„Il Trap“ hat bisher drei Worte Deutsch gelernt: Danke, Bitte und Vestenbergsgreuth…

Located halfway between the cities of Nürnberg and Würzburg in the northern Bavarian region of Franconia lies the small market town of Vestenbergsgreuth, home to just under 1,500 people. A bit of a mouthful even for native German speakers, Vestenbergsgreuth is a place not many people outside of Germany would have heard of. Indeed, until one day in the late summer of 1994 not many people inside Germany would have heard of it.

Getting to Vestenbergsgreuth involves more than just a detour. Heading west on the Autobahn A3 out of Nürnberg past the city of Erlangen – birthplace of a certain Lothar Matthäus – you’ll need to join the Bundesstraße B470 before taking a couple of minor roads to get there. Your destination will be your typical small German town: a nice little church, a functionally modern Rathaus, a pleasant camping ground, a number of Biergärten – and, located north of the populated area, the small sports complex located at Am Sportplatz 1. Two well-manicured pitches including the small Stadion am Schwalbenberg separated by a large house and a car park.

Just outside these grounds you will spot what has become one of Vestenbergsgreuth’s most famous little landmarks – so much so that it even features on the town’s Internet home page. From a distance it looks like a small war memorial, a neatly-kept white stone sitting there in the grass with a list of names on it. However when you look closer, you will see a football on the top of the stone and the following inscription:

DFB – POKALSPIEL 14.8.1994
1 : 0

To any passers-by – though I doubt that your average visitor will ever pass by this little monument – this will be completely meaningless, but to those following German football at the time it would mark an event that would earn a place in the long and rich history of the beautiful game in Germany. On this day, 14th August 1994, the team from this little town – which included a doctor, electrician and police officer – would turn the footballing world upside down.

David’s little brother versus Goliath’s scary uncle

The first round draw for the DFB-Pokal or German Cup is set up in a certain way so that the qualifying teams from the amateur regional leagues will always meet a team from the 1. or 2. Bundesliga, and over the years some fascinating draws would be made where small village clubs with be pitted against the moneyed titans of the Bundesliga. For those involved, these cup days would often see entire towns and villages being mobilised – with games often being held at larger stadiums close by – and more often than not the occasion would feature a good-natured thrashing after which everybody would head off to the nearest Kniepe or back home for a few cold beers.

When TSV Vestenbergsgreuth – founded in 1974 by local tea salesman and herbalist Martin Bauer and known as simply Greuth or Die Teekicker – were drawn against mighty FC Bayern München, things would be no different. It would be one of the biggest events in the history of the small market town – not just its football club – and with the Stadion am Schwalbenberg being unable to accommodate the crowd the match would be held at the Frankenstadion in nearby Nürnberg. 24,200 people would turn up for the match, and it is likely that nearly everybody from the town would have taken the day off work to prepare.

Bayern would be no strangers to the first round DFB-Pokal disaster. After managing to make it past the first round since their first appearance in 1957, in the 1990/91 season they would fall to a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of FV 09 Weinheim – and a twenty-eighth minute penalty that would make sheet metal worker Thomas Schwechheimer the toast of the town. Lighting would strike twice the following year, with the record Bundesliga winners and three-time European Champions falling 4-2 after extra time to third division FC 08 Homburg.

While Weinheim and Homburg would be small clubs, both would represent towns with populations of more than forty-thousand. In stark contrast, Vestenbergsgreuth would have a population of under fifteen hundred. It wasn’t even David against Goliath, but a case of David’s little brother against Goliath’s even bigger and even scarier uncle. A team of part-timers against international megastars, a bunch of lads who would return to their normal jobs the following day against players living the life of luxury. One simply couldn’t stretch the footballing spectrum any further.

Having claimed the Bundesliga title under caretaker coach Franz Beckenbauer after the dismissal of the disappointing Erich Ribbeck, Bayern would start the 1994/95 season with much expectation. Coming in to coach the side would be the much decorated Italian Giovanni Trapattoni, a man whose CV would include AC Milan, Internazionale and Juventus.

On the evening of 14th August 1994, Trapattoni’s first competitive match as Bayern coach would be against TSV Vestenbergsgreuth.

While the Bayern starting eleven would contain such names as ‘keeper Oliver Kahn, German legend and World Cup winning captain Lothar Matthäus, Brazilian defender Jorghino and French striker Jean-Pierre Papin, TSV Trainer Paul Hesselbach’s side would include a mix of part-time players both young and old from a mix of different professions. Thirty-three year old police officer Werner Pfeuffer and thirty-one year old physician Reiner Wirsching would line up alongside twenty-one year old electrician Ralf Scherbaum and twenty year old bank clerk Frank Schmidt. Former goalkeeper Hesselbach himself would himself have a far finer pedigree, having played top flight football for a number of leading sides including 1. FC Nürnberg, Bayer 05 Uerdingen and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Many of TSV’s players would have watched Bayern on the television many times yet here they were themselves, live on ZDF in a match that would be broadcast across the entire country – as well as on the Astra satellite where I would be able to pick it up in the United Kingdom. In hearing that whistle many of these part-time players would have reached the height of their footballing careers, and nobody would have blamed them if they simply fell under the wheels of the Bayern juggernaut. By simply being here they had in effect already won, and in a sense they would have nothing to lose. Just to be on the same field as the Bayern team would be something of a fairy tale.

Is that really FC Bayern II playing Jamaica?

With the home side looking more like Bayern in an all-red Trikot with white trim, Trapattoni’s side would be wearing a new and rather bizarre gold, black and green combination that would make them look a little like Jamaica. In fact, if you watched the game you’d think that it was a pre-season contest between a Jamaican XI and FC Bayern München II. I had always hated this Trikot, and its being used in this game would turn out to be fitting. It was the one Bayern shirt I would never feel tempted to buy.

At just after 8pm referee Markus Merk would get things under way, on what was a pleasant late summer evening. The opening spell would see the visitors immediately on the attack with Brazilian wing-back Jorghino sending in a cross inside the first minute. Not long afterwards attacking midfielder Marcel Witeczek would shoot wide of the target, and a Papin effort would be kept out by TSV ‘keeper Scherbaum.

Despite the first half an hour passing by with Bayern unable to puncture the red-shirted defence, for their supporters in the crowd it could only be just a matter of time. Quality, experience, and pure fitness would surely see Die Roten through to the second round, and there was no possible way that the amateurs would be able to last.

In front of the enthusiastic 24,200-strong crowd, the gold-shirted Münch’ner would continue to throw themselves forward against an obdurate amateur team who played as if it were the final – but even as the clock ticked towards half-time with no adjustment to the scoreboard nobody would have expected anything but a Bayern victory. The chances would keep coming for the visitors: Scherbaum reacted brilliantly to get his hands to a Mehmet Scholl strike from ten yards, and five minutes before the break Papin would take have his turn to send the ball wide of the target. Meanwhile, the camera would often switch to the touchline and focus on the irate Trapattoni, who would become more visibly animated and frustrated – a red-faced blur of characteristically Italian waving arms.

Then the impossible would happen.

Two minutes before the break, defensive midfielder and electrician Bernd Lunz would roll the ball into the Bayern box looking for police officer Werner Pfueffer, who would go down at the edge of the box under a challenge from Didi Hamann. Eschewing the standard professional tactic of writhing on the ground, Pfueffer would just get on with it and stick out a leg to stab the ball forward into the Bayern box. Referee Merk would wave play on, and from the resulting melée businessman Wolfgang Hüttner would break towards the byline. A sharp cross back into the six yard box, and twenty-one year old midfielder Roland Stein would arrive at the near post to nod the ball past Oliver Kahn from close range.

The Bayern ‘keeper would be left completely helpless, and the scoreboard flickered to read TSV Vestenbergsgreuth 1, FC Bayern München 0. The amateurs had not only kept a clean sheet for forty-three minutes, they had shown complete and utter cheek by running up the other end and scoring. They were there for the experience, not to score a goal, after all. The crowd, which no doubt contained a good number of local Nürnbergers, cheered the small town side. The Bayern supporters meanwhile would be in such a state of such shock that they couldn’t even jeer.

Trapattoni would sit tight-lipped on the touchline, gently rocking back and forth.

One can only imagine what it must have been like in the Bayern dressing room at half-time. The scowling, brooding Kahn. The opinionated team spokesman and amateur tactician Matthäus. An irate Italian coach babbling incoherently in what would pass for broken German. Oh to have been a Fliege an der Wand.

Five minutes into the second half, the reigning Bundesliga champions would almost concede a second as Scholl cleared a scuffed close-range shot from Hüttner off the line with Kahn beaten. One goal for their unheralded opponents was bad enough, but two would have been catastrophic. The ball would be gratefully hoofed back up the pitch.

The early second half scare would spark Bayern into action, and once again they would continue to run at the crowd of red shirts. Trapattoni would throw on the lumbering Colombian striker Adolfo Valencia for the ineffective Witeczek, Scherbaum would again do well to thwart the profligate Papin, and after a goalmouth scramble the big-haired mechanic and centre-half Harry Koch would hack the ball clear. As the game entered the final twenty minutes Bayern would truly start to look desperate, to the point where one would be left wondering who the amateurs were.

Pfeuffer – arguably the perfect advert for the Bavarian police force – would leave the Bayern defence trailing in his wake as he set up Harald Ebner whose header sailed over the bar, and with the game starting to open up would start to wonder if it was really Bayern playing in red. With just minutes left on the clock Pfeuffer would collect a through ball from substitute Thomas Latteier and would hit the side netting, and as the game went in added time Ebner would skip past a tiring Matthäus before sending the ball over the crossbar.

Deep into injury time, Trapattoni’s side would take their final throw of the dice. Papin would flick the ball over Scherbaum and seemingly towards goal, but Lunz would stretch a desperate leg to deflect it against the foot of the post. There to sweep the ball away would be the almost ubiquitous Koch, whose presence had been as big as his mop of dark curly hair.

There would be no last-minute equaliser to take the game into extra time: so much for the infamous Bayern-Dusel.

Somehow the amateurs would hold out against their professional opponents, with Stein – a fitter with the local tea company who still lived in the attic in his parents’ house – outdoing the likes of French international star Papin and the much-fêted Colombian Valencia as his club secured an unlikely and historic victory. It would be just one more embarrassing story that would define the Bayern München of the early to mid-1990s – a case of new coach, same old Scheiße. In the words of the tabloid Bild,

Über diesen Witz lacht die Bundesliga: Giovanni Trapattoni hat bisher drei Worte Deutsch gelernt: Danke, Bitte und Vestenbergsgreuth… Die Bayern-Schande. Zu überheblich, zu geldgierig und auch noch zu faul!

(“The Bundesliga laughs about this joke: Giovanni Trapattoni has learned three words of German: thank you, please and Vestenbergsgreuth… The Bayern shame. Too arrogant, too greedy and also too lazy!”)

With the exception of skipper Matthäus – collared for what would be a painful post-match on-pitch interview – the Bayern players would not hang around on the field after the final whistle, desperate for that hole in the ground to swallow them up. As a result, the victorious Vestenbergsgreuth team would never get the chance to swap shirts with their famous opponents. Not that they would have cared too much at the time, as they took the plaudits from the crowd amidst wild celebrations.

The Aftermath

Giovanni Trapattoni would praise the amateur side’s commitment and discipline, but would have not much else to say. It was maybe just as well that his German would not be good enough to articulate what must have really felt. A philosophical Matthäus, meanwhile, would flatly state that Bayern would just have to “live with the shame”.

The press meanwhile would have a field day, with the Hamburg-based Bild leading the campaign of mockery and the Köln-based Express describing Vestenbergsgreuth as “the strongest village in the country” – dem stärksten Dorf im ganzen Land. The Süddeutscher Zeitung would take a somewhat more measured and sober approach, stating that “pride comes before a fall”. Unsurprisingly, the shock result would also make the front page of the sports papers in Trapattoni’s native Italy.

The defeat against TSV Vestenbergsgreuth is something that would stick in the memory of every Bayern fan that would have the misfortune of watching it, and like any horrific moment it would be something impossible to undo. It is like an itch on the inside of your head that one can never quite get rid of, no matter how many more Champions’ League triumphs one may get to witness. Meanwhile, the result would send out a beacon of hope to every amateur team in the country, and the feat remains an inspiration for every small village side that finds itself up against footballing royalty.

Simply, not every meeting like this results in a ten-goal hiding – which is part of the enduring magic of the first round of the DFB-Pokal.

Just a couple of days later TSV would be back playing a Regionalliga fixture against FC Augsburg, but would extend their cup run with a 5-1 thrashing of 2. Bundesliga side FC 08 Homburg – ironically, the side that Bayern would come a cropper against the following year. As if to prove that their cup feats had been no flash in the pan Hesselbach’s side would take 2. Bundesliga high flyers VfL Wolfsburg all the way in their last-sixteen encounter, falling only in a well-contested penalty shoot out to the eventual finalists after a 1-1 draw in extra time.

Most of the TSV players would return to their real lives and back into the sparsely-populated world of amateur football, but for one man that famous game at the Frankenstadion would be just the beginning. Fêted as the player who had kept the much-vaunted FC Bayern attack at bay – summed up by his two goal-line clearances – twenty-four year old centre-back Harry Koch would soon make his way to 1. FC Kaiserslautern, where he would spend eight successful seasons. Koch would be part of the 1. FCK team that would win the 2. Bundesliga in 1996/97 and the 1. Bundesliga the following year – where they would beat Bayern both home and away en route to the title.

TSV Vestenbergsgreuth’s famous victory in 1994 would be the last great hurrah for the Franconian village side, as in 1996 they would merge with Regionalliga Süd side SpVgg Fürth to form SpVgg Greuther Fürth – which would make their way up to the top flight before suffering a traumatic 2012/13 season that would see them sent straight back down to the 2. Bundesliga.

One might have thought that the merger in 1996 would be the final chapter of the TSV Vestenbergsgreuth story, but in 2007 the original club would be revived. Being a completely new outfit they would have to start again in the lowest rungs of the Bavarian amateur league – the A-Klasse Erlangen/Pegnitzgrund-Gruppe 3 – and would return to their original home at the Am Sportpark. Their first season would see them immediately promoted to the Kreisklasse Erlangen/Pegnitzgrund 2, and today they are in the Kreisklasse Erlangen/Pegnitzgrund 1, the seventh tier of the Bavarian regional league structure.

The club is now watched by crowds that can be counted in the hundreds, but nobody who was there back then – or watching it on television, as I was – will forget the evening when Vestenbergsgreuth’s finest would be playing in front of a crowd of over twenty-four thousand people. A game that was arguably the greatest shock in the long history of German football.

A game that would make me always think when having a Tasse of Milford lemon tea.

Match Facts

14th August 1994, Frankenstadion, Nürnberg

TSV Vestenbergsgreuth – FC Bayern München 1:0 (1:0)
Stein 43. / –

TSV Vestenbergsgreuth: Ralf Scherbaum – Frank Schmidt – Bernd Lunz, Harry Koch, Bernd Santl – Jochen Weigl (68. Thomas Latteier), Harald Ebner, Reiner Wirsching, Roland Stein – Werner Pfeuffer – Wolfgang Hüttner (70. Uwe Ernst).

FC Bayern München: Oliver Kahn – Thomas Helmer – Markus Babbel – Jorginho, Dietmar Hamann (46. Markus Schupp), Lothar Matthäus, Christian Nerlinger, Michael Sternkopf – Mehmet Scholl – Matcel Witeczek (53. Adolfo Valencia), Jean-Pierre Papin.

Yellow Cards: – / Papin, Sternkopf, Nerlinger

Referee: Dr. Markus Merk (Kaiserslautern)
Attendance: 24,200

Key TSV men: where are they now?

Paul Hesselbach, coach. Having continued as coach until the club merger, Hesselbach would continue to work locally for both SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Quelle Fürth. Today he is a scout for SpVgg.

Werner Pfeuffer, man of the match. Would serve over thirty years in the police force as a chief commissioner in Ansbach. Continued to play local football as a player-coach into his fifties alongside his son Daniel.

Roland Stein, goalscorer. Continued playing locally, and started coaching part-time with local clubs FC Strullendorf and DJK Mistendorf. Runs a eighty-five acre pig farm with his brother in Strullendorf near Bamberg.

You can visit the official TSV Vestenbergsgreuth site at http://www.tsv-vestenbergsgreuth.de

Header courtesy of imago sportfotodienst

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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