Zwickau is a city on the western side of the German state of Saxony, lying in a valley at the foot of the Erzgebirge Mountains that formed the natural boundary between the states of Saxony and Bohemia between the 12th and 20th centuries. These days it is the border between Germany and Czechia so that Zwickau is about 41 kms (25.5 miles) north of the border and 45 kms (28 miles) east of their neighbors Chemnitz. Actually it is a tautology to call them the Erzgebirge Mountains because the word Erzgebirge means ‘Ore Mountains’. Historically the Erzgebirge have been part of the origins of mining and metallurgy since the Bronze Age with a variety of metals including iron, copper, tin, tungsten, lead, silver, cobalt, bismuth, and uranium, plus iron and manganese oxides, and they are probably the most heavily researched mountain range in the world.
Some cities are known for their various specialties (think Nashville for country music in the United States or Glasgow for ship building in Scotland) and Zwickau also has a specialization. Much like Detroit in the USA or Birmingham in England, Zwickau is a center for the motor industry in Germany. The Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau (University of Applied Sciences) is known for training automotive engineers and, in modern times, both Volkswagen and Audi have significant bases there. However it is the Horch company (the predecessor of Audi, which is the Latin translation of “horch”, meaning “listen!” in its verbal form) founded by August Horch and, more recently, the famous East German car the Trabant which gave Zwickau its fame.
The word Trabant means ‘satellite’ and the Soviet Sputnik satellite inspired it in the era when the eastern part of Germany was part of the Soviet bloc. Over the years between 1957 and 1990, across a variety of models, 3 096 999 Trabants were produced over with few significant changes in their basic design. It featured a hard plastic body over a one-piece steel chassis and was known as the ‘spark plug with a roof’. The ‘Trabi’ (as it was nicknamed) had very limited color scheme and was a cramped uncomfortable ride but was still an object of desire for East Germans. As the Soviet Bloc began to collapse in mid-1989, thousands of them took off on the ‘Trabi Trail’, loading their cars with their possessions in order to drive to Hungary or Czechoslovakia en route to West Germany. Since the cars did not meet West German emissions standards and polluted the air at four times the European average many had to apply for special permission to drive there. In modern times they are considered a collectors item by people around the world and in Berlin your can take special tours in restored (and more decoratively painted) cars.
Unlike SC Paderborn 07 (where I had been the previous week) most sides in the eastern part of Germany have less complicated histories, more affected by name changes due to communist ideologies rather than combining of teams and this is also true of FSV Zwickau. April 27, 1912, saw the establishment of FC (later SC) Planitz in a village south of Zwickau. After World War II most sporting clubs were dissolved by the occupying forces and then had to reform, with Planitz becoming Sportgruppe (SG) Planitz and going on the win the first Ostzone championship on July 4, 1948. Consequently they were chosen to represent the eastern region of the country in the national playoffs however, as a sign of things to come in relations between the Soviets and their Western allies, the team was denied permission to travel to Stuttgart in order to play the preliminary round match versus 1. FC Nürnberg and they were eliminated.
After a series of poor results in the new season they were moved to Zwickau (which had a much bigger population, there are approximately 100 000 inhabitants today) and renamed ZSG Horch Zwickau in 1949. The following season that name was changed to BSG Motor Zwickau and then in February 1968 to BSG Sachsenring Zwickau. Finally, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the changes that resulted the eastern part of Germany they took on their current name as of January 1, 1990. Apart from that very early success Zwickau had not been particularly successful as a league team, however they won the GDR Cup on three occasions (1963, 1967 and 1975) and their third success also saw a good European run. In the 1975/76 European Cup Winners Cup they defeated Panathinaikos Athens, Fiorentina and Glasgow Celtic before going out in the semi-finals to the eventual winners, Anderlecht.
This is the second season in a row that FSV Zwickau have been in the 3.Liga after spending the majority of their time since the turn of the millennium bouncing between the 4th and 5th levels of German football. In part this was caused by insolvency at the end of the 1999/00 season and a second insolvency on March 8, 2010 did not help. One of the stated aims of the club since that time has been financial security, which has been boosted by a few years of more recent success. In 2012/13 they finished third in the Regionalliga Nordost behind an RB Leipzig team near the beginning of their ascent through the leagues and after coming close a couple of other times promotion was eventually achieved at the end of the 2015/16 season. That was also the final season in their traditional Westsachsenstadion, which could not be converted to 3.Liga requirements after objections by the city of Zwickau to excessive costs (approximately 25-30 millions euros). Instead the decision was made (four years earlier on April 26, 2012) to build a new stadium to the north east of the city, in the area called Eckersbach, at a cost of just 21 million euros.
Stadion Zwickau still looks very new, which is no surprise given that it was not quite finished in time for the beginning of last season and the first couple of games of 2016/17 were played at the DDV stadium in Dresden. The first competitive fixture was a DFB Cup first round match against Hamburger SV on August 22, 2016 (they lost 0:1) and their first victory at the new stadium did not come until MatchDay 8 on September 21, when Marcel Bär scored a hat-trick in a 4:0 victory over Jahn Regensburg. However, over the remainder of the season the new stadium proved to be a bit of a fortress with 9 more wins, 4 draws and only 2 losses after that first victory. It currently holds 10 000 people when full although there was a clause in the building contract to allow expansion to 15 000 should they prove to be successful. At each corner is a grassy bank and the northern and southern ends are terraced standing room areas. The southern end is the home for the visiting teams fans and on this day it was packed with Chemnitz fans, which would have been handy because there were snow swirls before the game and the wind was brisk.
It was a nice easy walk up the hill to the stadium (although there is also the tram line toward Eckersbach which can make things even easier) and you are still close enough that the bells of the churches in Zwickau can still be heard from outside. Unlike some of the other teams in the 3.Liga, entrance only started an hour before the game, however this might have been because of the Derby nature of the match as lots of local spectators were already waiting outside the ground before the gates were finally opened. This was the reverse fixture from MatchDay One when Chemnitzer FC had achieved a 1:0 victory at home, however since that time they only achieved three more wins and were sitting on 19th. FSV Zwickau were only two points and two places above them in 17th so the game had the potential to be a real battle to move away from the relegation zone, while keeping their rivals down. Despite this, the final crowd figure was a disappointing 5 750, only just above their season average and it might be that the cold weather and poor form of both teams contributed to that.
Despite being the away team and 19th in the 3.Liga at the beginning of the day, Chemnitz started the game the brighter of the two sides. FSV Zwickau’s coach Ziegner had had to reconfigure the side after the suspension of Davy Frick (for a homophobic slur during the game against Hallescher FC on the previous MatchDay) and an injury to Garbuschewski and they looked disjointed. Daniel Frahn was looking calm and assured for Chemnitzer FC in central midfield and directed the game. On 10 minutes Frahn sent through a good ball to Slavov but Zwickau keeper Brinkies was able to keep him out. A similar passage of play in the 16th minute produced a similar result but it felt like Chemnitz were going to score sooner rather than later. Sure enough, after a fast break down the right by Hansch was halted by a foul from Göbel, Reinhardt sent the free kick into the box and this time Slavov was able to put the ball in the back of the net.
As the game continued Kunz (in the Chemnitzer FC goal) had very little to do outside of organizing the defense and the quality of final ball from both sides showed why they were down near the bottom of the table. Chemnitz still looked much more likely to score a second than Zwickau were to grab their first and this seemed even more likely in the 36th minute when Hansch made another good break and this time was brought down in the box, a clear penalty to Chemnitz. Frahn stepped up to take the kick and followed the recent trend by attempting to just chip the penalty over the goalkeeper into the center of the goal while they dived to one side or the other. However, on this occasion Brinkies stood still and simply caught the ball, much to the delight of the home crowd who had had very little to cheer up until that point. Not long after Antonitsch put Hansch through but Brinkies was able to make himself big and keep out the shot and Zwickau could consider themselves very lucky to have gone in at half time only 1-0 down.
As the second half began it seemed like Ziegner had fired up his team at the break because Zwickau came out with some more purpose; there was more ferocity in the tackles and a bit more enterprise in attack. Indeed it looked like they might have had a penalty of their own in the 51st minute when Mlynikowski seemed to have handballed a ball from Eisele but the referee waved it away. Their defense still looked suspect however and when Chemnitz received their second corner of the game in the 59th minute Mbende flicked the ball on for Trapp to head home unmarked and it was 0:2. This, as it turned out, was the real motivation that FSV Zwickau needed (although I am sure that Ziegner might like to claim that his substitution of Mauersberger for Miatke after the Chemnitzer FC goal might have also made a difference).
Up until this point it felt like Eisele’s main contribution to the game (apart from the almost penalty) was to get the ball and then fall over when challenged in the hope of getting a free kick or penalty. However in the 64th minute he began to justify why he had been brought into the team when he rose above the pack to direct a cross from Göbel into the back of the net. Two minutes later, from a free kick by Lange, Eisele got his head to the ball again and Kunz was, once again, unable to do anything to prevent it finding the net. After next to nothing in the first two thirds of the game suddenly it felt like FSV Zwickau were playing to win and the crowd started to get very enthusiastic as they pushed for a third goal. In the 78th minute it arrived, once more from a header, this time Bentley Baxter Bahn was able to get his head on to a Lange corner from the right and loop it up high to drop into the top right hand corner of the goal while Kunz and his defenders just seemed to watch.
Chemnitzer FC seemed to be completely frustrated, perhaps with good reason because they had been the better side for most of the match, and just could not turn things around to get back into attack. Until he was substituted in the 87th minute it seemed that Eisele was more likely to get his third than Chemnitz were likely to get theirs. At the end the FSV Zwickau supporters came away happy, moving one place up the table to 16th (although Preußen Münster have a game in hand after their match against Erfurt was postponed, as was the game between VfL Osnabrück and Karlsruher SC). The trip back down the hill was a cheerful one and the spectators seen in the Christmas Market that evening were full of good cheer appropriate for the season. It was not a great game, it could not even be said that the better team had won, but it had an exciting conclusion and what more could you ask for on the last weekend before the winter break?