FC Köln. Alive, while the stadium singing
UNESCO’s help to old cities is on the decrease when it concerns chasing time. The world is progressing even faster than we want. The faster modern buildings rise, the oftener it is necessary to return fallen tiles to the roof of an old house. Human relations are changing slowly, but steadily. The number of megacities grows, so it’s hard to call yourself "a citizen" living in them.
But football is still a binder allowing clerks, designers, retailers, bankers, taxi drivers and even gigolos and rentiers to find themselves all together on this side of the city wall. The same concerns ordinary viewers and active fans — it won’t come to their mind to use the disparaging word "scarfer." And "patriotism" and "love" are the words from the Soviet past (which, in fact, did not exist in Western Germany) which do not induce irony, but rich sources of the hormone of happiness. Somewhere things will be always like that. Anyway, as long as the stadium in Cologne is singing.
How does it sing exactly... During ten years, I was watching the video on the Internet and reading articles on Köln and wanted to come here. Most recently, I experienced a shock by Dortmund Westfalenstadion and thought that it had the best football atmosphere that had ever existed anywhere else. But there was a "knock from the top" — in order to start to be violently jealous of those for whom such visit to football is available, and there is nothing for you but to dream of this, it takes just little more than an hour to drive from Dortmund. You also need luck to get to the stadium. If you overcome all obstacles, you understand that the huge Cologne Cathedral and Müngersdorfer Stadion are somewhere in the same plane. Behind the invisible city walls of Cologne...
Germany is a country where a resident of every city considers the place where he lives to be the best place on the Earth. But Cologne is something exaggerated in the absolute degree. This is not a castle on a mountain and not a settlement on the island to consider itself special. It has offices of large companies, television studios, banks, even some government agencies. And different banks of the Rhine room a lot of beautiful cities and towns. But perhaps Cologne is the only place where one can tell the world so much of his or her «God-chosennes». And football is an especially strong means for this here. In fact, this is really weird. After all, the local FC — they call themselves plainly and self-confidently — «еffze», — don’t they? We need to understand that among the crowd of FC, it is the most tip-top, right? — the last trophy (German Cup) was held by it in 1983, and as from 1992, except for the Intertoto Cup, it kept aloof from Europe.
I turned out to be at the game of Köln against Dortmund. Restrained applause of the red and white Cologne stand remind of the invisible tie between Cologne and Dortmund when Kevin Grosskreutz is announced as part of the line-up. Dortmund live mascot does not hide that Köln was always the second best club for his heart, and he even came to its matches sometimes as a spectator, for proximity of the fans culture. As for abroad, Kevin does not see himself anywhere else but in Celtic, which is also close to his spirit. Well, now we will start to join the sides of the triangle...
Germans love when they have Gaensehaut — when their skin crawls. And the club chorales are to meet these very requirements — it should sound so that Gaensehaut does not disappear as long as possible, and the breath of air should be needed as often as possible. When in the late '90s, Köln for the first time in the history left Bundesliga and the club board took any step to unite the community in the face of a common misfortune, the local group Hoehner resang the famous folk song Loch Lomond, which is plugged in by Scottish fans quiveringly at the matches of the national team. The result is Mer Stonn zo Dir, FC Koelle. This hymn is known in Cologne among children and old people, dogs and cats and even parrots, whom the unique climate of Westphalia allows to meet in the city even in winter. There is a line in a moving Loch Lomond:
— You’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low. And I'll be in Scotland before you.
These words of the Scottish soldier dying of his wounds in captivity, in the best way possible describe the half-century history of Köln. And challenge, passion, love are things that Grosskreutz likes and that make the atmosphere of football Cologne to be one-of-a-kind. By the way, songs must be performed at the stadium in the local dialect only. Actually, Mer Stonn zo Dir is the local dialect, like many other songs about Köln club and Cologne city. Believe me, the neighboring Dusseldorf only dreams of such a number of dedications.
FC has to meet challenges of fate, combine in itself a nobleman and impoverished nobleman for all its life. It all started with the fact that when it was this club out of all local clubs that took the liberty to show the belonging to the city in its name, others thought it was pride. But the inhabitants of Cologne, who had not yet had time to wash off the dust and ashes of World War II, needed new guidelines and symbols of peaceful life. Therefore, they did not complain for a long time. Especially because...
"Do you want to become a champion of Germany with me?" — each resident of Cologne was asked this question by the first — and there is no doubt - the most successful president in the history of the club Franz Kremer. Now this step would be called an advertising campaign, but then it was a general mobilization — for those who made up the core of a unique club, which became famous without earning loud glory.
At first, Köln made rapid progress by the standards of the ’50-ies, it won Oberliga West a countless number of times. In 1962, it became German champion for the first time, a year before the formation of Bundesliga, and in 1964, it won the quarterfinals of the Champions Cup. Despite the extremely authoritarian nature of Kremer, Köln was known to have modern management and advanced sports methods. For example, Cologne people were the first to introduce the position of a goalkeeping coach, and it is not surprising that after decades the FC keepers became number one in the German national team, like Harald «Тоny» Schumacher and Bodo Illgner.
Köln started to lose stability with the sudden death of Kremer in 1967. Well, the application of the powerful database, which was laid by the charismatic president, still yielded fruit and occasionally threw Köln to front pages. Especially when Hennes Weisweiler again took up the team in the middle of the ‘70-ies, who was a logical extension of the role of Franz Kremer in the years of dominance in Oberliga West. Weisweiler was a wizard for players -thanks to the mixture of science, theory and practice, he managed to beat the bag out of individual players in excess of the maximum, allowing them to go to the level of potential world champions. Stielike, Heynckes, Voegts, Simonsen and countless players passed through the hands of Weisweiler, expressing not only their gratitude. Until now, the memory of the coach is held sacred equally by the worst enemies — fans of Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Clubs that he dared to train in turns.
"Weisweiler was an absolute authority, young players were even afraid of him,” Wolfgang Kleff, one of his Mönchengladbach wards says. — “His one glance was enough to understand what the coach wants. Weisweiler helped very many to find courage in the game one-on-one — the attack was his strong point. Simonsen and Bonhof were absolutely "blind" in the beginning, when they came to us. The coach armed himself with patience, worked intensively with them and made them international stars."
Cologne is tied with its football history in this event as well — there is a famous coaching school here, where almost every other specialist in Europe studied, Hennes-Weisweiler-Academy conducts activities a little further away from the city, in Hennef.
Another living creature called Hennes lives in Cologne, and, of course, there is no need to explain how it got its name.
Yet before the stands of Müngersdorfer Stadion (let us not call it always officially RheinEnergieStadion) shake from Mir Stonn Zo Dir, Hennes VIII appears at the edge of the field. His Majesty the Mascot, a representative of the dynasty, which was established by the Cologne circus director Carola Williams in 1950 at the city fair by presenting a young goat to the football club as a gift. Mother of Hennes I was brought from Thuringia in the war years, and probably, it is still the most famous ancestor of the goat kind. The head of Hennes I, which “ruled” outside the gates on the leash for 16 years, now is exhibited in the Museum of the club, while every two weeks the VIIIth, a little coquettishly mincing with its hooves, runs out from the corner between the western and southern stands meeting the roar of applause. Hennes is considered an honorary citizen of Cologne, and on the day of it "inauguration" — in August 2008 — one of the local newspapers even wrote a report about the match on behalf of the goat.
The Henneses were near in moments of ups and downs. Wilhelm Schaefer, a shepherd, took care of them longer than anyone — he was preparing them for "performances" for 30 years. In 2006, the old man died, his wife took up the dynasty, but she did not have enough power for a long time. Since 2014, Hennes VIII lives in Cologne Zoo, and thousands of tourists come there every day just to see it.
The fans still consider a step to attract a "masked" mascot to be one of the worst ideas of the club board. In the "uneasy" 90-ies, every possible attempt was made to stop people from leaving the club. But they met unfriendly the man, who was dressed like a goat, and even threw something to him. People in the VIP-box were patient for some time, and then left Hennes without the two-legged competitor.
On the day of my stay at Müngersdorfer Stadion, the VIIIth was out of spirits: when it jumped out of the stands, for some reason it immediately asked to go back. The man with the leash was not very insistent. Hennes eventually got tired and took his post on the sideline near the corner flag. To celebrate a goal grabbing the mascot by the horns at Müngersdorfer Stadion is a matter of habit. This time Hennes performed its mission — Köln won the match with Dortmund.
In addition to luck, the goats dynasty gives to the club something more valuable — the stubbornness with which Köln compensates for its failures, which in some point of time turned from temporary into permanent ones. The "dinosaur" Hennes I saw in the quarterfinal of the match of the Champions Cup in 1964 that the defender Wolfgang Weber struggled with Liverpool, despite a serious injury suffered during the game — substitution was not allowed at that time. The same concerns penalty shoot outs. Hennes saw the coin thrown by the referee after the grueling extra time. At first, the Deutsche Mark fell edgeways in the grass and only after the repeated attempts the "victory" of Liverpool was recorded. After, it became clear that Wolfgang Weber finished the game with a shin bone fracture...
Before his death in 1983, Hennes Weisweiler managed to "make some noise" with the final victory of the club at that moment in Bundesliga and semi-final of the UEFA Champions League. This was particularly valuable in the heyday of Bavaria and Borussia Mönchengladbach. But gradually the mountainside beneath the Cologne people feet began to slough. The real "freezing" came in the 90-ies, when Köln was forced to part with such players as Haessler and Littbarski because of financial difficulties. The year 1992 was the last year when FC played in the UEFA Cup, and in 1998 a real challenge came, which still seems for Hamburg as just a nightmare (though a real one) — for the first time in the history Köln left Bundesliga.
It left, so that to bear the shameful burden of the «lift» club for the whole next decade, make the entire football Germany laugh, make it clown about and play in every way the role of the unfortunate goat Hennes. 19 coaches and 3 presidents have changed since then in the club and, with the exception of on-duty return to Bundesliga (in order to leave it soon again), none of the coaches was associated with any really light period. In part, the current coach of Austria Marcel Koller can serve as an exception retrospectively. The Swiss was the one who dragged up Lukas Podolski to the first eleven from among young people, who became an icon for fans of Köln and continues to be the same up to this day. Not primarily because he is for them the world's best footballer. Lucas is just a man glorifying Cologne, he loves it and does not hesitate to talk about it in every corner. Nostalgia on the Rhine banks did not let him open in a pretentious Munich, when Poldi’s talent was appreciated by Bavaria. Lucas did not hide what he thinks about FC, although it was dabbled in the basement. And he even played for it again from 2009 to 2012, without being afraid that he will be considered by all to be a "downed pilot." Even the universal love did not allow however to pursue a career in the second Bundesliga. But this did not prevent the city from meeting the great son as a hero last summer when Poldi brought the World Cup won in Brazil to Cologne.
Simultaneously with drawing out the drawn head one day, the tail another (Köln, by the way, still has the anti-record — in the season 2000/01 the team did not made goals during 1034 minutes), the club continued to develop in a phenomenal way, as we would say in Russia, as a "socially important project." Yes, in times of President Albert Caspers, FC first left Bundesliga, but it seemed that the common problem only added popularity to him. By the beginning of the 00th, the ties with the city became inseparable almost in all spheres of activity, the reconstruction of Müngersdorfer Stadion, which turned into a stunningly cozy, but at the same time capacious arena. In the season of 2007, Köln set a new attendance record, and in 2008 it sold the largest number of season tickets in the history, though it was not seriously thinking about fighting for the top places!
Sometimes, of course, bouts of despair came on. When once Köln was going to whirr off again, fans promised in the event of leaving Bundesliga to come to the base and beat the players to death, and one of the former leaders of the red and white made the famous statement: "All is fine in this club, except for the team." «Grandpa» Volker Finke who could not cope with Cameroon in Brazil, at his own risk assumed control and scored 9 points in his fright in the remaining three matches. But, turning to be in the role of the sports director, he quarreled with Ståle Solbakken, quite a character, for the next year. As a result, the club again quitted Bundesliga, the coach went home to Norway, Finke — to Cameroon.
Of course, in the absence of achievements in sport, the club had to take loans “to cover holes in the budget”. Once an unlovely story emerged with the title sponsorship from the Republic of Cyprus, which was supposed to be represented by the company which did not exist, journalists found out. In spite of everything, FC continued to paint the city in its colors, without disgracing the historical audacity of Franz Kremer who achieved that his club became the hallmark of the city. What else could be desired, if Mir Stonn zo Dir sounds in the midst of New Year's fireworks on the Rhine and ... Hennes suddenly appears in the middle of the river in a shower of sparks. However, on the big club logo only. For the present logo only.
I still remember in detail the atmosphere in the stadium before, during and after the match with Borussia. The game of the host team, unattractive, more stubborn than spectacular, impersonified by the author of a victorious goal Simon Zoller, digging the grass like using hooves, for a place in the eleven. Austrian coach Peter Stoeger (he has a chance not to become "another one"!) has glasses with large red and white temples. Small brown figure of the alive Hennes VIII, which somehow embarrassedly jumped out to the applause of 50 thousand people. Sun-drenched green lawn between the tram stop and the old gate of Müngersdorfer Stadion, where red and white father, mother and sister laughed at their little boy, who as a result of watching TV apparently, put on a yellow and black T-shirt of Dortmund. The feeling that you are locked in the invisible arms is stronger every successive minute spent here. And when you leave Cologne and turn head to the Cathedral closing a half of the sky, it seems that you see goat horns, rather than steeples of the famous Dom. It seems the Dom is about to jump following you, it will not let you go, will return you back…
Indeed, now that I see that Köln won its match on the tour, I smile...
One of the FC Koeln stadium songs
By the way
FC Köln — friends and enemies
During heavy confrontations in the ‘60-’70-ies, the fans of Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach developed a severe rivality. Gladbach working people believe that the sophisticated people of Cologne emit too much Eau de Cologne, and Cologne people in their turn consider those simple-minded. Gladbach people in their wildness may indeed go too far — before the last derby in Cologne, the Geissbock Hennes VIII was seriously guarded because the Gladbach ultras rows had expressed the threat to eat the FC mascot.
Instead, Köln is on friendly terms with Borussia Dortmund, since in 2011 the red and white helped Jurgen Klopp’s team to win the title, beating its pursuer from Leverkusen 2:0 (at the same time, making itself happy in the regional derby with "tablet twisters").
All is great with fans of St. Pauli as well, and the reason for friendship is spicy. In 1978, before the last round, Köln and — oh, please, no! — Mönchengladbach had the same number of points, but Köln was higher as to the goal difference. Gladbach faced Dortmund, Köln visited St. Pauli. When the stands in Hamburg learned that Dortmund was shamelessly losing the game to Gladbach (it ended with scandal, 12:0, the largest defeat in the history of Dortmund), then they began to call their people... to admit Köln to the title. St. Pauli lost 0:5, FC kept the necessary difference.
Ivan Zhidkov, Natalia Zhidkova