Bundesliga is back: Komm schon SC Paderborn 07!
- Credit: Archant
Following the news that Germany’s Bundesliga is to resume behind closed doors on May 16, football fans will be picking a team to follow.
West Ham fans have been urged to track Augsburg, with academy graduate Reece Oxford still in their squad, while Eintracht Frankfurt are the suggested club to follow for Tottenham supporters.
Arsenal supporters, meanwhile, might keep an eye out for Hertha Berlin as both clubs, despite spending a fair bit of money in the transfer market, have had difficult seasons in which new managers have been brought in to lead a resurgence.
But, following some extensive research, I’ve gone for Sport-Club Paderborn 07 – who just so happen to sit at the foot of the table, two points adrift of Werder Bremen and 10 shy of the safety of 15th place.
With the coronavirus pandemic having forced the suspension of play across Europe and beyond in mid-March, the German Football Association (DFL) has said their season would resume under strict health protocols, banning fans from stadiums and requiring players to have Covid-19 testing.
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Chief executive Christian Seifert said ‘it was crucial to resume play’ after 12 positive results from clubs in the top two divisions following the first two series of tests and opinion is sure to remain divided on the decision to start up again, with the Premier League hoping to follow suit in June.
Paderborn are due to visit fellow strugglers Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday for a crunch clash and I will be following them closely.
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It was back in 1989 that I made my first trip to Germany, on tour with Robert Clack School’s year 10 football squad.
We travelled to a place called Soest, in North-Rhine Westphalia, and played three or four matches with mixed fortunes, if my memory is correct some 31 years later.
I was studying German GCSE at the time, so was able to pick up a few words during those on-pitch battles, and returned a couple of years later to spend a week as part of a student exchange during my A-level studies.
I stayed with a lad called Ingo and his family, with other Clack students packed off to their hosts, and the aim was to speak ‘nur Deutsch’ while in their company.
And it turns out SC Paderborn is the Bundesliga club most local to Soest at a distance of 60.2k.
Borussia Dortmund are next closest at 60.5k and only four points behind leaders Bayern Munich at the top of the table.
But I’m not too fussed about missing out on a title race, especially after a bit more detective work on SC.
The club’s Wikipedia page explains how they were founded in 1907, although that is only half the story.
FC Paderborn and TuS Schloss Neuhaus were town rivals until the 1980s, merging in 1985 when the latter had ‘been promoted to the 2.Bundesliga and finished last in 1983’ and ‘reached its athletic and financial ceiling’. The name SC Paderborn 07 was adopted in 1997, after the founding date of Neuhaus.
Following the merger, the club competed in the third-tier Oberliga Westfalen, winning the title in 1994 but losing in the promotion play-offs to Eintracht Braunschweig and Fortuna Dusseldorf (next weekend’s opponents!).
They nonetheless secured a place in the newly formed third tier Regionliliga West/Sudwest apparently and had a run to the last 16 of the DFB Pokal in 2004-5 after beating Bundesliga outfit HSV.
However, Wikipedia tells me ‘referee Robert Hoyzer was found to have received a bribe to let Paderborn win. The incident remains the most significant betting scandal in the history of Germany football’. Scandal.
Paderborn were promoted to the 2.Bundesliga that same season, for the first time in 30 years, and built a new 15,000-seater stadium – the Benteler Arena – to replace the Hermann-Lons-Stadion.
And in 2014 they were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time, topping the table briefly after Moritz Stoppelkamp’s long-range wonder goal against Hannover 96, only to eventually come straight back down after a poor second half to the campaign.
Then it got worse. Much worse.
They slumped to 18th in the 3.Liga in 2017 which would have led to relegation to non-professional Regionlliga West, but TSV 1860 Munich had not got their licence necessary to continue as a professional club and were forced to move instead.
Paderborn, having avoided a third successive demotion, bounced back to finish runners-up in 2018 to return to 2.Bundesliga.
And a year later they were runners-up again and back in the top flight.
The 2019/20 campaign has been a struggle, though, with four wins, four draws and 17 losses to date.
They were edged out 2-1 by 1.FC Koln – Cologne being the only other German city I have visited, as part of the Clack tour and again to watch Germany play Finland in the Ice Hockey World Cup – in their last match before lockdown, which was a fourth successive defeat.
But only an 88th-minute goal from Robert Lewandowski had denied them a point at table-topping Bayern Munich on February 21.
Those four wins thus far came against SC Freiburg (2-0 on January 25), Eintracht Frankfurt (2-1 on December 22), Werder Bremen (1-0 on December 8) and Fortuna Dusseldrof (2-0 on October 26). So, chasing a double over Dusseldorf this weekend then.
And having looked through their ‘current squad’ as listed on Wikipedia, there are a few players with Premier League previous.
Striker Dennis Srbeny spent two years at Norwich City, netting five goals in 40 league and cup appearances before returning to Paderborn in January this year.
Vice-captain and defender Uwe Hunemeier helped Brighton gain promotion to the Premier League in 2017, after scoring his one and only goal in club colours against Birmingham, but of his 38 appearances for the Seagulls only one came in the top flight.
And Moroccan midfielder Abdelhamid Sabiri played seven times for Huddersfield, making his debut against West Ham at the London Stadium in September 2017, before injuries led to his contract being cancelled by mutual consent last summer.
Two other Paderborn players caught my eye, for wholly different reasons, while doing my homework on the squad.
Laurent Jans, currently on a season-long loan from Metz, plays at right-back, where my own footballing journey began, and is a Luxembourg international with 64 caps and one goal, against Madagascar in a friendly last June.
And finally Luca Kilian is a 20-year-old defender, whose grandfather Amand Theis made 433 senior club appearances including 105 for Fortuna Dusseldorf, who made his debut for Paderborn on September 28 against the mighty Bayern Munich.
Germany under-21 international Killian tested positive for coronavirus in March, the first such case in the Bundesliga. “It took four days for the fever to drop, I had to fight a lot against the virus.”
So the countdown is on.
I’ve placed my online order for an SC Paderborn 07 t-shirt, which hopefully will arrive before the May 16 restart and the first of nine games to try and escape the drop.
Managing Director Martin Hornberger said: “We are firmly convinced we will end the season. What is important is that the medical, hygienic and organizational requirements are strictly adhered to.”
I notice their last game is at Eintracht Frankfurt the day before my birthday. Might be too soon for me to make an overseas trip – ‘aber du weist nie’.
Fussball kommt nach Hause. Komm schon SC Paderborn!
SC Paderborn 07, remaining fixtures
May 16: Fortuna Dusseldorf (a)
May 23/24: 1899 Hoffenheim (h)
May 26/27: FC Augsburg (a)
May 30/31: Borussia Dortmund (h)
June 6/7: RB Leipzig (a)
June 13/14: Werder Bremen (h)
June 16/17: Union Berlin (a)
June 20: Borussia Monchengladbach (h)
June 27: Eintracht Frankfurt (a)