As mentioned on the last episode of the Aufstieg Podcast, the officials of Kickers Offenbach have been planning to make last Sunday’s U15 match a special occasion for the club and the players. On Sunday, 7,876 spectators witnessed Kickers Offenbach U15 1-1 draw against the U15 side of SV Wehen Wiesbaden. Never before in the history of football have this many people attended a match at the U15 level. But why was Kickers chasing this world record?
“This is just wicked. So wicked!”, Kickers Offenbach president Claus-Arwed Lauprecht exclaimed when the local paper Offenbacher Post asked him for a comment after the match. The old attendance world record of 6,557 spectators was bettered by more than 1,000 spectators. Two day ahead of the match, the club had only sold 5,400 tickets to the match, but after a campaign by the local press, and almost 900 tickets sold on match day, a new world record was established.
Those who follow the Bundesliga closely may even be aware of the fact that Sebastian Rode played at Kickers as a youth player and that current Gladbach starlet André Hahn was at the club before he joined FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga. The club’s head of marketing, Frank Schwarzhaupt, told fussball.de ahead of the match that breaking the record is a sign of what is to come in the future:
This event gives a lot of people within the club a big push. The ‘Kickers family’ moves closer together, and we’ll create more attention and support through this event. All things considered, even today we can consider this to be a win for the OFC and its employees. Many of the younger players are even going as far as saying: “Such a thing does only happen at the OFC!”
In addition to creating a buzz within the community, OFC are also aiming at getting back to a higher division, as Schwarzhaupt explains:
It’s our long term goal to get the OFC back to a professional level in the 3. Liga or Bundesliga 2. In order to be able to achievement we need to create a solid foundation, and that needs to be maintained and it needs to be advanced constantly. This is only possible through a big financial commitment. Such an event like the record breaking match are an important building block for it.
The players themselves were led onto the pitch by the senior side, and both the club and the players themselves seem to be happy with the atmosphere which was created by the fans at the Bieberer Berg. Goalkeeper Gian-Luca Klahr told the local paper that one “had to experience the atmosphere to understand what just happened”, whilst goalscorer Olufela Lawal told the Offenbacher Post that it had been a “strong feeling”.
Long way back
Alfred Kaminiski, head of the Kickers youth academy, notes in an interview with fussball.de that the club wants to improve their talent development over the coming years. The U15 side competes currently in the highest league of the federal state Hessen, but the club are planning on establishing their youth teams on a national league level through investments into their youth program.
Kickers Offenbach are a club with long and proud tradition, but the economic mismanagement over the last few years have seen the team tumble down to the fourth tier. According to various articles in the national and local press, the club are currently facing a mountain of debt which is supposed to be between 3 and 5 million Euros. The club won the DFB Pokal back in 1970 and they came in second in the German championship back in 1950 and 1959. Reaching those old heights is still a long way off for the club.
However, the last couple of years have seen the club trying to get its house in order and the team has started to find its feet at fourth tier level. Currently the club are only 4 points behind table toppers 1. FC Saarbrücken in the Regionalliga Südwest and the team even went through to the next round of the DFB Pokal after defeating second tier side FC Ingolstadt.
Followers of the OFC blog blogrotundweiss.de are probably aware of the fact that Kickers seem to have a great squad for the current season, but that the team might need to get promoted this season if they want to hold on to some of their most promising players. Events like Sunday’s U15 match might give the impression that the club is slowly starting to recover, but as always with Kickers, there is a bit of sadness when it comes to the club’s effort to make something happen. Initially OFC tried to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, but the club’s efforts of making this happen are unlikely to succeed as Bild reported last week.
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