Around the world there are a number of football clubs that are named after people. Some of the better known ones include: Vasco da Gama (or Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama, to give them their full name) of Brazil, who were named for the Portuguese explorer; Sampdoria of Italy (whose name is a conglomeration of Sampierdarenese, a suburb of Genoa, and Andrea Doria, the famous admiral and ruler of Genoa); Willem II of the Netherlands (named after the king whose military base was in Tilburg where the team are located); Marconi Stallions in Australia (named after the famous inventor because the area of Sydney where they are centered was home to a large Italian community); and Newell’s Old Boys of Argentina (named for their founder, Isaac Newell).
Similarly, in the 3.Liga we have the team FC Carl Zeiss Jena (who have a double name reference, because their stadium is the Ernst-Abbe Sportsfeld). Zeiss was a maker of scientific instruments, particularly related to lenses and optical equipment, and the company he created in Jena (in 1846) is still one of the leaders in the field today. He was originally born in Weimar, but was an apprentice machinist and studied at the University in Jena before traveling around for work around Germany. When he decided to focus on microscopes and other optical equipment he determined to return to Jena to start a factory there. As well as producing quality lenses, Zeiss was also renowned for the treatment of his workers, providing them with a library, holidays, and free health care at a health clinic. In 1903, about 14 ½ years after Zeiss’s death, the company started a football team for workers from the factory, as Fussball-Club der Firma Carl Zeiss.
As has been previously mentioned in other reports, immediately after World War II the Allies banned all associations, including football and other sports clubs, in Germany. However, after the east of Germany had come under control of the Soviets the team was reconstituted, in June 1846, although with a new name. The East Germans preferred to give sports teams the names of socialist heroes (we saw something similar in the naming of Chemnitz as Karl-Marx Stadt) and an industrialist and businessman did not quite fit the model, so the team was named after Ernst Abbe a native of Jena, lecturer at the university, and colleague of Zeiss after 1866. He had been responsible for establishing an 8-hour workday at the plant. This was not the end of the name changes however and over the next 8 years they were called, respectively,; SG Stadion Jena (October 1948), SG Carl Zeiss Jena (March 1949), BSG Mechanik Jena (January 1951), BSG Motor Jena (May 1951) and SC Motor Jena (November 1954). A number of the flags with these names are still featured among those flown on the ground before games and in pins and other memorabilia available from the club shop.
In 1950 the club became a founding member of the DDR Liga (II). In their second season they were promoted to the DDR Oberliga as champions. They were relegated the following year but promoted again in 1957. They won the FDGB-Pokal (the East German Cup) in 1960 and later the East German national title in 1963. In January 1966, the club was “re-founded” as FC Carl Zeiss Jena and was made a “focus center” which meant that players being developed for the national team would be sent there. They won two more DDR-Oberliga titles in 1968 and 1970 (which is why some versions of their badge have a star containing the number three immediately above it). They also won three more East German Cups in 1972, 1974 and 1980. This last win was particularly significant because, during the following season the club had a run in the European Cup Winners Cup defeating A.S. Roma (Italy), Valencia CF (Spain), Newport County (Wales), and S.L. Benfica (Portugal), on their way to the final. While they were defeated by FC Dynamo Tbilisi (Georgia) 2:1 in the final, this was still a major achievement by the club. This success is probably why, in the DDR version of Monopoly, FC Carl Zeiss Jena, 1 FC Magdeburg, Hallescher FC and Hansa Rostock are in the positions of the four train stations on a normal Monopoly board (and they sell the game in the club shop).
Because of their success in the Oberliga after the reunification of Germany Jena were placed into the Bundesliga 2. They finished second in their first season but then were relegated at the end of the following season and became somewhat of a yoyo team, spending a total of 5 seasons in the Bundesliga 2 between 1994 and 2008. In the 2008-9 season they were one of the founding teams in the 3.Liga. 2009 proved to be a terrible year for the team; first being accused of match-fixing in a game against ZFC Meuselwitz, then announcing that it was in financial distress with debts of over €1 million. After the players took a wage cut they survived the season and stayed in the 3.Liga until the end of the 2011/12 season when they were relegated to the Regionalliga Nordost. Last season saw them run away with the Regionallia and defeat Victoria Köln on away goals in a playoff (2:3 in the first leg at Köln; 0:1 in the second leg in Jena).
This season has been a tough one for the club, as they have attempted to make the transition to a higher league with the smallest budget of any club in the 3.Liga. After a bright start, things began to look grim by MatchDay 6 and an unlucky away defeat, to heated local rivals Rot-Weiss Erfurt, on MatchDay 7 saw them at the foot of the table. However this seemed to provoke a response and a win and two draws in the next three games quickly moved them back out of the relegation places. Four more wins and two more draws since then have moved them up into fourteenth place, on 24 points, two places and one point behind today’s opponents Hallescher FC. Because the rest of the sides had already played this weekend they knew that a win could move them up to twelfth and ten points clear of relegation.
The city of Jena is the second largest in the German state of Thuringia, with a population of approximately 110 000 people. Its main university (now known as the Friedrich Schiller University) was founded in 1558 and Jena has been a centre for education and research ever since. Unusually for Germany there is no main central station. This is partly because it is quite a hilly area, and partly because the two main lines that come to Jena (one running north/south, the other east/west) were originally built by different(and competing) private companies. However, both Jena Paradies (on the north/south line) and Jena West (you can work it out) are only a 15 or so minute walk from the Ernst-Abbe Sportsfeld with much of both walks being through the Seidelpark alongside the Saale River. The field has been the home to the team since 1924 (although it only acquired the name 15 years later) and currently can accommodate just under 13,000 people, although there are improvements being made that should see an increased capacity now that there looks like being a chance of the team staying in the 3.Liga for next season. On this day there were 7 260 people in attendance, not quite double what their average attendance season had been previously, largely because of the two teams rivalry as part of the old East Germany in what is known as the Saale Derby (with Halle approximately 80 kms [50 miles] north along the river).
I had thought of starting the report with the line, ‘An Australian, an Irishman, and a Canadian went to a 3.Liga football game in Germany’ because my colleagues Donal and Sophie met me at the ground (they have also been to a few games this season and suggested that they deserved a shout-out). Before the match began there was a minute’s silence for Gert Brauer, who passed away during the previous week at the age of 62. He was a defender in the side that played in the Cup Winners Cup final in 1981. In all he played 270 games in the GDR Oberliga and could have played more if it were not for a serious knee injury in a ‘friendly’ match for the East German national side (for whom he made four appearances) against the Soviet Union. He ended his career with Hallescher FC, today’s opponents, so this was particularly significant. Today was also a part of “Remembrance Day in German Football” remembering the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, an initiative to say “Never Again”. Consequently, both sets of fans stayed largely silent for the first eleven minutes of the match then started their normal cheering along with a banner display in the twelfth minute.
The game itself got off to a relatively slow start with both teams struggling to impose their tempo. In the first half of the season the reverse of this fixture was both the first win of the season (and the only away game won so far) by FC Carl Zeiss Jena, with Thiele and Tuma both scoring. Perhaps because of this they were playing a very attacking formation with Brügmann and Cros playing very high up the pitch as attacking wing-backs either side of Gerlach and Slamar in a two-man central defense. In contrast, Hallescher FC were playing very deep and seemed content to launch long balls forward (much as they had in the opening game of the season) for Baumgärtel and Landgraf to run on to. However Slamar in particular (who was back in the team after suspension) was winning everything in the air and, after some quick build up play, Jena could just not make their final passes or through balls count. A direct free kick by Starke straight at Müller in the Halle goal was the most defensive work that either keeper had to do in the first half.
After the restart both teams seemed a bit more adventurous, Hallescher’s coach Schmitt brought on El-Helwe to play in a more attacking midfield role in place of Ludwig which saw them do a lot more passing play on the ground. In contrast Jena started to hit the occasional long ball deep to Thiele who was working hard in attack. In the 51st minute this seemed to bring dividends with the awarding of a free kick deep on the right for Jena, which was put just wide into the side netting, but which many of the crowd thought had been a goal. Two minutes later another ball forward to Thiele saw him chip the goalkeeper only for the ball to be cleared off the line by Schilk and Cros hit the crossbar with his strike from the clearance and it bounced over the goal. On the hour another long ball saw Thiele through but this time he put the shot just wide. It looked like frustration was going to be the order of the day.
This frustration was short-lived as goals started to flow just two minutes later. After some quick lead up play Eckhardt roamed forward to take a pass from Thiele on the edge of the box then slide it back to him so he could put it past Müller into the left hand corner of the goal. In response Hallescher FC went forward at pace, stringing some quick passes. In the 67th minute El-Helwe managed to get a good shot on target but could not beat Koczor. Once more the long ball was used to good effect by Jena when, in the 72nd minute, Löhmannsröben hit a ball from deep in his own half to Thiele who outpaced the defenders and slotted the ball neatly past Müller, this time to the right. However, before the standard responses of announcer to crowd had even finished Halle had taken the ball from the kickoff down to the far end and won a corner. Zenga found himself unmarked just inside the box and put the ball away to make it 2:1. After the first half had been so slow the game had suddenly got very exciting.
The final fifteen minutes provided more thrills with play moving backward and forward but Jena still looking the most likely to grab another goal. First Günther Schmidt, who had replaced Pannewitz between the first and second goals, managed to put a good chance just wide after a series of quick passes set him free, then another long ball to Thiele (almost a carbon copy of the one that led to the second goal) saw him through with only Müller to beat, but he also put it wide. In the final minute came a moment of controversy. Another long ball from deep saw Thiele break away again. This time, after it seemed his touch near the goal had been too strong, Müller did not quite react quickly enough and Thiele was able to claim his hat trick. Or so we thought. As the majority of the crowd celebrated and the announcer and the scoreboard went through the usual goal celebrations it became apparent that, rather than taking a kick off, Hallescher FC were taking a free kick. The goal had been called back for offside. However the final whistle blew not long after and FC Carl Zeiss Jena were able to celebrate doing the double in this fixture for the season.
It was a nice walk back through the park and along the river with happy home fans. I had to take a more roundabout route than on the way in because the police had blocked off a bridge to keep the Jena and Halle fans apart as they escorted the latter to Jena West station. They do take their security very seriously here in Germany even after both sets of supporters had been so positive generally and particularly in their support of the ‘Remembrance Day’ initiative. All in all it was another successful day in a lesser-known part of Germany and a particularly good result for the home side.