Given the variety of colors (especially in a modern context) that are available for clubs to make their own it is occasionally surprising how limited the color palette is for the majority of football teams around the world. Reds and blues (of various shades), black and whites, and combinations of those seem to form the majority of team colors. Of course many clubs have alternate strips that feature different colors and patterns but when it comes to the first strip that a team is identified by there is very much a sameness evident. In the Bundesliga there is one notable team with yellow and a couple that feature green but there is not a lot of variety outside of those primary (and one secondary) colors.
The reasoning behind this is, as it is so often, largely historical and is dependent on (among other factors) how old the club is, how the colors were chosen etc. For example, the Italian team Juventus famously acquired their black and white color scheme because their original shirts (which were pink) had started to fade and the English club Notts County donated the replacements to them in 1903. Other clubs acquired their colors from heraldry, adopting the colors represented in the coats of arms that were, in their turn, often adopted (or adapted) from families who had ruled the region in which the town was based. Of course, the same thing is also true of national flags and there is a remarkable similarity around the world among those (witness the Netherlands and Luxembourg for example). Back at a time when the availability and quality of dyes was much more limited, being able to consistently reproduce the same colors was very important.
Of course there are some teams that buck the trend (and not just because they were much more recently founded and are able to be more imaginative with their color scheme). For example, again in Italy, ACF Fiorentina began in August 1926 playing in red and white halves following the emblem of the city. Legend has it that, while washing the kit in the river, the dye ran and the shirts ended up purple, and that has been the color that they have played in since 1928. Another team that wears purple is Anderlecht of Belgium, although the purple and white colors they have worn since 1908 are linked to the colors of the flowers adorning the carriage of the woman who would become Queen Elizabeth of Belgium the following year. A third team that wears purple (and the one most obviously linked to this discussion) is the Austrian team, FK Austria Vienna who have been wearing the color since their foundation on March 15, 1911.
The reason I mention all of this is because today’s team is VfL Osnabrück who also play in purple and there are interesting historical reasons for why. FC 1899 Osnabrück were formed by the merger of two groups, called Antipodia Osnabrück and Minerva Osnabrück, in 1899. Over the next 26 years the familiar combinations of financial hardship and logistics saw a variety of other teams in the city enter into this merger as well, eventually taking on the name VfL (‘Verein für Leibesübungen’ which translates as ‘club for physical education’) Osnabrück. However, in June 1925 internal conflict within the club, linked to some of the old rivalries before various mergers, saw a group split away and form a new club which they called SC Rapid Osnabrück after the Austrian side SK Rapid Vienna who were touring Germany at the time. Somewhat counter intuitively the new club chose for its colors the purple and white of SK Rapid Vienna’s bitter rivals FK Austria Vienna. The two clubs existed independently until 1938 when the Nazi government insisted that they once again be merged, keeping the name of VfL but the colors purple and white.
As World War II began this newly merged team was highly successful, winning Gauliga titles in 1939 and 1940. After the war, with the restructuring of German football, they maintained a strong presence in the new Oberliga Nord with the fourth best overall record in that competition behind Hamburger SV, Werder Bremen, and FC St. Pauli, but without ever managing to win a title. When the Bundesliga began in 1963 they were placed in the second tier Regionalliga Nord and in the years from 1969 to 1973 they made the playoff promotion round every year without ever managing to break through. When the Bundesliga 2 was formed in 1974 they were part of the new league and spent all but one season out of the next twenty competing there. However, since their relegation to the third tier at the end of the 1992/93 season it has been here that they have most often been situated spending only four seasons in the Bundesliga 2 during that time.
During most of their history the club (in its various forms) has played at the Stadion an der Bremer Brücke, so named because it is located close to the bridge on the railway line between Osnabrück and Bremen. The original groundbreaking took place in 1931 but during World War II that ground was almost completely destroyed. In July 1946 the stadium was rebuilt and in 1952 (in the championship game against VfB Stuttgart) it hosted a crowd of over 35000 people. In 1969 the capacity of the stadium was officially limited to 28500 for safety reasons and in the succeeding decades it has been gradually redeveloped and capacity further reduced to become a fully enclosed football stadium accommodating 16667 spectators. It is situated in the Schinkel area of Osnabrück about 1.5 km from the main train station, which is a very easy walk, or can be reached on bus lines 71 or 72.
The weather had been quite overcast on the morning of the game but as 2pm approached the sun emerged and the stage was set for a good game with the presence of FC Hansa Rostock as opponents meaning that there should be a good sized crowd because the fans of that team have shown that they consistently travel well (they even managed to get a crowd of 5600 to their away game at Werder Bremen II when the regular crowd for that ground is less than 1000 people). Sure enough, there were close to 1500 people in the away area and they had banners up and chants going while the teams were still warming up. It was interesting before the game to hear the majority of the music in German (that is not often the case) and with at least four songs, including one rap, specifically about VfL Osnabrück. At about ten minutes before match time it became clear that there was a disturbance over in the northwest corner of the ground, in an empty space, right next to the away fans. From my seat I could see a person dressed as a security guard who seemed to be holding up a scarf or banner and taunting the Rostock fans. Then a group of those fans jumped the fence and chased him behind the stand.
What happened next remains in dispute as you can see from this article and this one. From my perspective a group of riot police appeared from two different directions to try and take control of the situation. There were lots of people running around but at least a few of the Hansa Rostock fans who had jumped the fence had clearly been detained. Things seemed to settle down until just before the game started when once again the riot police appeared. After the game had finished there were already allegations of the use of tear gas and heavy-handed tactics. Both sides claim to have been provoked although, as I said, it was clear to me that a security guard was actively taunting the Rostock fans. Whatever the true story the Rostock Ultras immediately began removing the banners and a huge number of the spectators in the away end simply walked out of the ground. As a neutral this was a great shame as the crowd chanting and singing en masse brings a lot of entertainment to the match.
It was a special day for VfL Osnabrück with Tim Danneberg playing his 300th third league game and the team wearing a special white jersey, instead of their usual purple, to promote diversity, tolerance and a fair cooperation. This, plus the disturbances beforehand, meant that the game finally got underway about five minutes late. It might have been expected that the Osnabrück team would be a little tired after their amazing 4:4 draw with Röt-Weiß Erfurt on the previous Tuesday night, whereas Hansa Rostock had not played since the previous Saturday. Osnabrück goalkeeper Gersbeck was out of the side with a gastro-intestinal complaint and defender Marcel Appiah was replaced by Konstantin Engel and it was this second change that came under most scrutiny when, after some back and forth over the first fifteen minutes, Engel completely missed a ball played through by Rostock and it went out to Owusu on the Rostock right wing. He sent a cross in to the center of the area which was deflected but not cleared by Sama in defence and Breier came rushing in to put the ball in the back of the net. 1:0 to Rostock.
Within a few minutes Osnabrück looked even more aggrieved. A free kick was sent into the Rostock goal area from the Osnabrück right and knocked down to the top of the box. As Wannenwetsch stuck his leg out to clear the ball away Danneberg fell over his leg and appealed for a penalty, however the referee rightly called for play to continue (if anything he could have given a yellow card for diving). However, this seemed to motivate the hosts and they started to string some good play together, particularly through Arslan and Alvarez. In the 25th minute the latter sent in a really strong shot but Blaswich in goal for Rostock was able to parry it away. If it wasn’t for defensive errors Osnabrück might have been quietly confident but in the 34th minute a cross in from Scherff on the left was again misplayed by Sama and Engel, this time it was only that Owusu was not able to get enough on the shot that they did not find themselves 2:0 down.
Perhaps it was the absence of the fans cheering them on but Rostock began to look tired. In the 41st minute Osnabrück finally managed to get the ball in the back of the net after some sloppy play by Blaswich, but Alvarez had been offside. A minute later a free kick from Alvarez came in to Danneberg to put away, but this time he was offside. Then just at the end of the half Blaswich managed to redeem himself after his earlier error when the ball came to Arslan about 22 metres out, he hit a thunderous shot through a crowd of players but Blaswich quickly got down and turned the ball past the left upright for a corner. It was Rostock 1:0 at the break but Osnabrück looked confident that they could get an equalizer in the second half.
Even the interval did not see a let up in the action, with smoke rising up from the front of the visitors section and a woman being removed from the northern side of the ground on a medical trolley. When the teams emerged for the second half there was a sense of, ‘I wonder what will happen next’. Apart from a yellow card for Susac for kicking Rostock’s Benyamina (who ran and ran trying to get his team back in the game) the next thing was the equalizing goal the game had deserved. From the center of the pitch Susac sent a deep ball out to Reimerink on the left. He lofted a cross into the goalmouth and Arslan was there to nod it home. A few minutes later they almost had a second when another free kick was controlled by Sama on his chest but his shot was once again blocked by Blaswich. Then it was Danneberg who managed to get free and make a run on goal but before he could pull the trigger Riedel was able to get back and take the ball away from him. The best chance came in the 69th minute when Reimerink made a run down the right and sent a good low cross into the middle, Heider made a brilliant pass back into the center for Danneberg and this time he managed to scoop the ball over the top of the goal.
While there were a few half chances in the remaining twenty minutes of the game it felt like both sides would be comfortable with a draw. What was most amazing was on 72 minutes when Hansa Rostock captain Amaury Bischoff (who was celebrating his 31st birthday) was brought on as a substitute to the most sustained booing I have heard all year in the 3.Liga. Indeed, an Osnabrück fan a few seats along from me spent the remaining time shouting unrestrained abuse whenever Bischoff even looked like getting the ball. The issue is, as I understand it, that Bischoff used to play for, and captain, VfL Osnabrück’s most hated rivals SC Preußen Münster (who I saw them play earlier this season). On the way to the ground it was noticeable how many stickers were around with Scheiss Preussen Münster on them. With only a minute left to play a clearance from Tigges of Osnabrück hit Bischoff directly in the face from close range and he fell directly to the ground clearly hurt. Many of the spectators reacted as if they had just scored the winning goal, cheering and laughing. It was somewhat disappointing after the messages before the game about tolerance and diversity.
So the game ended at 1:1, which both coaches admitted afterwards was a fair result. Hansa Rostock seem to have lost any possibility to challenge for promotion this season. VfL Osnabrück moved a point further away from Chemnitz in the final relegation position and look to be safe. After all the action both on and off the field it was a fascinating day but, sadly, that was not the end of it. During the second half a 70 year old spectator had collapsed in the stand. Paramedics had resuscitated him and rushed him to hospital but tragically it was revealed later that he had passed away. My condolences to his family and friends.
You can watch highlights of the match here.