I can’t say for sure where I first was aware of Germany outside of a history book context, but it’s entirely possible that the Scorpions created the first spark of what has since developed into a (I’m certain) completely healthy dose of Teutonophilia.
“Love at First Sting” was released 29 years ago, which means it was 29 years ago I was wondering whether I could pull off the zebra-striped shirt ala Matthias Jabs’ as seen in the “Rock You Like a Hurricane” video that was in heavy rotation on MTV that summer.
The summer of 1984 was, for me, also a definitive sports summer. My boyhood sports love, the Detroit Tigers, shot out of the gate like the current iteration of Bayern München and cruised through the summer to a league championship.
Rather than being completely wrapped up in a contentious five-team battle to become German champion, I was completely unaware of cities like Stuttgart, Mönchengladbach, Hamburg, Bremen, or München even existed.
Two before Stuttgart secured their title, needing goal differential to edge out HSV and BMG who each also finished the season with 48 points, I knew only that my beloved Tigers completed the best 40-game start in league history at 35-5.
Eight days after Klaus Allofs was netting his fifth goal in FC Köln’s seven matches in a season during which he’d lead the league with 26, the Detroit Tigers won baseball’s World Series, while the only Klaus I’d ever heard of was Scorpions vocalist Klaus Meine.
Yet, the power of the guitars of Jabs and Rudolf Schenker backing the strangely accented vocals of Meine were undeniable. I didn’t know it at the time, but the leather-clad rockers from Hannover were paving the way for me to later think “96” when the hometown of the Scorpions is ever mentioned.
Admittedly, when I attended my first match in February of 1994 in Westfalenstadion, I don’t believe there is any way to describe it as “Love at First Sting,” but the slow development of my love for German football made it, to refer to another, lesser Scorpions offering, “Unbreakable.”
What WAS “Love at First Sting” was hanging out in the student housing common area late at night drinking bier and taking in the singalongs, which invariably would include a heavily accented take on “Wind of Change” (and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” for some reason). Ah, the halcyon days of being an American student in Wuppertal…
But, I digress. My preview of the nine matches making up Match Day 29 in Bundesliga 2 will be delivered through the nine tracks of the 29-year-old Scorpions’ rock classic.
“Bad Boys Running Wild”: FC Ingolstadt (12th place – 35 points) : Hertha BSC (1st – 62)
Hertha Berlin spent the early part of Monday signing leading goal getter Ronny to a contract extension to keep the Brazilian in the club through 2017, ostensibly readying their roster for a return to the Bundesliga.
Ronny, in turn, capped the evening by contributing two goals in a decisive 3:0 victory in which the boys of Berlin did, indeed, run wild over second-place Eintracht Braunschweig, opening a four-point lead on their lone challenger for the league title. Despite the short rest between matches, Berlin will visit Ingolstadt in solid position to continue their season-long dominance, during which they’ve lost only twice.
In an alternate take on the lead track of the album, Ingolstadt emphasised the “bad,” having lost their last three matches and, with only 10 goals, have outscored only Energie Cottbus in the Rückrunde. They may be running wild, but it’s been without much effect.
“Big City Nights”: 1 FC. Union Berlin (7th – 40) : SG Dynamo Dresden (15th – 27)
By far, the biggest city in Germany, at least population-wise, is Berlin. While Union definitely plays Rudolf Schenker’s rhythm guitar to Hertha BSC’s Matthias Jabs-like lead.
Yet, come Friday night, the lights will be shining at the Stadion an der Alten Föresterie, as die Eserne attempt to gain points in their ninth consecutive home match when they host Dynamo Dresden.
Dresden managed three goals in 15 minutes to turn an 0:2 deficit to visiting St. Pauli into a 3:2 victory, propelling the home side above the relegation zone for the first time since the beginning of the Rückrunde.
If they hope to put any distance between themselves and 16th place, however, they’ll need to overcome their dreadful away form, as well as the strong home tendencies of Union Berlin. Dresden has earned a mere nine points in 14 road matches this season, with their lone win away from Glückgas Stadion coming way back on match day three.
Union Berlin remains on the far periphery of the promotion race, but with three of the bottom four teams in the league table remaining on the schedule, a late surge back into the situation is not outside hope for the normally vocal home fans. With 27 points in 14 home matches, Union ranks among the stingiest home sides in the league.
“The Same Thrill”: SV Sandhausen (17th – 23) : Eintracht Braunschweig (2nd – 58)
After spending 21 consecutive weeks in first place, Braunschweig dropped to second at the end of February and have remained ever since. After Monday’s loss in Berlin, the Lions find themselves four points from the top.
With promotion all but secured and a league title a bit of a fading dream, can Braunschweig maintain the same thrill for the chase that got them this far? With an opponent mired in a battle for survival in the league, Braunschweig will want to find at least a little bit of that thrill in order to keep from being overcome by what is sure to be an emotionally charged host in Sandhausen.
Although Sandhausen sits only three points away from the 16th spot in the table, at which they could at least play for a chance to maintain the class, their own lack of ability to defend their home turf and the strength of their visitor leaves little real hope for a result in Friday night’s tilt with Braunschweig.
Braunschweig will be looking to recover from a disappointing result in Monday night’s battle for league supremacy in Berlin, while maintaining their flickering hopes at a league championship. Thought, with promotion all but secured, there is little real pressure on the visiting side.
“Crossfire”: FSV Frankfurt (5th – 43) : MSV Duisburg (11th – 36)
My pick for match of the week features two of the hottest teams in the league, leaving me to expect a back-and-forth battle with plenty of action.
FSV Frankfurt remains within reach of third place for a shot at promotion thanks to the hot foot of attacking midfielder Zafer Yelen, who has contributed six goals in FSV’s last five matches. The only match in that streak in which Yelen failed to score was also the only match in which they failed to earn a point.
The visitors from Duisburg have been surging through the bottom half of the table after a disastrous start in which the defense surrenders two goals or more in seven of the eight first matches of the season, cementing the club in last place and seemingly destined for relegation.
Duisburg sacked manager Oliver Reck in late August, replacing him with Kosta Runjaic, which seemed to stem the bleeding, if not completely stop it. After surrendering 30 goals in the Hinrunde, the Zebras have yielded only 13 goals in 11 matches, four of those in one day at Hertha BSC. The improved defense has led to Duisburg leaving the relegation zone behind seemingly for good and with cause for positive outlook toward the future.
With no realistic chance at promotion, Duisburg enters this match with their eyes on playing the spoiler, having managed points in five of their last six matches. Frankfurt is among the few teams with realistic hopes of still achieving third place and playing for a promotion to the Bundesliga. With away matches at 1860 München, FC Kaiserslautern, and Eintracht Braunschweig, the FSV know they cannot afford to drop any points at home if they want to stay in the race.
“Rock You Like a Hurricane”: FC St. Pauli (13th – 33) : TSV München 1860 (6th – 48)
The stormy conditions in this contest come from the fact that München simply plays better anywhere but their home stadium, but they’ll be visiting one of the better home atmospheres in the league when they visit St. Pauli.
The Lions’ home form cost them another two points this past Sunday, when they played to a draw with Energie Cottbus.
Though 1860 are on a run of six matches without a loss, they have failed to win any of the three home matches in that stretch while winning all three of their contests away from Allianz Arena. Were the recent home results the same as the road results, 1860 would be level with Kaiserslautern and in the thick of the promotion chase, as they appeared very much to be when they began their run. Instead, they remain six points adrift of third place with six games remaining.
St. Pauli, seven points clear of the relegation zone, have taken 7 of the 9 points available in their last three home matches. With Hertha BSC, Braunschweig, Kaiserslautern, and the resurgent Duisburg making up St. Pauli’s final four opponents on the schedule, the home team will be wanting to grab as many points as they can find along the way to their tough finish to assure they don’t drift too closely to that 16th rung.
“Still Loving You”: 1 FC. Köln (4th – 40) : VfR Aalen (10th – 36)
Köln returns home licking their wounds after a dismissive 3:0 beating at the hands of Kaiserslautern, ending the Effzeh’s 15-match unbeaten streak and their one-week stay in third place.
Despite the loss, the Effzeh fans who travelled to Kaiserslautern only to be treated to a thorough out-classing on the pitch by the host club made sure their beloved team heard that the love was unconditional.
Coming to RheinEnergieStadion Sunday for the first time in club history is the last team to have defeated Köln before they went on their run, VfR Aalen. After finishing the Hinrunde tied for fifth place, Aalen has struggled to maintain their form in the Rückrunde, with only their two fellow promoted sides from the third league last season earning fewer points thus far in the season’s second half.
After a 6:1 thumping at the hands of FSV Frankfurt on match day 25, Aalen has taken points in each of their last three matches, keeping them solidly in the middle of the table and, in all likelihood, assuring a second season in the second league.
“Coming Home”: Energie Cottbus (7th – 40) : VfL Bochum (16th – 26)
Though newly hired coach Peter Neururer is a native of Marl, 35 km north of Bochum, his return to the sidelines to lead the VfL in the midst of a relegation crisis is definitely a homecoming of sorts for the dancing coach who logged 133 matches in charge of Bochum from 2001 to 2005, guiding the club to promotion to the Bundesliga at the end of his first season there.
After riding a four-match losing streak into the relegation zone, VfL Bochum relieved Karsten Neitzel of his coaching duties and immediately tabbed Neururer as the man they hope will help them avoid the drop.
Bochum and Cottbus have had played similarly in the season’s second half, each with 12 points thus far in the Rückrunde, the difference being that Cottbus finished the first half in fourth place while Bochum was fourth from bottom. Cottbus’ eight goals scored in the Rückrunde is a league low.
“I’m Leaving You”: SC Paderborn (9th – 37) : SSV Jahn Regensburg (18th – 18)
That is, I (Regensburg) am leaving you (2. Bundesliga). Paderborn isn’t going anywhere.
This match features a pair of teams which have, with little exception, been the precise models of a mid-table team and a clear favorite for relegation, respectively. Hence, it is a virtual lock Paderborn will play again in the second league next season, while Regensburg is rapidly approaching a direct return to the third league.
“As Soon as the Good Times Roll”: Erzgebirge Aue (14th – 31) : Kaiserslautern (3rd – 48)
Monday night’s match day finale features two teams on the verge of achieving something, but have just a little way to go before celebrating their good times.
After briefly stepping down from their lengthy stay among the top three in the league table, Kaiserslautern delivered a strong statement Monday night, snatching third place back from the hands of FC Köln with an emotional 3:0 victory on their home pitch. A two-point lead with six matches remaining is not insignificant, especially after putting together such a stellar performance against their closest competition for the last remaining promotion spot.
Aue managed their first multiple-goal performance of 2013 last week in Bochum, putting them five points clear of the relegation zone. While this hardly puts them in the same class as Kaiserslautern, they carry a positive goal differential at home, having conceded only 15 goals in 14 matches, while scoring 20. Even a single point on Monday night will push Aue even closer to securing retention of the class.
As far as I can tell, there are no bonus tracks even on the Japanese import of the “Love at First Sting” cd. Yet, just a few fun facts for those of you who’ve made it to the bottom.
Eliminated from promotion, even if Bayern lends them their entire roster for the remainder of the season and everyone above them loses by 12 points a match: Dynamo Dresden, VfL Bochum, SV Sandhausen, Jahn Regensburg
Safe from relegation, even should they just stop playing their matches: Hertha BSC, Eintracht Braunschweig, FC Kaiserslautern, FC Köln
Technically remain in championship race: Hertha BSC, Eintracht Braunschweig, FC Kaiserslautern, FC Köln, FSV Frankfurt, 1860 München
Header courtesy of hamburg-web.de