Bundesliga Rewind: The 1970s: A Tale of Two Heavyweights

On Sunday afternoon table topping FC Bayern München will travel to the north-west of Germany for a visit to Borussia Park to take on 2nd placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. The match marks the 93rd time the two will have met in a Bundesliga fixture, and the 100th competitive match played between the two. FC Bayern lead the all-time head to head table with 45 wins compared to Gladbach’s 20 with the 27 remaining matches resulting in a splitting of the points. Bayern are also undefeated in 7 total matches vs. Borussia in the domestic cup competition.

Nowadays we tend to take for granted the domestic dominance displayed by FC Bayern. We’re also more apt to think of that other Borussia, that one playing in black and yellow, as the primary rival and main contender to disrupt this seemingly entrenched Bavarian football hegemony (current season thus far notwithstanding). However, without overstating the obvious, 4 decades ago the German footballing landscape was much different – Bayern weren’t always the de facto league winners.

Indeed it was more akin to a heavyweight boxing match or, perhaps more appropriately, a 2 horse race. From the 1969-70 season to the 1979-80 season the 2 clubs dominated the league topping the table on 9 of the 11 occasions, with Die Fohlen winning the Bundesliga title 5 times to FC Bayern’s 4. Also during the decade the sides took turns winning 3 league titles in a row, Bayern having achieved the feat from 1971-1974 and Gladbach from 1974-1977. Both clubs also were DFB Pokal winners once, Bayern in 1971-72 and Gladbach the season after.

The 22 league matches played between the 2 over the decade were split much more evenly than the all-time results with Bayern winning 10 to Gladbach’s 7 and the remaining 5 ending in draws. Generally speaking the matches were close contests (16 of the 22 contests were settled by 2 goals or less) but a few outliers existed – Borussia Mönchengladbach’s biggest victory was a 5-0 win in 1974 while Bayern were run away winners 7-1 in 1979.

Gladbach’s biggest win came on the last match day of the 1973/74 season. Bayern ended up winning the title by one point that season, but the Foals 5-0 win was a sign of what was to come in the following years.

Of course this rivalry produced a few memorable moments featuring the 2 sides.

On the 23rd match day in March of 1971, Gladbach defeated FC Bayern 3-1 in front of a raucous crowd at the Bökelbergstadion. The victory left Die Fohlen 2 points clear of Bayern at the top of the league table where they would remain until match day 33 when a 4-1 Bayern victory over Eintracht Braunschweig allowed the Bavarians, who were already level on points, to take the overall league lead with a slightly superior goal differential setting up a dramatic final match day. On the back of a 3 goal 2nd half Gladbach won 4-1 away to Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayern were condemned to the runners up position after a 2-0 defeat in Duisburg.

The final match day in the 1973-74 season produced Borussia Mönchengladbach’s greatest victory over FC Bayern but it comes with several caveats. Bayern started the day 3 points clear of the Foals which meant that they’d already clinched the Bundesliga title (3 points for a win wasn’t adopted in Germany until 1995). The other wrinkle was that the match came 1 day after the Bavarians had won the European Cup final replay against Atletico Madrid in Belgium; the match on the Wednesday finished in a 1-1 draw thus requiring the teams to play again on Friday, where Bayern were 4-0 winners. Gladbach took full advantage of the fact that Bayern had played the day before and ran out 5-0 winners, although I suspect that Beckenbauer and company probably didn’t lose a whole lot of sleep over it.

While the clubs have never met in continental competitions, both Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Bayern had incredibly successful European campaigns during the 1970s. Gladbach were UEFA Cup winners in 1974-75 and again in 1978-79 and runners up in 1972-73 and 1979-80. They also reached the final of the 1976-77 European Cup but were defeated 3-1 by Liverpool in Rome. Bayern on the other hand saw their greatest run in Europe winning the European Cup in three consecutive seasons (1973-74 to 1975-76) becoming the third, and last side to date, to accomplish that feat.

The clubs’ legacies during this decade extends outside of the league as well. Both FC Bayern and Borussia Mönchengladbach were huge contributors to the West German successes in the 1970s, and indeed some of the greatest players to put on a Germany shirt played for these 2 sides; names like Vogts, Wimmer, Bonhof, Netzer, and Heynckes for Gladbach and Maier, Beckenbauer, Breitner, Hoeneß, and Müller for Bayern just to name a few.

13 of the 18 players in West Germany’s EURO ’72 winning side played for these 2 sides, while 2 years later the World Cup winning squad was comprised of 12 players from the 2 clubs. Even at EURO ‘76, the squad that finished runners up to Czechoslovakia had 10 players from these teams. Interestingly enough, 3 players, Gladbach’s Berti Vogts and Bayern’s Sepp Maier and Georg Schwarzenbeck, appeared in all 4 tournaments West Germany qualified for in that decade.

Of course we all know that the clubs have had divergent fortunes since the end of the 1970s. FC Bayern München survived the challenge and have become the single team to beat every single season running, racking up accolades both domestically and in Europe, and are the gold standard for how a modern football organisation should be run. For Borussia Mönchengladbach the end of the 70s brought with it the end of their golden generation and outside of a pair of Pokal wins and some top 4 finishes in the Bundesliga the honours have significantly dried up for Die Fohlen.

So when you sit down to watch Sunday’s match wherever it is you’re viewing it from, perhaps take a moment to reflect on the history these 2 great clubs created. One has to assume that the football romantics and the neutrals will be pulling for a Gladbach win; victory for FC Bayern would put the gap between 1st and 2nd to 7 points (barring the Mainz and Hoffenheim results of course) and could signal the start of a Bavarian freight train powering to another league title. A victory for Gladbach would, at least for the time being, make the race for the Bundesliga title a little more interesting, all the while calling back to a bygone era where the Foals ran neck and neck with the Bavarian giants.

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Born in Toronto, Adrian is a first generation Canadian by way of Bavaria and the Black Forest. After some intense football soul searching he's now a fully fledged member of the Church of Streich. Follow @AdrianSertl

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