November 24, 2017

Where They Used To Play: Schalke 04 and the Glückauf Kampfbahn

The Bundesliga is famed for its impressive, modern stadia- in part a legacy of the 2006 World Cup held in Germany. However, some of the biggest and best sides in the league have a longer tradition and some of their past glories were played out in quite different arenas. In this series we take a look at some of the iconic stadiums of yesteryear and relive history. Next up Schalke’s Glückauf Kampfbahn……

The Veltins Arena and before that the Parkstadion have not really delivered the sort of success a club of Schalke’s magnitude warrants. The Bundesliga title has cruelly evaded them and the only real moment of glory came in 1996 when the Königsblauen stunned Inter Milan to win the old UEFA Cup over two legs.

You have to go back to the club’s days at the old Glückauf Kampfbahn to find the real glory days of the Gelsenkirchen giants and it is here that the soul of FC Schalke 04 resides.

As is well-known, Schalke are the team of the miners and the whole history of mining in the Ruhrgebiet is firmly entrenched with the clubs identity. This is evident in the name given to their first stadium. ‘Glück auf’ was the traditional German miners greeting being short for, “Ich wünsche Dir Glück, tu einen neuen Gang auf” (“I wish you luck in opening a new lode”).

To deepen the mining connection, the actual Kampfbahn Glückauf was built upon land owned by the Mannesmann steel works and the billowing smoke from the chimneys and the mine shafts were clearly visible from the terraces. 

Opened in 1928, it regularly drew crowds of 30,000, but a tragic event a few years later was to lead to the stadium’s record attendance of 70,000! In 1930 the façade of amateurism in German football was just that- a façade. It was well-known that clubs were making payments to players over and above the allowed limit.

The West German Playing Association took the harsh decision to ban fourteen Schalke players as ‘professionals’ and to fine the club a thousand Reichsmarks. The whole fanbase was in uproar and tragically club treasurer Willi Nier committed suicide as a result of the scandal, drowning himself in the Rhein-Herne-Kanal.

The Association eventually annulled the suspensions allowing Schalke to send out its strongest side including the likes of Hans Tibulski, Fritz Szepan and Ernst Kuzorra. A year later on June 1st 1931 Schalke were inundated with 70,000 fans for a friendly against Fortuna Düsseldorf at the Glückauf Kampfbahn.

The 1930’s saw Schalke become one of the dominant forces in German football winning the German Championship in 1934, 1935, 1937 and 1939 as well as finishing as runners-up in both 1933 and 1938. Add to that the DFB Pokal in 1937 and two other final appearances and you have Schalke in all their pomp.

The stadium had to be almost completely rebuilt after the Second World War after it was severely damaged by the heavy allied bombing of Gelsenkirchen. When Germany were awarded the 1974 World Cup plans were put afoot to build a new stadium to host games and the Parkstadion was finished in 1973.

Die Knappen’s final Bundesliga match at their ‘home’ was a 2-0 win over Hamburg on the final matchday of the 1972-73 season. Nowadays the stadium has a much reduced capacity of 11,000 although the main stand remains as it was deemed a protected monument. Artificial grass has replaced the hallowed turf and today DJK Teutonia Schalke-Nord play there in the Kreisliga A2.

The Glückauf Kampfbahn today

Schalke’s heritage is dear to the club as the players’ tunnel at the Veltins Arena shows. But if you walk down Caubstraße in Gelsenkirchen, you can still look across at the Glückauf Kampfbahn and see Schalke’s spiritual home and where they used to play.

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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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