the title under Magath, Wolfsburg seem to have a plan. Now all that remains is for them to play some football.

Bundesliga Review – Wolves howl with joy after Magath leaves by Archie Rhind-Tutt

After Felix Magath’s departure in October, it’s no coincidence that Wolfsburg have hit form since.

Popularity and respect are two important things for a coach to have. You don’t have to necessarily be popular but if you have the respect of the players, you’ve got a decent chance of succeeding. The problem for Felix Magath is that he had neither by the time he left Wolfsburg for a second time in October.

Then again, popularity is not something which Magath has been renowned for and that’s not surprising. After all, this is a guy who threatened to cancel Christmas for his squad last year. He’s also been known to send his players running in the woods and fined them for individual mistakes during games.

Most spectacularly, in his time at Stuttgart, he once had his players, during training, stand in a circle for 90 minutes in near freezing temperatures after a defeat the day before. This season, his antics have continued. Here’s Raphael Honigstein’s account of what he did to his players in September. (

“Magath had them running through the Wolfsburg woods (again) and when they had finished, they found that most of their water bottles had been emptied on purpose by the coach. Magath tried to justify this exercise in sadism as an “educational measure” afterwards – “I wanted them to learn to share resources as a team.””

Funnily enough, the players were not reacting to the coach’s “techniques” and after a 2-0 home defeat to Freiburg, the Wolfsburg hierarchy decided it was time for Magath to go. It’s no real surprise that since then the Wolves have improved markedly.

Interim coach Lorenz-Günther Köstner has been at the helm for the last four games but judging by the results, the players have just been happy to have someone who isn’t Felix Magath. Their third win in four games came on Sunday as they won away at Hoffenheim.

Seven minutes in, Makoto Hasebe headed the opener after some poor defending. Hoffenheim lost the ball just outside their own box soon after, allowing Bas Dost to double Wolfsburg’s lead. The home side did press but Diego Benaglio was relatively comfortable in any save he had to make. This was in part down to the surprisingly shot-shy Joselu. He blazed over from a matter of yards in the second half, epitomising his and Hoffenheim’s day in front of goal. With just over ten minutes to play, Naldo made it three for Wolfsburg with a well struck free kick before Eren Derdiyok scored a late consolation for the hosts.

Hoffenheim  were left with nothing after a master class in clinical finishing from the visitors – not bad for a team who netted just twice in their opening eight games.

The win on Sunday was made all the sweeter as new Sporting Director Klaus Allofs watched on for the first time since arriving from Werder Bremen during the week. He spent 13 years at the Weserstadion and Wolfsburg need that sort of stability after a destructive second reign of Felix Magath.

His first tenure at the club brought a maiden Bundesliga title but the results from this latest spell have tainted Magath’s legacy at Wolfsburg. Players such as Diego have openly welcomed his departure but like quite a few in Magath’s coaching career, he didn’t see eye-to-eye with him.

Diego is likely to help Wolfsburg climb further into a mid-table position this season but it’s hard to foresee another Bundesliga club appointing Felix Magath anytime soon.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

  • The unthinkable happened this weekend – Bayern Munich didn’t just concede a goal away from home, they also failed to win. Nuremberg were the team to stop them as they claimed an unlikely point against the Bundesliga leaders. There was controversy too after Mario Mandzukic’s celebration prompted claims he was showing support to two Croatian generals who had convictions overturned on Friday.
  • Bayern’s stumble allowed the chasing pack to close the gap and Borussia Dortmund were only too happy to do so. Inspired by Mario Götze, they overcame Greuther Fürth and surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt were also victorious as Alexander Meier continued his rich vein of form. He scored two as the Eagles beat Augsburg. No such luck for Schalke who were lacklustre in a 2-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen – the highlight of that was André Schürrle’s stunning opener.
  • Meanwhile in mid table, Son-Heung Min ensured Hamburg beat Mainz. Freiburg continue to chug away quietly after they won at Hannover and Stuttgart recovered from their collapse last weekend to win at Gladbach. Werder Bremen were the weekend’s other victors, coming from behind to beat Fortuna Düsseldorf at the Weserstadion.
For more on the Bundesliga, follow @archiert1 on Twitter

Matchday 12 Results:

Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Fürth

Eintracht Frankfurt 4-2 Augsburg

Gladbach 1-2 Stuttgart

Hamburg 1-0 Mainz

Hannover 1-2 Freiburg

Nuremberg 1-1 Bayern Munich

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Schalke

Werder Bremen 2-1 Fortuna Düsseldorf

Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 12 10 1 1 33:5 +28 31 CL*
2 FC Schalke 04 12 7 2 3 22:14 +8 23 CL*
3 Eintracht Frankfurt 12 7 2 3 25:18 +7 23 CL*
4 Borussia Dortmund 12 6 4 2 26:13 +13 22 CL* Qual.
5 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 12 6 3 3 21:17 +4 21 EL* Qual.
6 Hannover 96 12 5 2 5 25:20 +5 17 EL* Qual.
7 SV Werder Bremen 12 5 2 5 20:18 +2 17
8 1. FSV Mainz 05 12 5 2 5 15:14 +1 17
9 Hamburger SV 12 5 2 5 12:14 -2 17
10 SC Freiburg 12 4 4 4 16:14 +2 16
11 Borussia Mönchengladbach 12 4 4 4 18:23 -5 16
12 VfB Stuttgart 12 4 4 4 14:20 -6 16
13 VfL Wolfsburg 12 4 2 6 12:19 -7 14
14 1899 Hoffenheim 12 3 3 6 18:26 -8 12
15 1. FC Nuremberg 12 3 3 6 10:18 -8 12
16 Fortuna Düsseldorf 12 2 5 5 11:18 -7 11 Play-offs
17 Greuther Fürth 12 1 4 7 10:23 -13 7 Relegation
18 FC Augsburg 12 1 3 8 8:22 -14 6 Relegation

Table thanks to official Bundesliga website

Article originally written on Football Fan Cast

The Bundesliga Show Episode 80 – The Future For Allofs

On this weeks edition of The Bundesliga Show, Matt Hermann and Jon Hartley get under the skin of Matchday 12 in the Bundesliga. They also tackle some of the big issues of the week including the future of crowd control in German stadiums, as well as the future for Klaus Allofs, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen.

All that, plus a round-up of the 2.Bundesliga from Terry Duffelen.

Enjoy the show!

Bundesliga Review – Derby excitement tempered by Pezzoni incident By Archie Rhind-Tutt

 

Derbies – they are part of what makes not just the Bundesliga but football in general great. It’s there where all of the passion is poured out onto the pitch by both fans and players. This weekend the Bundesliga had no less than four of them on show. Not all of them were necessarily local – Bayern Munich and Stuttgart for instance are 136 miles apart.

The pair nevertheless make up the Southern derby (not to be confused with Nuremberg v Fürth which is the South derby). With Borussia Dortmund drawing with Nuremberg on Saturday, it was a great opportunity for Bayern to take an early lead over the Champions. They did just that, but not before Stuttgart were made to realise that Bayern are like the Incredible Hulk – you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

The Swabians hit the bar early on and then took the lead through Martin Harnik’s superb volley on 25 minutes. By half time, Stuttgart were trailing by two after Müller, Kroos and most spectacularly Luiz Gustavo, gave the Bavarians the lead their fans expected. In the second half, it continued with Müller (again), Mandzukic and Schweinsteiger ensuring last year’s runners up were 6-1 up just six minutes after half time. That’s how it stayed but there was still time for Vedad Ibisevic to be sent off, completing a bad start in the Bundesliga for the Bosnian after last week’s horrible miss.

Perhaps not for the last time this season though, Bayern went to the top of the Bundesliga. Still, they weren’t the only side to enjoy a Sunday roast. For the Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) derby was more like the demolition derby as Hannover thumped Wolfsburg at the VW Arena.

This in itself was a surprise. After all, Hannover hadn’t won in Wolfsburg since 2006 and they weren’t great on the road last year, picking up just two away wins all season. The Wolves have also been tipped to do well this season and were expected to build on last weekend’s win at Stuttgart.

Still, Hannover are not a side to be underestimated, as they showed. Their star was Szabolcs Huszti. The Hungarian, who returned to the club after three years at Zenit St. Petersburg, set up all four goals for “The 96.” Karim Haggui and Artur Sobiech made it 2-0 before the break. In the second half, Leon Andreasen and Sobiech completed a fantastic day for Mirko Slomka’s men. Wolfsburg also had substitute Robin Knoche sent off in the second half and it was unsurprising when coach Felix Magath apologized to the fans after his side’s tame performance. After all, the Lower Saxony bragging rights were firmly with Hannover.

It wasn’t as clear cut in the Niederrhein (Lower Rhine) derby as Fortuna Düsseldorf and Borussia Mönchengladbach renewed rivalries in the Bundesliga for the first time in over 15 years. Yet neither was able to find a winner in a tight affair on Saturday evening. The match belied the ever entertaining nature of Fortuna Düsseldorf whilst for Gladbach, you can’t help but feel it was the sort of game they might have won, if they still had a certain Marco Reus. Still, the Foals look well set for the season, something which cannot be said of Hamburg.

HSV travelled to Werder Bremen in the Nordderby (North derby) but were outclassed for a second week running. With new signing Rafael van der Vaart watching on having returned from Spurs, Werder picked up from their encouraging performance at the Champions on the opening night of the season. Aaron Hunt had one penalty saved by René Adler, a definite positive for Hamburg in the new season. However, Adler was beaten by a second Hunt penalty in the second half and then by a Nils Petersen strike, ensuring that Werder and Hamburg were looking in different directions going into the international break. BILD even questioned after the result whether van der Vaart’s contract extends into the 2.Bundesliga – a cheeky and slightly premature jibe. Time is on their side but HSV’s start has been far from inspiring. Patience is thin on the ground with fans, as it is with many supporters these days.  Passion runs high which is what makes derby matches and indeed what made this weekend’s Bundesliga matches special.

However, we must be careful, especially after what happened to Kevin Pezzoni this week. Pezzoni was a player at another big club who have been going through hard times, that being Cologne who were relegated from the Bundesliga just a few months ago. He cancelled his contract this week after being threatened outside his home by a group of angry Cologne fans – an appalling development. So while fans displeasure at results is understandable, the Pezzoni incident certainly helped to put into context where football’s boundaries for passion lie.

For more on the Bundesliga, follow @archiert1 on Twitter

Matchday 2 Results:

Mainz 0-1 Fürth

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Freiburg

Hoffenheim 0-4 Eintracht Frankfurt

Nuremberg 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

Schalke 3-1 Augsburg

Werder Bremen 2-0 Hamburg

Fortuna Düsseldorf 0-0 Gladbach

Wolfsburg 0-4 Hannover

Bayern Munich 6-1 Stuttgart

Table

Position Club Games W* D* L* F:A GD* Points
1 FC Bayern Munich 2 2 0 0 9:1 +8 6 CL*
2 Eintracht Frankfurt 2 2 0 0 6:1 +5 6 CL*
3 Hannover 96 2 1 1 0 6:2 +4 4 CL*
4 FC Schalke 04 2 1 1 0 5:3 +2 4 CL* Qual.
5 Fortuna Düsseldorf 2 1 1 0 2:0 +2 4 EL* Qual.
6 Borussia Dortmund 2 1 1 0 3:2 +1 4 EL* Qual.
7 1. FC Nürnberg 2 1 1 0 2:1 +1 4
7 Borussia Mönchengladbach 2 1 1 0 2:1 +1 4
9 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2 1 0 1 3:2 +1 3
9 SV Werder Bremen 2 1 0 1 3:2 +1 3
11 SpVgg Greuther Fürth 2 1 0 1 1:3 -2 3
12 VfL Wolfsburg 2 1 0 1 1:4 -3 3
13 1. FSV Mainz 05 2 0 1 1 1:2 -1 1
14 Sport-Club Freiburg 2 0 1 1 1:3 -2 1
15 Hamburger SV 2 0 0 2 0:3 -3 0
16 FC Augsburg 2 0 0 2 1:5 -4 0 Relegation
17 1899 Hoffenheim 2 0 0 2 1:6 -5 0 Relegation
18 VfB Stuttgart 2 0 0 2 1:7 -6 0 Relegation

Table thanks to the Bundesliga Official Website

Article originally written on Football Fan Cast

The Return of Patrick Helmes

It’s been a tough season for Patrick Helmes. In-fact, it has been a tough few seasons for the Wolfsburg striker. Having scored four goals in five, this is a player who is getting back to his best. It’s been a long time in coming for a forward who once threatened to be one of Germany’s best and perhaps even challenge the likes of Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez in the national side.

His rise to fame was a difficult one. He didn’t just burst onto the scene; instead his first successes were in the lower leagues. In the 2004/05 season he hit 21 goals in 34 games for Sportfreunde Siegen and helped the club gain promotion to the 2.Bundesliga. After that blast of goals, Helmes returned to FC Cologne where he had previously played youth and under-17 football. Over the next three seasons he would follow Cologne down to the second division himself before firing the goals to help get them back again, alongside Milivoje Novakovic.

Patrick Helmes with Cologne strike partner Milivoje Novakovic

With 31 goals in two seasons with Cologne, Helmes was certainly getting noticed by other clubs and ones not too far away. Having moved to neighbours Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2008, the striker started to his hit best run of form. He formed a partnership with Stefan Kiessling but it was Helmes who was the main goal outlet for Leverkusen. He scored over a third of the teams goals that season and was the clubs top scorer.

He’d already made his debut for Germany by that point, but any progress with the national team and with Leverkusen was cut short as he was hit by a serious injury. While on his summer holiday, he ruptured a cruciate ligament and this kept him out of the side until November of 2009. As a result, Helmes lost his place to Eren Derdiyok and was left to mainly making appearances from the bench.

Patrick Helmes' arrival at Wolfsburg

No surprise then, that he made a move away from the Werkself to Wolfsburg. At the time under Steve McClaren, Wolfsburg desperately needed goals but there was to be some early disruption to life in Niedersachsen. Just a week after arriving at the club, Steve McClaren was fired and Felix Magath took charge once more at the Volkswagen Arena. Not the most stable of starts for Helmes at his new club. He managed eight games between his move and the end of the season and chipped in with a solitary goal during that time.

But having settled in and had a full pre-season under Felix Magath, Helmes got off to the best of starts in this campaign with two goals on the opening day against his hometown club Cologne. That was the first of only two away victories so far this season for Wolfsburg, the second came recently in Nuremberg and guess who scored…Patrick Helmes. But that only tells half the story of this season as he spent much of this season ostracised at Volkswagen Arena by Magath. The boss had complained about his tracking back, levied a large fine and dropped him to the second team. His time with Wolfsburg II was pretty eventful as well. His record reads: 1 Game, 1 Goal and 1 Red Card.

Having spent almost 6-months out of the first team, Helmes was back in the side at the end of February and scored from the penalty spot on his return against Hoffenheim. Since then, three more goals have followed but what does this say about his future? The public attitude of Helmes and Magth is one that suggests that they have put their differences aside, but also this could be more of a functional relationship that suits both parties. Wolfsburg could do with Helmes’ goals to help them grab a place in the Europa League and for the player himself, doing that could be the perfect shop window for another move. At 28, he is probably hoping that the next move will be his most successful and his last.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 42 – A mixed weekend of sadness and joy in the Bundesliga

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley, talk about the big issues of Matchday 13 in the Bundesliga. It was a mixed weekend of emotions in the Bundesliga…sadness at the news of Referee Babak Rafati tried to take his own life before Cologne’s game with Hannover.

Also in the show, author and journalist Uli Hesse talks about the big match of the week between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 42 – A mixed weekend of sadness and joy in the Bundesliga by soundoffootball

Fines A Sign of Bad Times for Wolfsburg?

There is an eerie calm during the two weeks international breaks intrude upon top flight league schedules. Pubs near stadiums likely find their trade less brisk on these weekends while fans entertain themselves with other leisurely activities typically omitted from their usual football rituals. Players not participating in their national squad fixtures are permitted more time to rest and recover, granted a brief reprieve from the weekly grind along with the incessant “Will he play?” type questions for those with nagging injuries.

When the break comes on the heels of a transfer window having just slammed shut, or closed softly, or simply concluded, it can be downright crickets. This is all well and good though for the club trainers, most of whom might appreciate the time to assess their squads after all the comings and goings during the transfer season without having to busily cobble together a plan of action in a matter of a couple days. For some, it might be a welcome break from the media glare, particularly if the season has not gone as swimmingly as planned. Of course, not a bit of that matters to Wolfsburg’s trainer Felix Magath, for he is a slave to the rhythm.

And we all know rhythm is a dancer, don’t we? It’s our soul’s companion, and all that nonsense.

No, not content with utilizing the time to evaluate his club’s concluded player transactions along their rather recent woeful defensive record as a team–having conceded 7 goals over the last two matches–Magath appears to have singled out two of his more attack-minded players during this time off and shine the media spotlight on them (and himself) instead. Charging Patrick Helmes and Mario Mandzukic with being “lazy runners” during the side’s 4-1 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach, the pair were fined € 10,0000 each by that noted lover of medicine balls over this internationals weekend. While this is not something unprecedented for that crazy cat Felix, it is rather odd, considering neither player has ever come across as being particularly consistent up and down the pitch ever nor have either been regularly considered defensive assets to their squads.

Honestly, if Magath is going to fine Helmes for not moving about that much, he might as well charge him for being, well, Patrick Helmes. He could pursue the matter retroactively and tell Patrick he owes Bayer Leverkusen a few thousand euros while he’s at it.

The matter, though, might be rather amusing now to some Bundesliga observers, as this is Magath’s modus operandi, but for Wolfsburg supporters, it could spell the continuation of a poor run of form. As the experiment under English manager Schtunning Schteve McClaren crashed and burned at the VW Arena near the close of last year’s campaign, VfL returned to Magath, the only trainer to have taken die Wölfe to the Bundesliga summit, in an attempt to bring form to function. Most of the club McClaren had inherited fit Magath’s championship-winning system, and try as they might, McClaren’s tactics and his squad just could not get on the same page; thus, Magath picked up his poisoned chalice after having parted ways with Schalke 04 earlier in the season.

So, the cat is back, but will this type of old school encouragement work on his current Wolfsburg squad? Magath demonstrated last season during Schalke’s woeful 2010/11 league campaign this sort of managerial style works only in the proper circumstances, and can often backfire with lacklustre results. Last season, Magath isolated players such as Jermaine Jones and Alex Baumjohann in a similar fashion, labeling them as lazy and opting for them to rot on the reserve squad of the Royal Blues during his tenure. This, of course, was the same Jones who was vital in Schalke’s midfield just the previous 2009/10 season and impressive when he was finally able to escape the final days of Magath’s reign while on loan to Blackburn earlier this year. As for Baumjohann, he was returned to the side when Ralf Rangnick took over, and looks to be a first choice substitute as Rangnick rotates his midfield during the Bundesliga and Europa League campaigns this season.

Also, ask Zvonomir Soldo how effective going old school can be. Anyone know where he is these days?

With Wolfsburg likely needing their goal scorers on quality form while players on the back line like the two-footed Sortirios Kyrgiakos get sorted following the departure of the lad Simon Kjaer, this might not be the best of moments to unsettle them via negative motivational tactics. Having observed Helmes at Bayer 04, he seems to be a player who needs more confidence spewing forth from the trainer’s box than other strikers, he needs time on the pitch, and he needs to be allowed to sort out his own mistakes for positive results to take place. As for Mandzukic, his form has always been slightly spotty; in one match, he’ll appear as active as a sea turtle beaching itself to lay eggs, the very next match, he can be found darting vertically all over the pitch like a hare with his ears pinned back.

In short, this is probably a decision waiting to backfire on Magath like an old Beetle.

The break, then, is ending. Players on international duty will soon be rejoining their respective clubs, with a new matchday approaching like a freight train of relief for league enthusiasts bored out of their gourds the past weekend. For Magath and Wolfsburg, whether his decision to fine VfL players for sleeping on the job proves motivational or detrimental can only be determined on the pitch, and what better way to find out than with a home match against Schalke, featuring many of the players Magath treated in a similar manner last season along with a few he loaned out completely for not fitting his style. It should be a right family get together, then. 

Company Picnic At The Pokal

Who doesn’t love a big, shiny, golden cup? After all, before the winnings from competitions such as the Champions League went from being paid in plug nickels to enough money to fully fund most Third World countries, the big prize was just a cup.
Okay, there might have been some ribbons too. The point is that, at the end of cup competitions, there is a tangible object–often a great lump of a trophy that’s been places you wish you could go–awarded to the triumphant side. One of the best cups out there to win, aesthetically speaking, is the DFB Pokal Cup. Just look at that lovely piece of silverware–it’s a solid and divinely-wrought piece of metal from which Vikings should be drinking mead.

Wouldn’t you want your club’s captain to be hoisting something similar to the German Cup at the end of a title-winning campaign in 1.Bundesliga over a bloody hubcap? The best thing you can do with that is dine on salad–Bundesliga winners deserve a cup that can hold a liver-wilting amount of beer rather than an over-sized appetizer plate.

But that cup instead goes to the winner of Germany’s domestic competition, and the opening round begins this weekend. The draw set up some interesting matches to begin, from a plucky club Terry’s featured elsewhere hosting Bavarian behemoths Bayern to a few that see 2.Bundesliga sides squaring off in perhaps more competitive affairs. One of the most intriguing fixtures, however, might pique those curious in the Battle for the Mead Cup for what the two clubs embody rather than which side will emerge victorious. When RB Leipzig host VfL Wolfsburg on Friday evening, it sees two clubs take to the pitch in a contrast of the company club from yesteryear with one of the modern footballing age.


Die Wölfe, of course, is the post-World War II incarnation of the football club associated with the Volkswagen auto works factory in Wolfsburg. With the pre-war works team BSG Volkswagenwerk Stadt des KdF-Wagen having been disbanded, VfL was granted license to operate by the British occupation forces after so that town residents–Volkswagen employees– could get a bit of exercise after having spent the week building VW Beetles. Playing in the shadows of Volkswagen’s office buildings and near barracks that once housed foreign prisoners forced to work for the company during the war, VfL nearly went extinct as well when all but one of its players left to play for 1.FC Wolfsburg, a club still in operation today in the Northeast German Football Association (NOFV). While today we consider them a 1.Bundesliga regular–their current spell in the top flight beginning in the late 1990s–and having even stolen a Hubcap off Bayern Munich in 2009, for a long period of their existence Wolves were mainly a regional team supported by the town’s employer in a scheme devised to let the employees blow off a little steam.

The story of RB Leipzig–that’s SSV Markranstädt in old German–probably is well-known to those that have been foolish enough to have read down this far. If not, then, a quick refresher: fizzy energy drink company Red Bull made the fifth division German side its fourth football acquisition in 2009 after having purchased franchises in Salzburg, New York, and Sao Paolo. With Bundesliga having that pesky ownership rule that insists outside investors can retain no more than a 49% interest, the company only purchased a minority stake of the former East German club and was allowed to rebrand the club as “RB” rather than Red Bull Markranstädt to smudge up said rule. As for the Leipzig part, shortly after the organization bought SSV’s playing license it moved the club from the cozy Stadion am Bad with a capacity of 5,500 a few miles away to play in Leipzig’s 45,000 capacity Zentralstadion, a bit of a “white elephant” that had been left over from the 2006 World Cup.
Red Bull’s goal is to have RB Leipzig competing in the 1.Bundesliga within the next eight years, which is the primary reason behind the move to what is now Red Bull Arena under a name that could easily be construed as being shorthand for “Rhapsodic Bohemian Leipzig,” or something like that.

As an odd parallel, SSV’s pre-fizzy drink history shows that, as Wolfsburg was being supported by an automaker in the west, rebranded RB Leipzig had spent portions of its own existence funded by manufacturing companies in the east. While the town of Markranstädt is known principally for brewing tasty beer, it also has been a home to automotive and machine factories. Company sponsorship of the club during the Cold War years was reflected in its name, from being known at various times as BSG Motor or BSG Turbine. Likely those sponsorships reflected the need for a local side to be able to survive financially during the difficulties of post-war German division and a company’s desire to keep said club in operation for the sake of domestic tranquility. A prime contrast between its previous company associations and the current RB Leipzig formula, then, lies in ambition.

Surely the East German motor works company or those machine builders did not lend their financial support in hopes of turning a fifth or sixth division club into a future 1.Bundesliga powerhouse. Nor did they have a philosophy of incorporating a Markranstädt side into part of their global marketing strategy. That has, it seems, been what has become of the club. It appears to turn the origins of company sponsorship, like that of VfL Wolfsburg, on its head; rather than being an recreational outlet for locals tired from the rigors of a business day, it has instead made the club part of the business itself, detaching the team from its Markranstädt roots and plopping it down the road and labeling it with enough red bulls to potentially break all the china in the Bundesliga’s shop.

Why say that? Red Bull’s purchase of the club and stated aim to fund it through to the top flight presented another potential ally to Martin Kind’s attempts at seeing out alterations to Bundesliga’s 50 + 1 rule. The Hannover 96 president recently presented a new proposal to be decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that would expand the previous statute allowing commercially-owned clubs Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg to retain their majority owners to other clubs that have also received uninterrupted support from a similar group for a lengthy period of time. Uli Hesse provided a fantastic summation of the current proposal here in Part I and Part II. Should this be approved, it would set up quite nicely for RB Leipzig, as Red Bull would then be able to continue funding the club up the league tables with a move to full ownership once that period of time has been reached without having to legally challenge for the right to do so.

So, while this DFB Pokal Cup clash between Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig is a first for two clubs that owe their current existence to commercial endeavors, it might not be the last. The future of Bundesliga might see a bit more of this, as traveling supporters hop in their Passats and sip Red Bull on the way to a match at Red Bull Arena. Perhaps we might see RB Leipzig lift the Mead Cup someday, guzzling from it the latest sugar-free concoction designed to give you wings. And while this meeting represents a bit of a new relationship betwixt company and club versus the old, one thing remains a constant. Should Red Bull achieve its goal of having RB Leipzig promoted to 1.Bundesliga some day, it will still likely have to steal that Hubcap away from Bayern Munich much like Wolfsburg did a couple years ago.