In this second installment of our interview with East-German football blogger Max Schoob we discuss the illustrious history of football in the city of Leipzig. We also speculate on what the future has in store for the various teams from Leipzig.
Fanatic: You are from Leipzig, and currently residing there, a city that hasn’t seen any Bundesliga action for some time now. What are the reasons for the absence from the Bundesliga?
Max Schoob: This question is easy to answer: Until now there
hasn’t been any team which has had a high enough revenue stream to make this happen. Both VfB Leipzig and FC Sachsen Leipzig have had leaderships that have been bickering amongst themselves, and as a result have failed to resolve their financial problems.
Resources are scarce, and there are few potential sources of funds for those two clubs. The hated history between the two clubs has divided the sponsors and other income sources into two camps, and in the end both teams failed to survive because of that divide. The possibility of joining the teams have been mentioned, but those ambitions were nothing more than a pipedream at best.
Therefore it only seems logical that the team that could bring back Bundesliga football to Leipzig is a team that has a giant corporate entity funding those ambitions.
Fanatic: Sachsen Leipzig is the latest team from East-Germany to have gone bust. Did reunification and the reality of a new market based economy put too much pressure on clubs like Sachsen Leipzig?
Max Schoob: After reunification there were more pressing concerns than figuring out how to fit clubs from East-Geramny into the West-German league system. Perhaps the DFB (German FA) could have taken a stronger leadership role, and helped those teams along the way in the beginning? The officials of East-German football clubs didn’t know what to do when West-German teams knocked on their players doors with huge coffers full of money. Nobody knew back then how to negotiate contracts or transfer deals. This lack of know-how had an influence on the performances on the pitch as well, and it broke some of the clubs necks so to speak. Even nowadays most East-German teams have to think twice before they spend any of their money because resources are still very scarce.
Fanatic: We are going to talk about RB Leipzig in a minute, but first, how are the other teams from Leipzig doing these days?
Max Schoob: It is a sad state of affairs all around. VfB Leipzig went through the same nightmare that Sachsen Leipzig is facing now, with VfB eventually becoming 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig. This team has pretty much reached its’ peak in the fifth tier of German football. Sachsen Leipzig have gone bust, and now it remains to be seen what will happen to the remnants of the club. Very much remains unclear at this point and people are still arguing about it. One of the possibilities is that the remains go to BSG Chemie. BSG is to Sachsen Leipzig what the FC United of Manchester is to Manchester United, namely, a disenfranchised group of supporters being fed up with their club who have built their own team that broke away from its’ original club.
Fanatic: How successful were the teams from Leipzig during the G.D.R. era?
Max Schoob: The G.D.R. times had an impact on the football in Leipzig due to the fact that 1. FC Lokomotive were supported by the state, while Chemie Leipzig (Sachsen Leipzig after reunification) were not. Chemie were just the team for ”other team from Leipzig”. The hatred between the two sets of fans is rooted in those early days. Strangely enough, it was Chemie that managed to win the championship in the G.D.R. (1951 and 1964). Despite that success, the team was relegated at the beginning of the 70s, and never played big role in the fight for the championships again. Instead, they became a typical elevator team.
Lokomotive enjoyed more success than Chemie in the long run. Besides gaining a number of second place finishes behind the record champions Dynamo Berlin, Lokomotive were an excellent cup team. They won the FDGB-Pokal a total four times. Most notably though was them reaching the Europapokal final in 1987. They lost against Ajax Amsterdam in that final but their run became the stuff of legend. The most unforgettable game in Leipzig’s football history is actually the second leg of the semi-final in that cup run which was played in front of a hopelessly over crowded Zentralstadion in Leipzig. Around 100.000 people had come to see their heroes take on Girondins Bordeaux. And after a hard fought match, a penalty shoot out had to decide the game. Leipzig goalie René Müller became immortal after he saved a penalty, and then went on to score the decisive penalty himself.
Fanatic: Recently a certain soft drink company took over a football club in Leipzig with the highest of ambitions. You have followed this development very closely from the get go. Can you tell us about the progress of RB Leipzig?
Max Schoob: From a pure sporting perspective, their first season was a quite promising step forward with the promotion to the Regionalliga but their second season and the failed opportunity to gain promotion to the 3. Bundesliga has to be seen as a setback. In my opinion this is something the club has to take responsibility for. Coach Tomas Oral was a wrong fit for the team from day one and the dismissal of former coach Tino Vogel was an unnecessary move to begin with. Oral failed to take the team forward and the performances showed that. Only towards the last couple of games, when Oral’s departure became clear, did performances improve.
As far as supporters go, RB have amassed a good number of regular fan base so far. The average RB supporter however is still a “quiet spectator” or passive observer and the real support comes from a smaller still growing group of spectators. The the mood in the stadium meanwhile still varies greatly and can change in a matter minutes. Most spectators expect thrilling magical football and when that is not delivered it is met with jeers and whistles. The best example was the 1:5 home loss against Holstein Kiel where the opposition to Tomas Oral was first apparent and by the end of the match, even RB players were mocked by their own supporters. On the other hand, the Leipzig supporters do appreciate and are encouraged by their last cup victory.
Fanatic: Are Leipzig supporters fearful that Red Bull will eventually get cold feet and abandon their latest project?
Max Schoob: Fear is the wrong word. Leipzig supporters have seen it all over the years and have have developed a certain inherent skepticism. And who really knows if Red Bull are soon going to pursue a new play toy if things do not go according to plan for them at Leipzig.
Fanatic: Are Leipzig going to play in the Bundesliga in the foreseeable future?
Max Schoob: I believe, if everything goes according to plan, RB can play in the 2. Bundesliga within the next five years. As far as the 1. Bundesliga is concerned, that could take at least 6-8 years
Our thanks goes to Max Schoob who graciously answered our questions by taking some time off from his busy life. You can follow Max on Twitter, and read his blog here. The entire team of the Bundesliga fanatic hopes that you’ve enjoyed this interview. The translation of the interview from German into English was done by Niklas Wildhagen and Cristian Nyari, all questions were written by Niklas Wildhagen and answered via email by Max.
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