Kaiserslautern’s Class of 1998: Where Are They Now?

1FC Kaiserslautern may be sitting at the bottom of Bundesliga II right now facing the serious prospect of a first-ever relegation to the third tier, but 20 years ago die Roten Teufel were amazingly about to be crowned Bundesliga champions ahead of Bayern Munich in their first season following promotion.

Two decades after their fantastic achievement, the legends of 1998 are preparing to run out once more at the Fritz Walter Stadion where they will play a benefit match against Mario Basler’s German all-stars. Red Devils’ fans will get a chance to forget their current woes for a night and we at Bundesliga Fanatic get the chance to look back at the heroes of 1998 and ask: Where are they now?

Goalkeepers

Andreas Reinke: The title-winning keeper left the club in 2000 and moved abroad for a few years playing for Iraklis in Greece and Murcia in Spain. He returned to the Bundesliga in 2003 where he helped Werder Bremen to the double in his first season. He ended his playing career in 2007 and moved into goalkeeping coaching first with the German U-21 side and then with Hansa Rostock. He now owns and runs a farm with his family in Bölkow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Lajos Szűcs: The reserve keeper, who played three times in the title campaign is still active as a player. Now 44-years-old he plays sporadically for Rakosmenti KSK in his native Hungary.

Defenders

Michael Schjønberg: The Danish defender missed just two games in the 1997/98 season for Kaiserslautern. He retired in 2001 after making 117 appearances for the club. He later took control of the Kaiserslautern youth team for a season before returning to Hannover (where he has previously played) to become co-trainer under Peter Neururer and later coach of Hannover II.

He then coached FC Vestsjælland and was also co-trainer of Valerenga in Norway. His last coaching position was at FC Svendborg, but he was fired due to financial constraints. He is looking for a new trainer position and reportedly has one eye fixed on Kaiserslautern and has been tipped for a return to the club.

Miroslav Kadlec: The title triumph was the last hurrah for Kadlec at Kaiserslautern and he left the club at the end of the season returning to the Czech Republic, where he continued playing for a few more years with FK Drnovice and FC Stavo Artikel Brünn. He hung up his boots in 2002 and became a players’ agent working for the SPORT INVEST International agency, which looks after current Bundesliga players Pavel Kaderábek and Jiri Pavlenka.

Harry Koch: Koch was a firm fans favourite at the Fritz Walter Stadion and played 220 times for the club with 187 of them in the Bundesliga. He left in 2003 playing for Eintracht Trier first in the second tier then in the Regionalligasüd. He went into coaching with SV Dörbach, but left in 2011 when the club were relegated to the Bezirksliga West.

He is father to Robin, who currently plays for SC Freiburg.

Axel Roos: The defender was a one-club man notching up 328 appearances for Kaiserslautern between 1984 and 2001. On retiring he tried his hand at coaching with FK Pirmasens then as Albania’s national team co-trainer alongside Hans-Peter Briegel.

He is now the co-ordinator of the Axel Roos Football School and also coaches youth team K-Town Rush.

Oliver Schäfer: Schäfer left the club in 1999, but that wasn’t his final dealings with FCK. After playing for Besiktas, Hannover and 1FC Saarbrücken, he returned for a couple of seasons with Kaiserslautern II.

He went into coaching first as co-trainer at Kaiserslautern and then as interim boss in both 2012 and 2013. Since the start of the current season, he has been the U-19 trainer at his former club 1FC Saarbrücken.

Roger Lutz: Lutz was limited to just six appearances in the title season but played over 100 times in his twelve years at the club winning two titles and two DFB Pokals. He ended his playing career in Luxembourg with FC Dudelange before taking on managerial posts with Jeunesse Esch and SC Hauenstein back in Germany.

Today he back with Kaiserslautern serving as the club’s team manager.

Andreas Brehme: The 1990 World Cup winner played his final season with Kaiserslautern in 1998 after a glittering career. The club captain appeared just five times, but added a second Bundesliga title to the one he’s won with Bayern in 1987.

As a trainer he had limited success with Kaiserslautern (2000-02) and SpVgg Unterhaching (2004-05). He also fared badly as co-trainer at VfB Stuttgart to Giovanni Trapattoni. He now keeps busy working a number of business interests both in and outside football after a brief spell working as an advisor to Serbian club Vojvodina Novi Sad.

János Hrutka: The little-known Hungarian made a total of 17 appearances for the Red Devils, three of which came in the Championship season. He moved to Eintracht Frankfurt in 2000 but didn’t play for the Adler. He now works as a player agent back in Hungary and also as a TV pundit.

Midfielders

Ciriaco Sforza:  The Swiss midfielder was in his second spell with Kaiserslautern when he helped them win the title in 1998. He also won the Bundesliga in 2001 when at Bayern Munich for a second spell. On retiring he entered coaching in his homeland with FC Lucerne, Grasshoppers, FC Wohlen and most recently FC Thun, whom he left in 2015.

Sforza is currently being very strongly linked with the vacant trainer position at FC Lugano following the dismissal of Pier Tami.

Andreas Buck: The 1998 title was Buck’s second having previously won the Bundesliga with VfB Stuttgart in 1992. He later formed an asset management and insurance agency specialising in working with professional footballers and counts Roman Weidenfeller as one of his clients.

Martin Wagner: The midfielder/ fullback played 100 times for 1FC Nürnberg before making 200 appearances for Kaiserslautern. He formed his own player agency called MaWa Consult and also works as a consultant for companies in the areas of motivation, team building and occupational health management.

Ratinho: The Brazilian midfielder played 148 matches for FCK between 1996 and 2003. He finished his playing days in China, Kazakhstan and Switzerland before returning to Germany. He took over various coaching roles with the club’s youth teams as well as opening a Brazilian steakhouse in the city.

Marian Hristov: After seven years with Kaiserslautern Bulgarian Hristov spent two seasons at VfL Wolfsburg before returning to Bulgaria with Balkan Botevgrad, whom he later coached. He is currently the assistant manager at Levski Sofia.

Michael Ballack: A young Ballack was just starting to emerge as a real talent and made 16 appearances as Kaiserslautern pulled off the seemingly impossible. His further career success with Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Chelsea is well-known as is his impact on the German national team.

He retired in 2012 after returning to Leverkusen for his swansong. Ballack can often now be seen as a TV analyst/ pundit in Germany, England and the US. 

Thomas Riedl: After finishing his playing days in the lower leagues in 2012 Riedl went into coaching alongside Kaiserslautern legend Olaf Marschall in the Oberliga Rheinland-Pfalz/ Saar with SC 07 Idar-Oberstein. A promising first season was followed by the sack at the start of the following campaign.

Frank Greiner: Despite making 50 appearances for the club, Greiner appeared just once in the 1997/98 title-winning season. He later played for VfL Wolfsburg where he moved into coaching. He had a spell as co-trainer at Russian side Mordovia Saransk under former Wolfsburg teammate Dorinel Munteanu. He is now back with the Wölfe working at their football school.

Pascal Ojigwe: The Nigerian also only appeared once this season before going on to play for Köln, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1860 Munich. He eventually retired in 2007 after a season back in Nigeria with Enyimba FC.

Strikers

Marco Reich: Reich was a near ever-present in the Kaiserslautern line-up missing just three games. Goals were not forthcoming though and he scored just once. The rest of his career saw him as a journeyman trying his luck in England, Poland and Austria. He is still active in the lower leagues as player/coach of FC Schmittweiler-Callbach II, who play in the Bezirksliga Nahe.

Jürgen Rische: Rische is another player who later moved to VfL Wolfsburg after finishing with Kaiserslautern. He finished playing with Eintracht Braunschweig, for whom he made 159 appearances. Since 2009 he has been part of the coaching set-up and is currently an assistant coach in charge of rehab and conditioning.

Olaf Marschall: The 21-goal hero of the title win, Marschall left Kaiserslautern in 2002 for a final season in Qatar. On his return to Germany he became co-trainer at the Fritz Walter Stadion before trying his luck at SC 07 Idar-Oberstein alongside Thomas Riedl (see above).

He is now back with FCK working as a scout. 

Pavel Kuka: The Czech striker left the club following the Bundesliga win and had a season at both VfB Stuttgart and 1FC Nürnberg before returning to Slavia Prague. He later became sporting director at FK Marila Příbram and Viktoria Plzen. He now President of the club he formed from scratch in 2008 Czech Team 96 made up of former Czech internationals.

Stefan Ertl: Ertl’s five appearances were his only ones for the club before he left for Kickers Offenbach, Karlsruher SC and Wormatia Worms.

Manager

Otto Rehhagel: Now 79-years-old, ‘King Otto’ is enjoying retirement after winning three Bundesliga titles, three DFB Pokals as well as the 2004 European Championships with Greece. He won’t mind however stepping out of retirement for the forthcoming special benefit match to honour the Class of 98.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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