Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Historic German Cup Run – Part I

A golden era is always the centre of any great footballing nostalgia session. Some clubs have more prosperous times than others and some can be hard to distinguish, but it’s considered footballing blasphemy not to know about your club’s best years.

In Germany some of these golden eras are very easy to highlight: Nuremberg’s came in the 1920’s from winning 5 national championships in 8 years; Schalke’s foremost years were around the time of WWII where they won 6 nationals championships, 162 of 189 Gauliga matches – the highest standard of German football at the time – and went unbeaten in 6 of 12 seasons. Both of these records in time are wonderful achievements to be able to boast, but other sides have been more fortuitous in the Tschammerpokal, or its heir apparent, the DFB Pokal. This certainly rings true for Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Fortuna Dusseldorf achieved unprecedented success in the DFB Pokal, the late 1970s and early 1980s saw them receive back-to-back trophies and accumulating an unbeaten run that stretches to 18 games, which today is a record in German football. Rather strangely, what ignited this fearsome run the cup was a loss in the 1977/78 final to fierce rivals, FC Cologne.

European Cup Winners’ Cup 1978/79

After reaching the final in the previous season, the 1978/79 campaign was to bring foreign opposition and a new challenge to North Rhine-Westphalia: the European Cup Winners’ Cup. It was a great experience for Dusseldorf, one that would see – now Sir – Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen side visit the Rheinstadion in his first season in charge of the Scottish outfit, followed by an historic match-up against FC Barcelona in the final.

Although Dusseldorf didn’t win the DFB Pokal they were still invited to compete in the European Cup Winners’ Cup because Cologne beat Borussia Monchengladbach to the Bundesliga title on goal difference, this also meant F95’s UEFA Cup spot would be granted to MSV Duisburg because the former was perceived as more prestigious than the latter. This meant that four of Germany’s six European representatives were based in North Rhine-Westphalia.

En route to the final, Dusseldorf were required to travel to numerous countries scattered across Europe, those being places such as Romania, Scotland, Switzerland and Czech Republic. Despite Banik Ostrava of the Czech Republic being their opposition for the semi-final, it was the Swiss opposition of Servette who proved to be the most problematic.

After a 0-0 draw in Germany, Dusseldorf required a positive result in Switzerland to progress into the semi-finals. Servette went on to win the Swiss Super League in the 1978/79 season, but after Rudolf Bommer headed home a corner to put the Germans 1-0 up the soon-to-be Swiss champions couldn’t do enough despite a late equaliser.

Dusseldorf’s opponents in the final, Barcelona, also had struggles throughout the competition, but they had been given greater opposition in the mould of the cup holders, Anderlecht. The two sides met early in the competition (second round) so neither side would have been thinking of the final just yet, but a hard fought game by both sides seen the Spaniards win on penalties.

Throughout the competition it was known by other sides that Dusseldorf’s greatest threat to them was their potent attack. A series of elaborate forwards would cause problem for any side, but despite this the Germans were going into the final as second favourites, with the match later reflecting it.

Barcelona lead 3 times throughout the match but twice Dusseldorf were able to bring the score back to level terms, taking the game into half time at 2-2. Following a goalless second half, the game needed extra time to decide who’d be champions.

A goal at the start of extra time for Barcelona settled a lot of nerves and left Dusseldorf with the same challenge they’d be given twice already in the game. But unlike the famous idiom, third time wasn’t lucky and the Germans soon found themselves 4-2 down and on the verge of defeat. A consolation goal to make it 4-3 made Barcelona sweat, but the Catalans weren’t going to let the lead slip for a third time and put the first Spanish name on the trophy for 17 years.

DFB Pokal 1978/79

The record breaking run started against Stuttgart’s second biggest football side, Stuttgarter Kickers, on the 5th of August 1978 when Fortuna Dusseldorf ran out 7-2 winners. Unlike the ruling now, Dusseldorf were drawn to play this match at home because the DFB hadn’t implemented the rule of amateur teams playing at home, this was brought into action as of 1982.

As cup draws go Dusseldorf were fairly fortuitous with their opposition on the path to the final. The club from the state capital were only required to face two Bundesliga clubs, and they were in lowly positions come the end of the season; MSV Duisburg (4th round) finished 13th and Nuremberg (semi-final) were relegated.

The final saw Dusseldorf play Hertha Berlin, who weren’t at their peak point in history after barely surviving in the Bundesliga too. Many of Dusseldorf’s nucleus played in this final, a side that was built with home-grown players that went on to achieve great things and many of them represent Germany, including the widely recognised Allofs brothers.

As is the case with footballing brothers one is usually better than the other, and in this scenario it’s Klaus Allofs who can lift that trophy aloft. Klaus’ record both in the Bundesliga and West Germany caps amassed stands him above his younger brother, but it should be noted Thomas did play his whole career in the Bundesliga minus a brief hiatus in France. Nevertheless, sitting at 8th in the Bundesliga’s all-time top scorer chart, Klaus is more recognised by Bundesliga fans of past and present, not to mention Wolfsburg fans where he now works as the club’s sporting director. But it was this duo that inspired the team to great success both this season and next.

The final wasn’t the most exhilarating of clashes. Following a stalemate in 90 minutes the game was won in extra time, Wolfgang Seel sealed the first of two cups-to-be following a horrendously overpowered back-pass. Hertha’s goalkeeper, Norbert Nigbur, was unable to gain control of the ball and allowed Seel to pounce, earning Dusseldorf their first Pokal after losing in the final on no fewer than four occasions since its formation in 1960.

Stay tuned for Part II

Header courtesy of © Horstmüller and

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Lucas Swain

Lucas currently lives in Bristol, England but will soon reside elsewhere in the pursuit of a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Brought up supporting his local side, Bristol Rovers, he later adopted Fortuna Düsseldorf after a couple of visits to the ESPRIT Arena. Follow him on twitter @BundesligaLucas

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