Archive for the ‘1.FCK’ Category

The one and only 1. FC Kaiserslautern Soccer Club It is a question we are often asked in life, usually as it relates to that first kiss, the first sexual encounter or our first real love interest. As you know, The Real Futbol is a soccer blog so our ‘first time’ memories are squarely focused on the beautiful game and what first got us dreaming of bicycle kicks and last second match winners.

In this post, our ‘first time’ will take you to Kaiserslautern, the quaint town’s footballing pride and joy, Germany’s Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and the crown jewel of it all, Fritz Walter Stadium (auf dem Betzenberg).

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team.

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team

My first trip to “K-Town” to see the ‘Roten Teufel vom Betzenberg’ was some 26 years ago. I was not particularly pumped up to see FCK play but definitely curious since this would be my first professional soccer game. I had zero expectations going in and was more excited about sampling the Stadion eats and treats then I was about having a front row seat to some of the most fanatical Fussball ‘Fandom’ in all of Germany. The roughly 50 mile drive from Roemerberg was one to remember as the last 20 miles of our route was bumper-to-bumper traffic chock-full of FCK fans commuting to this Friday evening match from all over the region.

The FCK Westkurve ist one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

The FCK Westkurve is one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

Cars were decorated with FCK scarves, flags, decals and any number of fan items you can imagine, passengers wore their FCK jerseys and jackets and took every opportunity to ‘serenade’ the home team with a Hupkonzert (car honking concert) and popular FCK fan songs.

By the time we parked at Kaiserslautern’s Messeplatz and took the bus up ‘Zum Betze’ (the ‘mountain’ where the stadium sits), I had forgotten about Bratwurst  and Cola and was part of the mob singing “Hoeher Hoeher FCK” at the top of my lungs and quivering with excitement about what I would experience next.

The Betzenberg in Kaiserslautern (also known as Fritz Walter Stadion) is the home of the FCK red devils

Back then, all German Fussball stadiums had legitimate terraces (standing room only supporter sections) so nobody except a few pampered VIPs would dare sit during the game.

The Red Devil is FCK's lucky mascot, devil horns and all

The Red Devil is FCK’s lucky mascot, devil horns and all

Standing during a 90 minute soccer match may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but I can’t think of a better way to intimately experience the pulse of the game, every bad shot, every hair-raising foul and of course every sweet goal.  I remember we played Bayer Leverkusen and the legendary South Korean striker Cha Boom known not only for his awesome name but thunderous ball striking ability. The biggest highlight by far was admiring the vast sea of red, made up of 20,000+ FCK supporters crammed into the West-end fan section (the legendary FCK Westkurve)

The rest of the evening was a blur but I remember coming home and discovered I had left my voice in Kaiserslautern. What a night! What a team! What awesome fans! I was hooked for good.

Fritz Walter Tribute Choreography

FCK fans honor hometown hero and Germany World Cup winner Fritz Walter with a choreographed pre-game celebration to remember

Second division German Bundesliga soccer is back after an action-packed first week of the 2013/2014 season ended on Monday with freshly relegated Fortuna Duesseldorf’s 1:0 victory over Energie Cottbus. Our Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern was equally successful in its season opener with a fairly ‘decisive’ 1:0 win in Paderborn last weekend. Simon Zoller celebrates FCK debuteDie Roten Teufel featured a ‘new look’ Elf with four starters making their FCK debuts including Finnish International Alexander RIng and youngster striker Simon Zoller, both of whom thoroughly impressed, and in the case of Zoller, even netted the winning goal. This Friday evening FCK hosts FC Ingolstadt 04 at the Betzenberg marking both the FCK Faithful’s first look at the ‘new and improved’ squad as well as the return of former coach Marco Kurz and FCK defender Leon Jessen. Although Kurz got the Pfaelzer boot (aka his dismissal from the club) back in March of 2012, K-Town is still a fan of the well-traveled Fussball teacher and Lautern fans won’t quickly forget his leadership and coaching ability that led to FCK’s Bundesliga promotion back in 2011, after four long years in 2. Liga.

The mystical Betzenberg in K-Town

The Betzenberg and the Fritz Walter Stadion are the pride and joy of Kaiserslautern and every 1. FCK fan around the world. Built in 1920 and majorly upgraded in time for FIFA’s 2006 World Cup in Germany, the stadium packs in 50,000+ fans and is known throughout Germany and Europe as one of the toughest ‘away’ places to play.

Match wise, Kaiserslautern should have the upper hand, especially if you look at the teams’ last four encounters dating back to 2008 (3 wins, 1 draw) and this season’s FCK squad and its new weapons both among strikers and midfielders. Add to that, the support of 40,000+ hometown Lautern fans at the Fritz Walter Stadion at the Betzenberg and “6 points after 2 matches” should not come as a surprise.

Some things are just meant to be … We expected Boston and all New Englanders to rise up, rally and hunt down the Boston Marathon terrorists, we knew Manchester United couldn’t be relegated to 2nd place for long and to no ones surprise they easily re-claimed the English Premier League championship this year. It’s with the same conviction and confidence that I predict that 1. FC Kaiserslautern, ‘das Herz der Pfalz’, will once again be ‘first class and at the conclusion of the 2013/2014 2. Bundesliga Season be promoted back to the German ‘Oberhaus’.  Like team GM and FCK legend Stefan Kuntz said after the relegation playoff to Hoffenheim in May, “what saddens me the most is that we have first class fans who deserve to support a first class team.” I admit I was crushed after ‘die roten Teufel’ so narrowly missed promotion this year, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was too early and the talent pool was too thin to make it last. FCK Erst Klassig

Kaiserslautern is a so called Traditionsverein- a club with tradition, tradition for being a strong member of the German soccer Elite not a ‘yo-yo’ club consistently fighting relegation.  Before the 1996 season, Kaiserslautern was one of only four of the original sixteen teams that had played in each Bundesliga season since the inception of the league in 1963, never having been relegated. Since then, FCK has been relegated thrice with the darkest period being the 2008/09 season when the club was one loss away from being demoted down to the 3rd German Liga. Stefan Kuntz, who was brought in as savior and GM in 2008, has had his share of ups and downs (near demotion to league 3 and relegation in 2011/12) but continues to build a solid foundation for future success. Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of 1.FCK’s preparations for the 2013/2014 season on TRF and the Bundesliga Fanatic and an ‘Ausflug nach Kaiserslautern’ pictorial later this month.  For now, let’s remember what the squad accomplished last year and agree ‘Das war Erstklassig’. Maybe not first class in terms of gaining promotion, but first class for re-energizing fan spirit and the unequivocal Herzblut that defines FCK fans throughout the region and all over the world.

OK folks, it’s that time of the year again … we’re approaching mid-March aka crunch time for many struggling German Bundesliga 1st division soccer teams. There are 10 games left on the 2011/12 Bundesliga season schedule, and my beloved 1. FCK is in last place with no place to go but up (or down into 2nd division football in 2012/13). And that’s the thrust of this post, to provide 7 real world reasons why all FCK fans should keep the faith and believe in the ‘miracle of Betze’- our team’s ability to scratch and claw and avoid demotion to the 2. Bundesliga come May 5th. Why 7 you ask, because it is one of my lucky Roulette numbers, and, in addition to fan support and quality play on the pitch, the thing we need most right now is LUCK! Here’s my lucky seven:

Do the math: Like my good buddy T-Bone Callahan, FCKler 4 life and TRF contributor mentions, there are 30 points yet to be had and approximately 17-19 needed (based on past league stats) to remain ‘first class’.  While this translates to 4 wins (12 points) and 5 further draws (5 points) by matchday 34 on May 5th, the remaining opponents are, for the most part, beatable … Stuttgart today is a must win; Schalke at home, why not? Freiburg did it last week; away game in Freiburg, a must win of course; Hamburg- we should have won the 1st time, this time we’ll do it; Hoffenheim- a tough local rival, but with some momentum and guts …; Nürnberg and Hertha are definitely win-able while Dortmund, Hannover and  Leverkusen are probable losses.

Will wearing his heart on his sleeve save his job and his team from relegation? I sure hope so!

Stick with Marco Kurz: This is NOT the time to hire and fire. If anything, think long and hard about the future of GM Stefan Kuntz and his   recent player acquisitions, but don’t mess with Kurz. He brought the back to the 1. Bundesliga in 2010 and has great chemistry with his players.

More than a ‘one trick’ pony: As T-Bone has pointed out on numerous occasions, hoping to convert goals based on standards (free kics, corners and the like) and ‘pray for rain’ style ‘kick and rush’ soccer alone will not break the goal drought. Orchestrate attacks from the flanks and take advantage of the midfield speed and youth up front. All players are advised to watch a Miroslav Klose (ex FCK striker) highlight reel since most of his goals are of the aerial/header variety.

Consistency is vital, stop changing the recipe: Any one watching the team play this year would attest to a great degree of inconsistency on the pitch. Midfielders have been swapped all year, the Sturm (strikers) has had many, less successful faces and now, even the goal is becoming a position of controversy. Pick a starting 11 that is dedicated to the cause and willing to go to battle together and ‘just do it’. With that said, I do agree with comrade T-Bone that selecting a more aggressive, dual attacker formation during home games is a wise strategy. If FCK fans show up to the remaining home games, the ’12th’ man, along with the a more attack-minded formation, can really make the difference and hopefully turn draws into desperately needed 3 point victories.

Christian Tiffert has had a lousy season but it's never too late to make up for it with key goals and assists down the home stretch.

Converting goal opportunities. In FCKs 10 tie games this season (3rd highest of all 18 Bundesliga clubs), we counted an average of 2 legitimate, ‘you don’t have to be Messi to score’, missed goal chances per match. Last week vs. VFL Wolfsburg, the red devils squandered  4 such golden opportunities. Key to success: Get out of your own heads, convert the goal shots  you worked hard to create and say ‘yes’ to freebies your opponents might afford you

Don’t cry over spilt milk: Or as my economics professor used to say, ‘sunk costs are sunk’ – what happened yesterday is irrelevant, the past investments you made in players, the great players you lost … all that matters not in the present. Don’t make decisions based on what you did yesterday! With that said, play the game and fight like you meant it and focus on goal getting at every turn versus still lamenting the loss of former FCK strikers such as Lakic, Jendrisek and Hoffer. Belief starts from within!

1.FCK Herzblut: FCK fans are the truest, most loyal fans in the world. We bleed red and white and ‘would walk 500 miles and 500 more’ to not only support our Jungs but also see them fight their way to safety this year. Remember Fritz Walter, remember Klose, Kuntz, Rehagel, and the miracles of ’91 and ’98, hell remember the Alamo if it helps save our arses this year!

Check out this clip of FCK fans at their finest … These scenes are from last August’s home game vs. Augsburg … a not too distant memory. Hoeher Hoeher FCK! 

Last week kicked-off the first round of the 2011/12 DFB Pokal competition including 64 German professional and amateur football teams. The German Cup, equivalent to other countries’ domestic competitions such the FA Cup (England), Copa del Rey (Spain) and Coppa Italia (Italy),  lasts 10 months culminating in the cup final in Berlin on May 12, 2012.

To me, the coolest thing about this competition is the many ‘David vs. Goliath’ scenarios that unfold, especially during the early rounds. One such match-up last weekend included 5th tier BFC Dynamo vs. top flight Bundesliag club 1.FC Kaiserslautern. My dear friend, fellow Speyer Boy, and German football rowdy Wolfie D. braved the elements and attended the 1st round match-up which ended up with a lot more action than ‘just’ 9o minutes of cup football. This is much less a football match review but an eye-witness report of goonish rowdies looking for ‘aggro’.

Here’s Wolfie D. … The German Cup, like almost all national cup competitions in Europe, often provides great drama opportunities, especially in the early rounds. The early match-ups are often replays of old rivalries or like this one, brand new, never before played ones. This match featured the former serial champion of the GDR Oberliga, East German secret police Stasi backed Berliner FC Dynamo, which racked up an unbelievable 10 championships in series thanks to successful match-fixing commissioned by Stasi chief Erich Mielke between 1979 and 1988. On the visitor’s side, the glorious 1. FC Kaiserslautern, in no need of further introduction (at least I hope, as the merits of this club from deep in the Palatine Woods easily fills a proper book!).

Right after the 1st round draw, I absolutely knew this would be a big one! It’s no wonder BFC Dynamo’s luck went down the drain after the wall came down. With the Stasi (officially) disbanded, Erich Mielke behind bars, and all the best players hitting the exits for the wealthy clubs in the West, the club didn’t even make it into the combined German second division in 1991 and had to start again in the regional Northeast division, a league they have not been able to be promoted out of since. Money was tight with crowds getting smaller and smaller, and having probably one of the most violent and right-wing followings in Germany, didn’t really help acquire lucrative sponsorship deals. You might now rightfully ask why a communist secret police backed club attracted a bunch of right-wing violent loonies from the worst tower block areas of East Berlin?! Simple answer: they chose to support the most-hated club in the country because aggro following the club was almost guaranteed!

Which brings us to the present day, where the club plays in a lowly fifth division in the northern part of the German East in front of a couple of hundred fans at average games against teams who have only a handful supporters let alone hooligans. To put it bluntly, they’re in deep shit and qualifying for the national cup brings them BACK WIV A BANG on the big German football stage, prime-time TV coverage included.

Thanks to having resided in Berlin for quite some time now, this 1.FCK-BFC Dynamo match really wasn’t an away game, just a fifteen minute car ride and a ten minute walk and we were in the thick of things, literally! Making our way towards the away-end in the pissing rain – almost constantly pouring down for 36 hours at that point – we walked down the street where hundreds of proper hard-hitters, a lot of them in their forties, were boozing it up in front of a few pubs, closely monitored by a serious police presence, all with worried looks on their faces.

Entering the away-end and definitely feeling a lot safer (for the moment) it was a nice surprise to see almost 2000 FCK fans who had made their way to Berlin, sadly only about 20 who would be willing to have ‘a go’ if push came to shove. Violence would of course not be a smart move on a day like this, but that’s not what this whole game is about anyway.

Oh yeah, there was also a football game played that day, a quite uneventful 3:0 win for an FCK side which didn’t do more than they had to, but this was not what the majority of the spectators had come for on that day anyway. The away end consisted of one half of the stands behind one goal, separated by a large empty block towards the covered main stand, filled with 4000 to 5000 BFC supporters. The locals put on a good show singing and celebrating and started to let off smoke bombs during the second half, which led to a break by the referee trying to achieve the impossible: get things in order again… Not with this lot, my friend!

About five minutes before the end, we had already talked about leaving early to not get cordoned in for an hour until the police had cleared the surrounding streets, it was clear that something was seriously happening on the other side. People were leaving the covered stand towards our end although there wasn’t even an exit for them on that side. So we thought we better have a look what was going on outside while the majority of the all too care-free FCK supporters celebrated the team after the game had finished. Walking down the steps behind the end it was pretty clear what was going on; we basically walked in the middle of about 60 BFC boys on the right opposite of 10 K-Town lads on the left, with the police standing 30 meters behind looking away and unbelievably having no clue what was happening right in front of their eyes. This was the same police who had manned the separating block during the whole game but had mysteriously disappeared five minutes before the end of the game!

All hell started breaking loose after hundreds of BFC hooligans now made their way over the empty separation block abandoned by the police ten minutes earlier, chasing away families, kids, dads and younger FCK supporters, punching everyone in their way. Outside the grounds, the police were a sorry sight, with everybody, BFC and FCK, mingled together. It was sheer luck K-Town only had a small crew and BFC was too surprised about the ease of ‘infiltration’, that nothing more happened. BFC were now swarming in from the streets on all sides as well, but so were the police reinforcements so we got the hell outta Dodge and starting drinking to having gotten away…

The whole incident was all over the TV in the evening and the newspapers in the following days, with the police blaming the stewards for not having followed protocol. Apparently, they really had opened the gate between home and away ends, either because they were incompetent, scared of getting leathered by the big boys, or simply in on the whole goddamned thing! I just have a sneaking suspicion that the truth will somehow never come out.  Aside from this black mark, things might not be looking too good for BFC Dynamo’s footballing ambitions. Berlin suburb club Lichterfelder FC, the hosts of their first away game this coming weekend, have already announced that they’re not willing to play BFC under these circumstances. Stay tuned how another eventful 5th division season unfolds for BFC Dynamo.

We recently reported on Gil Vermouth’s arrival in Kaiserslautern and the pending signing of fellow Israeli and national team striker Itay Shechter. Well, as of this week, it looks like the Shechter transfer is a done deal (call it 95+% sure) adding another new striker to the Red Devil’s roster.

That takes FCK’s new player total to 8 (as of July 10), with 6 weeks remaining in the 2011/12 pre-season transfer window.

In addition to the new Israeli contingent, the club recently signed Cameroon striker Dorge Kouemaha on a one year loan from Belgian Club Brugge K.V. That makes 3 new strikers and demonstrates front office efforts to plug  the gaping holes left by Srdjan ‘Lucky’ Lakic, Jan Moravek and Erwin ‘Jimmy’ Hoffer who all left for greener pastures.

While the ink has tried on Gil Vermouth's signing, the same cannot be said for Itay Shechter, who is still squabbling with the Israel FA.

Who doesn’t like a classic martini, shaken or stirred, gin or vodka? That’s precisely what followers of 1.FC Kaiserslautern are thinking as the Bundesliga club prepares for the 2011/12 season. Cocktails instead of traditional Palatine wine or local beer might be the way to go this year as the FCK front-office recently signed Israeli National Football team midfielder Gil Vermouth and are in heavy negotiations with  Itay Schechter, Israel striker extraordinaire. Of course, Vermouth (the fortified wine) is critical to a classic martini, and the FCK faithful hope the new player by the same name will be just as key to the ‘Rote Teufel’ (red devils). The Israel Football blog refers to Vermouth as a ‘poor man’s Andres Iniesta’ with a great eye for assists, and we are equally excited about what the 25-year-old can achieve over the next four years in K-Town.

While the new season is 5 weeks away and the summer transfer deadline extends through August (closes August 31), signings like Vermouth should encourage FCK fans everywhere. Stay tuned for our 1. FCK season preview to be posted on the Bundesliga Fanatic blog later this month.

We leave you with some Vermouth highlights …