Norbert Meier’s men are on fire at the moment, making Fortuna Düsseldorf one of the favorites to get promoted to the Bundesliga this season. An amazing accomplishment considering what the club has gone through in recent years.
There were more than just bragging rights up for grabs for Düsseldorf in monday night’s home fixture against local rivals MSV Duisburg. In the end, Fortuna managed to secure another three points, bringing their tally to 41 points in the first half of the season, and breaking arch rivals Köln’s 2. Bundesliga record along the way. The billy goats grabbed 40 points in the 1999/2000 season. The F95’ers haven’t lost at home since their loss to Bochum on september 27th 2010. Their unbeaten club record at home now stretches over 21 matches. Furthermore, the team hasn’t lost in the last 24 matches for the first time in its history.
This season’s Fortuna side seems to have a good mix of talent and experience. The 2. Bundesliga top scorer, Sascha Rösler, has brought some flair to the West-Germans attacking efforts, playing a little behind lone striker Thomas Broecker in the team’s fluid 4-5-1. Maximilian Beister has shown time and time again, why so many football experts think that he has a bright future ahead of him, The 21-year-old has proven to be a valuable asset to the team by scoring 8 goals and creating 11 assists. Captain Andreas Lambartz has pulled the strings beautifully in the midfield, while 34-year-old Jens Langeneke has had a sturdy grip on the team’s defense, all the while scoring 7 goals. Fortuna has impressed with a fluid, attack minded football this season, making life difficult for their opponents.
Fortuna coach Norbert Meier would have probably lost his job at many other clubs last season after his team started the season with 6 losses in a row. However, the management of the F95’ers stuck it out, and was rewarded in the end when the team finished in 7th place in the league. Not bad for a team that only had been playing its second 2. Bundesliga season. This season has seen Fortuna continue the good form they showed in the second half of last season.
The glory years
All the while things are looking bright for Fortuna at the moment, it is worth to take a detour through the club’s history to see the heights and the depth this team has gone through. Promoted to the Bundesliga for the second time in 1971 after a brief cameo that ended poorly in 1966/67, the team managed to establish itself in the Bundesliga for a number of years.
Fortuna, or, ”Die Flingeraner”, were playing at the highest level for 16 years in a row. The 70s were the most successful period for the them, a third place finish in their second season back in the Bundsliga was followed by another third place finish the year after. Fortuna reached the DFB pokal final for the first time since the Bundesliga came into existence in 1978, losing the final to their arch rivals FC Köln 2-0. However, since Köln managed to win the league as well, Fortuna qualified for the European cup winners cup for the 1978/79 season.
Considering the circumstances it has to be said that Fortuna were lucky to qualify for that tournament, but the team’s luck wouldn’t stop there. The first few rounds of the tournament saw Fortuna handle mostly weak opponents. The teams from Craiova, Aberdeen, Geneva and Banik Ostrava weren’t the most difficult opposition. Therefor only a combined total of 40.000 spectators bothered to watch Fortuna’s home matches against these teams. Banik Ostrava was the last team ”Die Flingeraner” had to defeat in order to reach the final.
And this time around, the entire city was excited about the match, because the opponents in the final were FC Barcelona, a team considered to be better than Fortuna and one of Europe’s premier football clubs. However, Fortuna managed to give the Catalans problems by being well-organized and disciplined, even after Sánchez gave Barcelona an early lead in the 5th minute of the match. Klaus Allofs got the equalizer only 3 minutes later, after Barca keeper Artola couldn’t hold on to a ball. Shortly after Allofs’s goal, Fortuna defender Gerd Zewe brought Carrasco to the floor in the 18 yard box, but the penalty by Neeskens was too weak and Fortuna keeper Jörg Daniel held on to the ball. Asensi brought Barca back into the lead after Daniel didn’t manage to hold on to a cross, but only minutes later came Wolfgang Seel’s equalizer, bringing the half time score to 2-2.
The score was still tied at the end of the game, and Fortuna were starting to run out of steam. Fortuna defender Gerd Zimmermann had to be subbed off shortly before the end. Barca were now in their element and managed to grab one goal in each of the two halfs of extra time. Rexach got the all important 3-2 goal in the 103rd minute, before Krankl made it 4-2 in the 111th minute. But Fortuna did not give up without a fight and managed to come back once more through the second goal scored by Wolfgang Seel in the 114th minute. Barca had won the final but not without difficulties.
Barca star Johan Neeskens said after the match:
“I feel sorry for the Fortuna players. They’ve put up a huge fight, and they were the better team for some periods of this match.”
The highlights from Fortuna’s final against Barca.
”Die Flingeraner” managed to secure their first DFB pokal victory since 1962 in the same year and went on to defend the title in 1980. Their unbeaten run in the cup in the end stretched to an impressive 18 games in a row. In the 1978/79 season Fortuna also managed to defeat Bayern at home with an impressive 7-1 score line, the biggest away defeat in the Bundesliga for Germany’s top club to this date.
Fortuna’s 7-1 victory in pictures.
However, things started to go wrong in the beginning of the 80s. Players like Allofs, Zimmermann and Seel left the club. The team didn’t manage to replace their key players adequately after they had left, and in 1987 Fortuna were relegated from the Bundesliga for the second time.
”Die Flingeraner” managed to return to the top flight in 1989 but failed to establish themselves in the Bundesliga like they had in the beginning of the 70s. No more finals against Barca, or top table finishes. Fortuna were relegated from the Bundesliga andfrom the 2. Bundesliga, and failed to achieve anything better than a 9th place finish in the 90s (89/90 season). In 1999 the team was relegated for the second time into the third tier of German football.
Punk rock millions
Had it not been for the millions of Germans who at one point of their lives bought a CD or visited a concert of the German punk band ”Die Toten Hosen”, Fortuna might have been a club only mentioned in the history books. After Fortuna’s relegation to the third tier of German football the club started to encounter financial difficulties, and the lack of sponsors before the 2001/2002 season might have been the end of the club. However, the Düsseldorf punk band decided to sponsor the club, putting their logo on the team bus and the club’s jerseys for the nice and tidy sum of 1 million DM. It was also agreed upon that the team would receive further support from Germany’s biggest selling punk band. This wasn’t the first time the Düsseldorf punks had helped their team, in 1989 they used parts of their royalty cheques to help the team buy striker Anthony Baffoe.
Despite the financial support, Fortuna did go down one division at the end of the season, and had to play in the fourth tier for two years. However, the team were promoted in their second season after a second place finish. SSVg Velbert 02 had finished first in the Oberliga, but hadn’t applied for a licence for the third tier, ultimately giving Fortuna the promotion to the Regionalliga Nord. After five seasons in the third highest tier in Germany Fortuna managed to finish 2nd in the newly established 3. Liga, and gained promotion to the 2. Bundesliga in 2009, after a decade away.
Fortuna have managed to re-establish themselves as one of the top teams in the 2. Bundesliga. Their recent form suggests that the team might be amongst the sides that manages to gain promotion to the top flight. However, their player material at the moment would suggest that they might face some problems in the Bundesliga. Players like Sascha Rösler have done tremendously well in the 2. Bundesliga, but have failed to impress in the Bundesliga when they were given the chance. Maximilian Beister will probably return to Hamburg or be sold on to a bigger Bundesliga team. Norbert Meier and his staff have a hard job on their hand finding new players if their team gets promoted. However, history has proven that Fortuna are always good for a few surprises.
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