Few areas have produced as many top professional teams in such a small area of land as North Rhine-Westphalia. The two biggest clubs in the area are Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, while MSV Duisburg, VfL Bochum, languish in the 2.Bundesliga and Rot-Weiß Oberhausen will join Rot-Weiß Essen in the Regionalliga West after relegation from the 3.Liga this season. All of these clubs are just a few miles apart from each other and have experienced life in Germany’s top two divisions in recent decades. All of them are still on the footballing map but there is one club that made it to the top and disappeared just as quick: SG Wattenscheid 09.
Early history, mergers and name changes
The football club was founded in 1909 after the merger of two teams, BV Sodalität and BV Teutonia Wattenscheid, acquiring the name of BV Wattenscheid. This was not to be the club’s last merger, since they merged again in 1919 with TV 1901 Wattenscheid and thus became TBV 1901 Wattenscheid, a merger that was to be disbanded just four years later. Not content with this, in 1934 they merged once again, this time with SG 1930 Wattenscheid, and the full name became SG 09/30 Wattescheid. Under this name, they kept a low profile in the local leagues until the Second World War, when they won promotion to the Gauliga Westfalen in 1944.
The following season was cut short due to Allied bombings and only a few matches were played, but Wattenscheid managed to ‘finish’ 3rd. After the War, the region of Westphalia was a British occupation zone, and perhaps because of that, football resumed the following year, in the newly formed Landesliga Westfalen. By this time they were called SG 09 Wattenscheid, and they only spent two years in this league, finishing in 8th and 10th place before they moved on to the newly founded second division of German football, the 2.Oberliga ( known first as II Division). Wattenscheid were placed in the West division. There were also the Südwest and Süd divisions.
The slow rise and the textile lifeline
Despite an encouraging start to life in the 2. Oberliga West, with a 5th, 3rd, 6th and 7th place in their first four years there, their following two years didn’t yield great results and a 12th place in 1957 was followed up by a 15th place the following year and inevitable relegation to the third-tier Verbandsliga Westfalen in 1958. Eleven whole years passed until Wattenscheid were able to win promotion out of the Verbandsliga, finally winning the title in 1969 and winning promotion to the recently created Regionalliga West. The club was taken over by the textile entrepreneur Klaus Steilmann, and he took the club to another level with his financial support. He brought in quality players, such as Hans Bongartz from Bonnser SC (who later went on to play for Schalke and Kaiserslautern and was part of the 1976 German EURO team).
After a consolidating first three seasons, finishing in mid-table, Steilmann appointed 38 year-old Karl-Heinz Feldkamp as club manager, who had been coaching the amateur team, and with players such as the strikers Helmut Horsch and Ewald Hammes being fed by the classy Jürgen Jendrossek and the defence being marshalled by Detlef Rosellen, Wattenscheid achieved a 5th place in 1973 which was a sign of things to come. The following year, they were crowned champions of the Regionalliga West and won promotion to the second tier of German football, the 2.Bundesliga. The year was completed with a long run in the DFB Pokal, reaching the last 16 of the tournament. And this is where it began to get interesting.
Making a name for themselves
After their promotion to the 2.Bundesliga Nord (it was regionalised until 1981), Wattenscheid enjoyed comfortable mid-table finishes, with notable players in their squad such as the Argentinian international Carlos Babington from Huracán, where he had amassed a total of 126 goals in 305 appearances, a similar goal ratio that he replicated in Germany, scoring 46 goals in 120 appearances for the Westphalia club during his four-year spell there. As an attacking midfielder, he was complemented to perfection by midfielder Hans-Günter Bruns from Schalke. However, at the end of the 1975 season, the town of Wattenscheid became part of the city of Bochum, much to the displeasure of everyone in the town. As a sign of protest, many people of Wattenscheid, including the club president Steilmann, drove cars with Essen number plates instead of Bochum ones, as a sign of protest.
This distraction did not cost the club though, and new acquisitions Peter Kunkel and Helmut Reiners drove W09 to comfortable mid-table finishes with their goals. However, in the 81/82 season, Wattenscheid finished 17th and were thus relegated, but a miracle took place when 1860 München were denied entry to the 2.Bundesliga and so W09 kept their spot. Further lower mid-table positions came in the following years, but the goals of striker Uwe Tschiskale from 1985 to 1987 gained more respectable leagues positions for W09 and a dream move for the striker to Bayern München, for who he only made one appearance. After a brief spell at Schalke, he was back at the 19,500 capacity Lohrheidestadion in Wattenscheid, where he rediscovered his goalscoring form, and with his striking partner Maurice Banach, scored enough goals to reach 2nd position in the league and, therefore, promotion to the promised land: the Bundesliga.
Against all odds
Former star Hans Bongartz was now the manager who carried out the task of getting Wattenscheid into Germany’s top flight. With players in the squad such as Thorsten Fink, Frank Hartmann and Senegalese striker Souleyman “Samy” Sané, Bongartz took the club to a totally unexpected 11th place finish, including a 3-2 last-minute home win against Bayern München thanks to a Thorsten Fink goal, who would later play for the Bavarian club. The club also reached the quarterfinals of the DFB pokal, losing to Eintracht Frankfurt after having beaten HSV in the previous round. The following season wasn’t as successful for W09 but they still remained in the Bundesliga, finishing in 16th place and avoiding relegation.
The 92/93 season was yet another narrow miss on relegation and also Bongartz’s last at the club, signing for MSV Duisburg in the summer, with the only highlight of the season coming in the 2-0 Derbysieg against Bochum at Lohreheidestadion. Frank Hartmann hung his boots up and took over the manager’s job, but 93/94 was when Wattenscheid finally rode out their luck. Despite a 3-0 opening day victory against local rivals Schalke and holding Bayern to a 3-3 draw at the Olympiastadion, they finished 17th in the league with only 6 wins to their name and were relegated.
After relegation, star players like Thorsten Fink left the club to remain in the Bundesliga and despite arrivals of exciting players such as Michael Preetz, Wattenscheid just couldn’t regain their Bundesliga status in their first season back in die Zweite, finishing only in 10th place. Things were to get worse and they got relegated the following season to the Regionalliga West/Südwest. They bounced straight back up mainly thanks to Marcus Feinbier’s goals from midfield, in a season which saw them beat reigning Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund 4-3 (aet) in the first round of the DFB Pokal. However, they were relegated again two years later in 1999, a year that heralded the return of club legend Hans Bongartz to the bench of the Lohreheidestadion.
The following years in the Regionalliga Süd/Südwest and Nord brought no delight to the 09er fans, despite having young promising players such as Marius Ebbers, Halil and Hamit Altintop and Yildiray Bastürk. 2004 brought a disastrous relegation to the Oberliga Westfalen and the club found itself in serious financial trouble. Despite being champions of the Oberliga, Wattenscheid were relegated again the following year. 2007 was the year that the 09er not only suffered a second relegation in a row, this time to the Verbandsliga Westfalen II, having conceded 72 goals in 34 matches, but also nearly disappeared for financial reasons, being saved at the eleventh hour by the club’s board of directors, also ‘changing’ their name to SG Wattenscheid 09. The club yo-yoed between the Verbandsliga and the Oberliga in the following years, and have just finished the 2012 season in 12th place in the Oberliga Nordrhein-Westfalen, four tiers beneath the league that 22 years ago they reached against all the odds. A similar story now seems unlikely.