Gladbach-Köln Rivalry: More than just bragging rights

The last part of this series focuses on the Rhine derby between Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1. FC Köln.

A simple flag is sometimes enough to make fans of “the Foals” go beserk. In 2007 Köln met Gladbach in the top match of the 2. Bundesliga. Before the match the flag of a local Gladbach fan-club had been stolen. Near the end of the game it suddenly appeared amongst the fans of “the Billy Goats”. The fans from the cathedral city had decided to tear up the flag of their arch rival. Gladbach fans didn’t take such an insult lying down, and responded in style by throwing Bengal lights onto the pitch.

The history

The so called Rhine derby is one of the biggest classics of the Bundesliga, and often creates tension between the fans of both teams. While the tension between the fans certainly adds a certain something into the mix, has the action on the pitch at times been epic. Both Köln and Gladbach have a rich history, winning the Bundesliga championship on numerous occasions. From 63 and until 73 the local derbies were marked by the duel between the two teams play makers. Günter Netzer of Gladbach and Köln’s Wolfgang Overath who both fought for a spot in the starting line up of the national team.

The 70’s saw the two teams fighting against each other in Europe, both times with a happy ending for “the Foals”. But probably the most spectacular duel between these two teams is their long range fight for the championship of 1978: Gladbach and Köln were equal on points before the last match of the season in 78, but Köln looked like the sure winners of the league because of their goal difference. Gladbach had to catch up ten goals.

“The Foals” managed to go 6-0 up against to Borussia Dortmund before the half time break. The news of Gladbach’s surge reached the fans that had gathered to see St. Pauli playing against Köln. Gladbach continued their rampage of Dortmund after the break, and went on to win 12-0. Köln on its side was cheered on by St. Pauli’s supporters and managed to win 5-0. If Köln hadn’t scored three goals after the break, the championship title of 78 would have ended up in the hands of Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The Rhine derby has certainly lost some of its importance in later years, considering that neither of these clubs are serious contenders for the championship. But, given the rich history between the teams the rivalry amongst the fans hasn’t deteriorated.

The stats

Borussia Mönchengladbach have won the derby 41 times, and lost it 21 times. 15 matches ended with a draw. The goal difference between the sides is 155:107 in favor of Gladbach.

The next match

While the derby in the 60’s and 70’s could decide the championship, this time it is vital for both sides: Gladbach are taking a last stab at avoiding relegation, while Köln can get out of the relegation zone once and for all. Expect the tackles to fly, and some great action. So mark the 9th of April in your calendar, because this match will probably be a must-see.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.


  1. They’ve played each other 77 times in the league with Gladbach leading the record 41 Wins 15 Draws and 21 Losses.

  2. This rivalry and Gladbach’s success probably accounts for a number of older American football fans following die Fohlen even today. That, and Netzer’s glorious locks.

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