Sunday 28 July 2019

Fortuna Favours the Brave! The Story of Cologne's Cup Final

Some were sat on the rooftops of overlooking houses trying to catch a glimpse whilst thousands more crammed onto the terraces below, and that day they would watch something truly sensational. West German Second Division (2. Bundesliga) side SC Fortuna Köln had one sole top flight Bundesliga campaign to their name whilst visitors Borussia Dortmund (BVB) were three times German champions. It was April 1983 when BVB visited Fortuna for a DFB-Pokal (German Cup) semi final, they were hammered 5-0. For Fortuna, a final against big name crosstown opposition would be in store. 

After that stunning semi final victory fans of Fortuna had to wait until two days later to find out who their opponents in the final would be, and when Bundesliga giants and city neighbours 1. FC Köln beat VfB Stuttgart it set up the incredible prospect of an all Köln (Cologne) cup final. This would be and still is, the only time two teams from the same city have met in a DFB-Pokalfinale.

Fortuna Köln were essentially minnows in West German football and the club who in 1973-74 spent to date their only season in the top flight had not made their second tier debut until 1967. In 1983 they were managed by Martin Luppen, the man who had overseen their promotion to the Bundesliga ten years earlier had returned to the club in 1980. Drawing far bigger crowds, City rivals FC Köln who were at the time managed by the late great Dutch coach Rinus Michels, had themselves come from humble beginnings, but quickly rose to become founder members of the Bundesliga and had twice won the league title. The previous season they had finished runners up for the third time and would go on to finish fifth that year. In the domestic cup, when they met Fortuna in that 1983 final it was their eighth DFB-Pokalfinale with themselves having won the competition three times previously. Fortuna Köln, however, had never appeared in the final before.

Fortuna started their cup run by defeating fellow 2. Bundesliga side SC Freiburg 2-0 at home in round one, Fortuna then faced third tier SSV Ulm away from home. A 0-0 draw after extra time saw a 3-0 replay win at home before a trip to Bundesliga side Eintracht Braunschweig in the next round. 

In the league, Braunschweig were struggling at the wrong end of the table but against a team from the division below they were expected to book their place in the quarter finals. Fortuna, however, had other ideas. Dieter Schatzschneider who had joined a year earlier from Hannover 96 where he'd scored 131 goals in 160 matches twice found the net in the first half to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Braunschweig pulled one back midway through the second half but Fortua held on for a very impressive victory and one that would set up a quarter final clash with another Bundesliga side - Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Fortuna travelled about 35 miles north west to Gladbach's Bökelbergstadion to face their near neighbours who just six years earlier had been runners up in the European Cup final and were managed by the legendary Jupp Heynckes. Fortuna were expected to lose comfortably and when they went 2-0 down after 47 minutes it seemed they were facing the impossible. In an incredible turn of fortune, however, goals from Gerd Zimmermann and Bernd Grabosch saw the sides level after 73 minutes in what was an unbelievable comeback for the unfancied second tier side. Extra-time came and went without a winner and so it was back to Cologne for a replay.

When Gladbach came to town roughly 14,000 spectators squeezed into Fortuna's modest Südstadion home, a venue three sides uncovered and complete with an athletics track. Fortuna more than held their own in the first half and when on the stroke of half-time a free kick from Florian Hinterberger was fired into the box from the right Schatzschneider was there to head home. From 2-0 down in the first match Fortuna were now winning in the replay.  

Schatzschneider would go on to become the 2.Bundesliga's all-time record goalscorer with 154 second tier goals to his name and that afternoon was to win the match for Fortuna by scoring a second. First, however, West German international Lothar Matthäus drew the visitors level from the penalty spot. Matthäus would go on to help West Germany win the World Cup seven years later but could not stop Gladbach suffering a shock defeat to Fortuna that day. A penalty was also how Fortuna retook the lead, with Schatzschneider firing past Ulrich Sude in the Gladbach goal after Hinterberger had been brought down. 2-1 Fortuna and they were in the semis.

Defeating Gladbach was a famous scalp for Fortuna, but it would soon be overshadowed by an even more stunning result when BVB made the hour long journey south to Cologne for what would turn out to be a very memorable semi-final clash for Fortuna. With a potential final against city neighbours FC Köln instore for Fortuna if they pulled off another shock the home side were bound to be 'up for the cup' as they say, and so it would transpire. As for the other Cologne side, in their cup run, they had beaten Bayer Uerdingen by three goals to one in the first round and then defeated Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a club where Fortuna's Hinterberger later made his name, by the same scoreline in round two. FC Köln then defeated Stuttgarter Kickers 5-1 at home in round three before putting five without reply past FC Schalke 04 in the quarter finals. VfB Stuttgart the more illustrious city neighbours of FC Köln's third round opponents were to visit them in the semi finals. Before that, however, it was Fortuna who would take centre stage.

Fortuna chairman Jean Löring had over years pumped a lot of money in the club and no doubt to help bring days like this. Löring resisted calls to move to the semi final to a bigger venue and once again the terraces at the Südstadion were packed as the semi final kicked off. Twelve Deutsche Mark's (about £3) had been the cost of the cheapest ticket for the match whilst some were being resold at far in excess of face value. With the game a complete sell out thousands were unable to gain entry and it seemed that every possible vantage point overlooking the diminutive stadium was occupied.

The 5,000 visiting supporters amongst the 14200 full house saw their side behind after just six minutes thanks to that man Schatzschneider. A hero in previous rounds, Schatzschneider slotted home into the bottom left hand corner from a crowded box to make it 1-0. Those inside the stadium could scarcely believe it, could another shock be on the cards? 

Well, 1-0 soon became 2-0 and maybe the unexpected really was going happen. Fortuna broke forward on 20 minutes, they were ruthless on the counter attack, and it was Dieter Lemke who fired a low drive into the net from just outside the six yard box. Thirteen minutes later and 2-0 became 3-0, this was Roy of the Rovers stuff from Fortuna. Jürgen Baier picked up the ball and took several touches forward before smashing it home from just outside the box, cue wild scenes. The fans were going berserk in the stands.

3-0 was the half-time score but things quietened down a little in the second half and it wasn't until 86 minutes that we saw goal number four. Erich Sauk fired the ball into the box and Schatzschneider was there to hit it home on the volley. Two goals against Braunschweig, two against Gladbach, and now two against BVB. Schatzschneider was in dreamland, Fortuna Köln were in dreamland, and more importantly, they were heading to the cup final. There was also time for a fifth when Hermann-Josef Werres slotted home from close range after a low through ball free-kick right at the death. And that was it, 5-0 against one of the Bundesliga's biggest names. Fans streamed onto the pitch at full-time, they couldn't believe it. Incredible stuff. Dortmund, meanwhile, responded to the humiliation by promptly firing coach Karlheinz Feldkamp.

As for FC Köln, they secured their final place with a 3-2 victory over Stuttgart after extra time. An all Cologne final that no one could have dreamt of was suddenly a reality.

After the semi finals in early April, both winners had to wait until June 11 for their big cup final clash. A disappointing end to Fortuna's league campaign saw them miss out on what would have been a remarkable promotion, but maybe their minds were elsewhere? In the weeks leading up to the final, there was talk of little else. Throughout the beer halls of Cologne, it seemed that enthusiastic punters discussed nothing but the upcoming match as they drank their local Kölsch beer. The excitement was at fever pitch. 

The DFB-pokalfinale is currently in its 35th year of being played at Berlin's Olympiastadion, but at the time of the 83 final, they were using various venues around the country to host the showpiece event. Naturally, it was decided that years final would be played in Cologne, specifically the Müngersdorfer Stadion where FC Köln played their home games. The ground was full to capacity on cup final day with over 60,000 in attendance, and although technically giving Fortuna's opponents home advantage it was the only suitable venue in the city.

The final kicked off to a cacophony of klaxons and early on it was Fortuna who looked the better side. If their opponents thought this would be a walk in the park they were sadly mistaken. Fortuna's semi final drubbing of BVB certainly wasn't looking like a fluke based on this showing. Plus, despite FC Köln having home advantage on paper, in reality, huge numbers of the 60,000 sell out crowd seemed to be supporting the underdog, something coach Michels had predicted beforehand. It seemed in Cologne they had a soft spot for the little guy. 

Midway through the first half, Fortuna broke forward and it looked as if yet more dreams might come true. However, when Schatzschneider eventually drove a shot from a difficult angle West Germany's no.1 keeper Harald Schumacher had no trouble parrying the ball away and after the subsequent melee in the box, it was cleared to safety. It was only a few minutes later when a long drive from Fortuna's Hans-Jürgen Gede hit the woodwork, FC Köln were starting to get worried. Having said that, even though time and time again Fortuna broke forward, FC Köln generally defended well, forcing Fortuna to try long range efforts like Gede's. Arguably FC Köln's best chance of the first period came from a corner, but as the header from captain Gerhard Strack that followed seemed to drift down and wide Paul Steiner could not quite get a foot onto the end of it. There were other chances for FC Köln just before the interval but Stephan Engels fired his shot wide whilst shortly afterwards a Strack header from a corner was easily stopped by Bernd Helmschrot in the Fortuna goal.

The game stood goalless at the break. There had been more promising football from FC Köln as the first half began to draw towards a close but it was Fortuna who overall had looked the better side. What would occur in the second half? The city of Cologne waited with bated breath.

Schatzschneider scuffed a shot over the bar early into the second half whilst not long afterwards Baier hit the side netting. There were chances at both ends though with Herbert Neumann driving the ball wide for FC Köln. An overhead kick from Schatzschneider also flew wide, but the breakthrough came at the other end midway through the second period. A Neumann through ball saw Klaus Allofs fire the ball across goal and when Helmschrot tried to push the ball clear Pierre Littbarski was there to break Fortuna hearts. 68 minutes on the clock and Littbarski had slotted the ball home to give FC Köln the lead. Relief for FC Köln supporters but if anything the celebrations were a little subdued. Many had hoped to see the city's second team complete a remarkable cup run with a famous victory but instead they had fallen behind. Allofs fired high and wide from a free-kick shortly afterwards as FC Köln looked to kill off the game with a second. A late Hinterberger shot forced Schumacher to push the ball wide and sadly it wasn't to be for Fortuna. FC Köln were the cup winners, Fortuna Köln's heroics had finally ended in defeat at the final hurdle.

A few days after the match the two finalists were afforded a reception at the town hall. For the victors only light applause, for the gallant losers loud cheers. The little club from the Zollstock suburb of the city with its limited fanbase had suddenly captured the hearts of a whole metropolis. Those who would normally support Fortuna's bigger neighbours had seemingly fallen in love with their lesser cousins.

Despite Fortuna's heroics, FC Köln were, however, still the number one team in the city, and when the following season got underway normal service was resumed. This new found love for Fortuna didn't last long as FC Köln continued to draw larger crowds than their neighbours, often six or seven times higher, sometimes more. Two years after that 1983 final FC Köln would find themselves runners up in UEFA Cup, and towards the end of the decade they would twice more finish runners up in the Bundesliga. In recent years FC Köln have spent the odd season in the 2. Bundesliga but Fortuna's position in the second tier is no more. Finally relegated in 2000, they've spent the years since moving between the third, fourth, and fifth tiers of German football, whilst last seasons relegation back to the fourth tier Relgionalliga West saw Cologne's third team FC Viktoria Köln head in the other direction to replace them in the 3. Liga. That famous cup run seems all but a distant memory now!

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