The Rise up of the “Fohlenelf”
By David Nienhaus (translation: Takashi Sugiyama and Francois Duchateau)
Usually we let reporters from whole Germany talk in our Sportsnavi columns about the clubs they follow – in addition to our own view. In this theme our column writer David Nienhaus speaks himself about Borussia Mönchengladbach – the club he follows for the “Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” (WAZ) online since three years. In this period he witnessed the impressive development of the club, from the (nearly) fall at the Lower Rhine until the Rise up of the “Fohlenelf”.
In Mönchengladbach they celebrate the championship title these days. Well, kind of. This phrase was used by Sporting director Max Eberl shortly before the season ends. Normally he is more reserved with his answers. “Entering Champions League is comparable with winning the title”, he says.
His club succeeded in entering Europe’s elite stage. Borussia Mönchengladabch finally is back there where the club became a legend in the seventies. Back than the “Fohlenelf” (“The Foal Eleven”) won title after title, competed with Bayern and had national team players in their squad like Günter Netzer, Berti Vogts and Jupp Heynckes – world stars. Coaching legends Hennes Weisweiler and Udo Lattek impressed their seals. Borussia Mönchengladbach was a myth. They talked about “football in highest precision”: Succcesful, young, unique.
These days lay in a past long time ago. The club from Nordrhine Westphalia had rather difficult times in the last decades. Coaches and managers came and went. Was Borussia in the eighties settled in the upper half of the table, they rateher played against relegation instead for silverware during these days.
Sometimes the club let the successful past relive for short bits, but constancy there was not. Two times – 1999 and 2007 Borussia even had to go the painful way through 2. Bundesliga. A club with huge tradition on the wrong way. Their cult stadium Bökelberg was not good enough anymore to be competitive. With their new Borussia Park the club should agenerate after 2004 more income with their tickets again.
But: Success is something hard to calculate. The relegation three years later showed. Gladbach walked between worlds and had to sell talents like Marko Marin to secure their basis of existence. The season 2010/11 should become to the most important one of their younger club history. Coach Lucien Favre took over in a situation at the bottom of the table where there was no hope at all. But it should become Max Eberl’s best signing.
The football teacher from Switzerland brought Gladbach back to a playoff spot in the relegation battle, a final for stayin in the Bundesliga. Gladbach won against VfL Bochum and used this psychological effect of their enourmous comeback to write a new chapter of success.
After Gladbach nearly relegated Favre was able to enter the play off stage of the Champions League qualify round. Remembrance of the good old days got awake after hearing the famous UEFA hymn through the stadium. But yet it shouldn’t happen.
Coach Favre and sporting director Eberl build up their team with their vision, step by step. A team that became also attractive to others. Roman Neustädter went to Schalke, Marco Reus to Borussia Dortmund, Dante to FC Bayern. But Gladbach found young new players who fitted in the concept of the club.
Favre lets his team play fast football. Switching is tactically important for him, fast attacks, keeping the ball. He build a team that impressed the Bundesliga. And now he brought Gladbach for the first time ever to the Champions League – 37 years after their last appearance in the competition of the European Champions. Gladbach knew how to impressive with great football back than.
“Incredible” Ibrahima Traoré smiles when he watches the standings. He is one of the player who stands for the young success of Borussia. The team plays variably offensive and with a stabile defence. Especially on the wings the teams has a huge competition for Bundesliga terms. Favre can switch his system depending on the opponent, even rotate. Traoré, who came as a starter in Stuttgarter, has accepted his new role as joker. The success of the team matters.
Also after this season there is a big blood-letting. World Champion Christoph Kramer and national team player Max Kruse will leave, both are key players. But Eberl doesn’t fear the future. Compared to the period when Dante, Neustädter and Reus left, Gladbach has grown. Kramer and Kruse can be replaced by players who are pretty much as good as them – with the help of the Champions League money. Eberl has already proofed to have a nose for good transfers – of course with the help of his coach.
“We won’t do crazy things, just because we’re in the Champions League”, Eberl said to sportsnavi. It is planned that to invest 20 – 30 million Euro into the squad – money from the UCL.
Shinji Okazaki of Mainz 05 was named as target for a long time. After Yuki Otsu he would have become Borussia’s 2nd Japanese. But Mainz does not want to sell Okazaki inside the Bundesliga.
Bremen Striker di Santo is not really a candidate, in the opposite to Kevin Volland. The Germany under 21 striker, who plays in Hoffenheim, would be the ideal replacement for Max Kruse.
Even there won’t come “Champions transfers on champions league level”, the future is bright at Gladbach. The club has established in the top group. Financially the club is healthy, and even has savings deposit. Gladbach has a clear philosophy. The hero from back than, Günter Netzer, follows with interest how is old club does and praises Borussia in the highest tones. When the club would continue the strategy of the small steps and keeps calm, even if there are hectic days, the future is bright.
“Favre is the builder of the success. It would make me happy if he would stay coach for a long time at Borussia and continue to write this wonderful story”; Netzer said in an interview.
Maybe he sees his own club in deed with the title in his hand. Although Bayern and Wolfsburg are financially unreachable ahead, football is unpredictable – and fortune favors the hard workers.