Peterjon Cresswell meets Martin Gipp of the Fanprojekt for Borussia Mönchengladbach, in the Champions League for the first time since many in the FanHaus can remember.
Borussia Mönchengladbach. If any club team sums up the free-flowing, Total Football era of the 1970s, it’s this one, created by Hennes Weisweiler, the coach who nurtured the likes of Günter Netzer, Jupp Heynckes and Berti Vogts.
Now, four decades after ‘Die Fohlen’ made five European finals, winning two, and three decades after their last appearance in the premier competition, Mönchengladbach are back with the big boys.
‘At the beginning of last season, nobody really expected the third place in the league,’ says Martin Gipp of the Borussia Mönchengladbach Fanprojekt. ‘We were hoping for a spot in Europe, meaning a finish between sixth and eighth in the table. As things developed, we were playing to our limits for most of the season. It was our best run since the glory days.’
Fanprojekt PR man Martin signed up to this 6,500-strong official supporters’ club more than 25 years ago. With a large standing terrace at the home end of Borussia-Park, the new-build that replaced the legendary Bökelberg in 2004, transport and 750 tickets to away games, Borussia’s Fanprojekt has an active and regular role in following Die Fohlen. The Fanprojekt also owns and runs the FanHaus bar by Borussia-Park, which welcomes home and away supporters once it opens its doors four hours before kick-off. With TV football inside and kickabouts on the Bolzplatz communal pitch outside, the FanHaus is an entertaining part of the match-day experience. Many of its members may not even have been born during the Weisweiler years.
‘History still plays a big role,’ says Martin, ‘which makes Borussia so attractive. It’s passed on from generation to generation.’
The third-place finish in last season’s Bundesliga has given Borussia passage to the Champions League – and a desperately tricky group comprising Juventus, Manchester City and Sevilla. Worse, Borussia lost their first five league games, the last, a 1-0 defeat to local rivals Köln, ushering in the departure of previously revered coach Lucien Favre.
‘We were a well working team, hungry for success,’ explains Martin. ‘Our players were maturing on the pitch. Our manager was renowned for making a lot of players play that little bit better. He was a good tactician as well, only looking from game to game.’
‘But 2015-16 has been sheer hell. We started with a good cup win away to St Pauli, trailing at half-time then comfortably winning 4-1, playing the way we did the last season. But a few players were still missing through injuries. Vital players. Confidence faded quickly with every defeat. Whoever was playing, it simply did not work. We’ve known slow starts before – but not this kind of run. Thankfully it ended against Augsburg and hopefully we can pick up the necessary points to climb up into the top half of the table very soon.’
Another win last Saturday against Stuttgart and Borussia have already climbed out of the relegation zone.
‘We are simply proud to put the name of Borussia Mönchengladbach back onto the big stage,’ says Martin. ‘Each game will be special. We won’t be sitting in front of the TV – we’ll be right here. Many of us remember the great 1970s. But most of us were young or not even born. Now we have the chance to be a real part of history again.’
Borussia Mönchengladbach-Manchester City, Borussia-Park, 2045CET, Wednesday September 30.