Jonny EyresComment

SOLDIERS OF...THIS IS FORTUNA DUSSELDORF

Jonny EyresComment

Jonny Eyres looks at a famous name from yesteryear working their way back up the divisions. 

In 1979, on an overcast day in Hannover, 56,000 people inside the old Niedersachsenstadion witnessed former manager Hans-Dieter Tippenhauer lead the white and red clad Fortuna Düsseldorf to victory against the blue, white and black clad Hertha BSC Berlin, to win the German Cup.

Wolfgang Seel scored the only goal of the game, in the 116th minute of extra time, from an acute angle, after goalkeeper Norbert Nigbur spilled a heavy and bobbling pass back from captain and defender Uwe Kliemann, to send the Fortuna players and their flag waving supporters into delirium.

The scenes when the final whistle was blown, encapsulated the really contrasting emotions of what a cup final brings. Kliemann fell to his knees and put his head to the ground in despair, as the photographers captured his gut wrenching agony, whilst the Fortuna players hugged, punched the air and waved to their ardent followers in moments of joy unconfined, after years of heartache.

Tippenhauer's achievement was magnificent, considering that he only managed the club for one season and that this was Die Fortunen's sixth attempt at lifting the cup. In the same year, he also came very close to leading the German outfit to a world famous win in Basel, inside the old St. Jakob Stadium, in the Cup Winners Cup Final, against a Barcelona side containing the likes of Migueli, Johan Neeskens, Carles Rexach, Juan Asensi, Hans Krankl and Francisco Carrasco.

A year later, the club reached the German Cup Final again, under straight talking, highly successful and fondly praised manager Otto Rehhagel. On a beautiful June evening in Gelsenkirchen, Fortuna (white and red) and 1. FC Köln (red and white), stood proudly, whilst the brass band played the German national anthem, inside the old Parkstadion, in front of 65,000 people.

When the game began, Die Geißböcke locked their horns into Fortuna and they were irrepressible in the first half. Bernhard Cullman's 26th minute goal separated the sides at half time and Fortuna were left completely rocked.

Whatever Rehhagel said in the dressing room, to his visibly shell shocked side, lucidly worked, as Die Fortunen transformed into a completely different side in the second half. They were a lot calmer and far more assured when they had the ball and much stronger off the ball too.

They got their deserved reward for their joyous football through Rüdiger Wenzl, who clipped the ball over goalkeeper Harald Schumacher to equalise in the 60th minute, after some fantastic skill and a gorgeous through ball from Klaus Allofs.

Five minutes later, Köln were left utterly stunned, as the comeback was made complete through Thomas Allofs, who stabbed the ball home from close range, after an incredible passing move involving Gerd Zewe and Rudolph Bommer. The Fortuna players celebrated in an ecstatic heap, whilst their flag waving supporters were going crazy with unbridled bliss.

The game finished 2-1 and pure happiness was etched over every single one of Fortuna's players, as Rehhagel ensured that the club retained the cup, a feat that Köln had previously managed two years before. 2001(Schalke) was to be the next time that a side were to win the German Cup back to back, which emphasises Fortuna's wonderful achievement.

Rehhagel's ethos was supremely focused on attacking football, which combined pace, flair and a ruthless vision for finding the back of the net. This was in stark contrast to the defensively robust style of tactics that he went on to employ at teams such as Werder Bremen and Kaiserslautern and especially with Greece, with whom he triumphed at Euro 2004.

Fortuna's most successful side was primarily built around spirited and gifted players such as defender Heiner Baltes, sweeper Gerd Zewe, midfielder Reiner Geyer, midfielder Rudolph Bommer, winger Dieter Herzog and brothers/strikers Thomas and Klaus Allofs.

During the 1979/1980 Bundesliga campaign, the team had the second worst defensive record in the league but that didn't matter one iota to them, as their endeavouring principles took them to the pinnacle of the club's history. This heady period saw them establish a phenomenal record, that they still hold for consecutive German Cup match victories (18 between 1978 and 1981).

Fortuna Düsseldorf, who are situated in North Rhine Westphalia, Düsseldorf, were founded in 1895 and were at one point, competing in the Bundesliga from 1971 to 1987. They are currently playing in the second tier of German football, where they lie third, one point behind leaders Greuther Fürth. Their home stadium is the very impressive Esprit Arena, which has a capacity of 54,500, that consistently generates a white hot, passionate atmosphere, triggered by their ultras.

Their manager is former Werder Bremen legend Norbert Meier, who has turned the club into an exciting and so far unbeaten side this season. They have a very promising and forever improving set of young players in the form of defender Assani Lukimya, midfielder Karim Aouadhi, winger Maximilian Beister (who is currently on loan from HSV), striker Ken Ilsø and striker Villyan Bijev (who is currently on loan from Liverpool). Their progression from the fourth tier in 2004, to where they are now, is nothing short of astounding and Flingeraner supporters will be hoping that their lively, breath of fresh air team will continue to push in this superb direction to go back to the Bundesliga for the first time since 1996, where they now feel they belong.  

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