Charting the rise, fall and rise of Eintracht Braunschweig

In today's Euro Footy Focus column, Raf Diallo looks at the fortunes of the 1967 Bundesliga champions who have returned to the top flight after a 28-year hiatus

This season’s German top flight contains nine teams that have won at least one Bundesliga title since the league's inception in 1963.

Bayern Munich are by far the most successful club domestically with 22 Bundesligas. The likes of Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen have almost 10 between them.

Borussia Monchengladbach were one of the best teams in Europe throughout the 70s, winning more titles in that decade than the Bayern team that swept to numerous successes in Europe. Hamburg were not quite as strong in the 80s but still won three titles in four years.

Recent winners include Stuttgart and Wolfsburg, while FC Nurnberg won the title in 1967-68.

But the season before that, a team many people in this country have probably only just become aware of, sat at the top of German football - albeit briefly.

Eintracht Braunschweig might be at the foot of the table so far this season with a solitary point. But in 1966-67, the team from the Northern German city - on the border with the former East Germany during the Cold War - were surprising winners of the league title.

Based on a solid defence, Braunschweig conceded just 27 goals in 34 games. It was a defensive record not beaten until the 1980s when Werder Bremen broke it in 1988 by letting in just 22. That record was broken yet again by Bayern Munich’s tally of 18 last season.

Braunschweig also became the first club from Lower Saxony to win the title in the Bundesliga era, remaining the only side to do so until Wolfsburg repeated the feat in 2009.

But German football was a different proposition back in the 60s. Bayern were not even the best side in their own city as 1860 Munich won a title and finished runner up to Braunschweig in 1966-67. Werder Bremen also struggled that season finishing 16th and just about avoiding relegation.

And unlike Bayern, Eintracht Braunschweig were inaugural members of the Bundesliga when the 1963-64 season kicked off. As the DFB decided to allow just one team from each city in that first season, they chose 1860 instead of Bayern to represent Munich.

Champions in 1967

 

Braunschweig had no such issues and as they were considered a reasonably strong regional club and a team with no financial issues, they were one of the 16 teams chosen to start that debut season.

But in the first three seasons before that championship win, they were a solid mid-table club, finishing 11th, 9th and 10th.

But like Schalke whose history I looked at earlier this year, Eintracht Braunschweig were one of the clubs that were caught up in the 1971 Bundesliga. Some of the club’s players were found guilty of accepting bribes.

However, the 1970s were not all bad as it saw the club become pioneers in one area. In 1973 they became the first German side to have a shirt sponsor despite initial opposition from the DFB with Jagermeister emblazoned on their yellow and blue kit.

But despite a title challenge in 1977, they were relegated three times between 1973 and 1985 and the final time was the nail in the coffin. Until last season, they spent 27 years between the second and third tier, suffering constant financial difficulties.

But the 2007/08 Regionalliga (former third tier) was the most crucial season in the club’s history. The lower divisions were being restructured and had they scored four fewer goals they would have missed  out on 10th spot in the Northern Division, which would have meant relegation to the fourth division for the first time in their history instead of being included in the new national 3 Liga.

But from then on the club rose through the ranks. Thanks to the management of former Dortmund and Braunschweig player Torsten Lieberknecht and the astute transfer dealings of Director of Football Marc Arnold, the team blossomed, reaching the second tier in 2011. And last season they made history by ending a 28-year hiatus with a strong campaign and automatic promotion.

They won their first point of the 2013/14 seaosn two weeks ago but they are still likely to be relegated back to the 2. Bundesliga as they have the smallest budget. But their bright yellow and blue kit and fervent fanbase are sure to brighten up German football until May.