German First Division Soccer Now Headed by “Cinderella” Team
Eyebrows lifted and check-books fluttered Tuesday, as a young soccer player came from the reserves’ bench to lift his team to victory with 2 goals in 20 minutes.
The stuff of fairy tales continued as a relatively unknown soccer team called Mainz 05 (or “Mainz nullfunf”) blasted from nowhere to head the German Bundesliga (National League) - one of the top 4 first division competitions in world soccer. Young Lewis Holtby and his teammates have won 10 games in a run; 5 of those kicked off the team’s European season in style.
Adored by wild fans from the city of Mainz on the Rhine River, about 40 minutes' drive from Frankfurt, the eleven young professionals have hit the big leagues in their first five games of the season. Normally, Mainz 05 swirls among the smaller fish in the eighteen team top-level competitive division. Mainz 05 has no German national team stars in its ranks. Cologne has one, its captain Lukas Podolski.
Team coach Thomas Tuchelis, in his second season in the post, following on the legendary Juergen Klopp (or “Kloppo”), is a fiery extrovert who inspired the squad to finally break out of the second league habit. Two seasons ago, Mainz 05 wallowed in the Second Division. Kloppo now has his team Dortmund trailing leaders Mainz 05 by just 3 points.
Until 2008, the German Soccer competition was swamped by the expertise and win-all temperament of Bayern Munchen (Munich). For many years Munich has continued to provide the star-fodder for the German national team, like legendary Franz Beckenbauer. It remains one of the two reportedly-richest clubs, along with Schalke (the latter in relegation ranks now).
Top German soccer teams attract tremendous advertising support including Mercedes Benz, energy companies and sporting goods makers. They also attract 60,000 to 80,000 fans to each game. Some boast huge stadiums and opulent facilities. Mainz (population around 190,000) has a diminutive sports arena that is sold out for most home games at 23,000 supporters. Plans for a major stadium have come and gone, on waves of up-and-down team results and coaching changes.Continued on the next page