Kickers Offenbach Stun Köln in the 1970 Cup Final in the Unlikeliest of Victories

In honor of Kickers Offenbach reaching the quarter finals of the German Cup with their win against Fortuna Düsseldorf we take a look back at another surprising Kickers Cup run and arguably the greatest achievement in their club history, their shock win against 1. FC Köln in the 1970 DFB Pokal final, a match that was low on expectations, high on drama and one that will go down forever in the history books.

Offenbach are the only third division side to reach the quarter finals this season, claiming another scalp of a higher division club with their win against Düsseldorf, already having eliminated Greuther Fürth and Union Berlin along the way.  Similarly, back in the 1969/70 season Offenbach, then playing in the second division, eliminated first division sides 1860 Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt on the way to the final.  Yet most pundits and fans in Germany still expected heavy favorites Köln to come out on top in the final.

No one could have questioned those expectations either. As a second division side, Offenbach were the clear underdogs against a Köln side boasting some of the best players in the country. Players like the brilliant playmaker Wolfgang Overath, deadly strikers Hannes Löhr and Karl-Heinz Thielen, the versatile Jupp Kapellmann and star defender Wolfgang Weber made up a seasoned and skilled Bundesliga side.  Köln featured four national team players while Offenbach had a single season experience in Germany’s top flight back when they were promoted to the Bundesliga in 1968 only to be relegated by the end of the season.

Offenbach would become the first side not playing in the Bundesliga to win the Cup.  Interestingly enough though, that year only the first round of the Cup was actually played during the 1969/70 season.  The rest followed after the World Cup in Mexico and played in July and August of that summer.  Because the tournament was scheduled at the end of May and Germany was one of its participants the competition had to be postponed  Four of the Köln players participating in the Cup final were also in Mexico as Germany finished third at the World Cup.

While Overath, Löhr, Weber and Kapellmann were returning fatigued from their time in the hot Mexican sun, Kickers Offenbach, who won promotion at the end of the 1969/70 season, participated in the latter stages of the Cup with their full Bundesliga squad which no doubt helped them past depleted teams.  They struggled in their pre-season training camps though, so much so that Köln players, who had been training next to them ironically enough, found their poor results against local amateur teams quite reassuring and humorous.

Of course, when Kickers Offenbach are discussed one can’t help but think of the personality of then president Horst-Gregorio Canellas who later became famous for kickstarting the Bundesliga Scandal of 1971. His overarching and sometimes overbearing personality made it difficult for coaches to work under him as former Bayern Munich manager Zlatko Cajkovski found out when he reportedly had a falling out with Canellas despite leading Offenbach to promotion prior to their Cup triumph. His successor Kurt Schreiner lasted only 30 days.  Following him was Aki Schmidt who lasted just 25 days with Schreiner being recalled.  Suffice to say, the club was anything but consistent which made their triumph that much more spectacular.

Back to the final though. Köln were not only supposed to have the upper hand on the pitch, they also had the majority of the support. Their supporters outnumbered Offenbach fans two to one in Hannover’s Niedersachsenstadion.  Funnily enough, because the stadium was not completely sold out the match was not broadcast live on German television.  It also goes to show what Germany’s largest network thought of a match they too expected to end in a quite predictable outcome and thus did not deem worthy of broadcasting.  They were not the only ones expecting a Köln win.  At the annual postmatch dinner hosted by the DFB the seating order had already been assigned prior to the match, with Köln player names at the winner’s table and Offenbach behind them.

So while broadcasters may have had their heads turned as the game kicked off the rest of Köln supporters in the stadium were soon dealt a sobering wake up call as Offenbach came close to scoring early in the first half. Köln lost the ball in midfield and Horst Gecks set up Roland Weida on the other end but only hit the post.  In the 25th minute Köln’s fears turned to reality as Helmut Schmidt found Klaus Winkler on the right and this time his shot got past Köln goalkeeper Manfred Manglitz who had come off a fantastic season for the club the year before and was considered one of the best in the league.

Things did not become easier for Köln from then on.  Schmidt’s cross to Weida minutes later almost resulted in a second were it not for a great save from Manglitz and Köln had to go into the break deflated and without a single decent scoring opportunity.  As if still in shock after the restart, Köln seemed frozen before a lively and energetic Offenbach. Schäfer and Gecks combined brilliantly but were again stopped by Manglitz. The Köln goalkeeper could do nothing about Offenbach’s second though.  After a Köln corner was cleared Winkler played the ball forward to Gecks who was started a run deep in his own half and made a 60 meter run to score and double their lead.  A brilliant three touch attack and goal.

Köln’s hopes were revived when they pulled a goal back less than ten minutes later when Matthias Hemmersbach crossed to the far post and Weber laid the ball off to an open Löhr.  With little time remaining chaos ensued.  Seven minutes from time Bernd Rupp was taken down in the box by two Offenbach defenders and referee Gerhard Schulenberg blew for a penalty.  Offenbach supporters were livid and ran onto the field protesting and had to be escorted off by police.  It took three minutes for the field to be cleared.

Werner Biskup finally stepped up to take the all important penalty but goalkeeper Karlheinz Volz guessed the right corner and made an incredible save that even had some security personnel jumping for joy on the sidelines. Volz later admitted that he had prepared for a penalty by watching highlights of Köln and Biskup who always took his corners in the same spot. It was the kind of drama a man like Canellas could appreciate.  A few minutes later, as Köln pushed frantically for the equalizer, substitue Helmut Nerlinger, who is the father of later Bayern player and sporting director Christian Nerlinger, nearly scored the third.

Köln pushed and pushed but it wasn’t enough. Offenbach had stunned the football world even though most were not even aware of it but would find out the next day in the papers. For Offenbach it was their first title since 1959 and still remains their greatest to this day.  Who would have thought that a young goalkeeper who was a squad player for much of his career before this game would become a hero for the ages?

And who would have thought that the great Wolfgang Overath would be outmatched by players most had never heard of. Weida and Winfried Schäfer made sure Overath barely had a sniff in the game.  The playmaker who was predicted to orchestrate Köln’s Cup win remained frustrated and all but marked out of the game, only looking on as his team struggled against a highly motivated Offenbach.  In the back Hans Reich marshaled Offenbach’s defense superbly.

Back in Offenbach the team was met with a hero’s welcome.  The city’s primary train station was so crowded no cars could drive through it and club supporters were chanting for the likes of Inter Milan in Europe next year.  Over 150,000 Offenbach fans celebrated in the streets.  Suffice to say, there must have been a fair share of embarrassment going around for organizers as the seating order had to be rearranged following the final whistle.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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