ALL over Europe, smaller clubs have been coming up through the ranks. In Italy, Spain and England, some of the less celebrated football institutions have achieved promotion not once but twice in a relatively small timeframe. In Germany, the Bundesliga has seen the rise of Ingolstadt, Hoffenheim and Darmstadt. Below the top flight, there are other clubs making their mark. In Bundesliga 2, Holstein Kiel are an example of rapid acceleration from the regional leagues to the second level of German football.
Holstein Kiel are not a new club by any means. Founded in 1900, they were German champions in 1912, thanks to a 1-0 win against Karlsruher in Hamburg in the final. The winning goal was scored by German international Ernst Möller, who four years later was a casualty of war, just like his team-mate Willi Fick. The Holstein team included a number of players who appeared in the German Olympic team of 1912.
For many years, though, Holstein Kiel disappeared from view, although in 1965, they almost gained entry to the Bundesliga. To quote the club’s press chief, Wolf Paarmann, the club made a lot of mistakes in the 1980s and 1990s and had a bad public image, playing in front of 200-odd people.
Their current trajectory saw them rise from the Oberliga Nord in 2008 to the Regionalliga Nord into 3.Liga and back to the region in 2010. In 2013, they were promoted from the Regionalliga Nord and then won a place in 2.Bundesliga at the end of 2016-17.
Kiel is the capital of the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The city has a population of just under 250,000 and is closely linked with sailing and handball. Compared to some of the league’s bigger clubs, such as Union Berlin, St. Pauli, Nürnberg and Dynamo Dresden, the media profile is quite low, which Paarmann says suits Kiel. “People are very relaxed and we can concentrate on the sport and build a strong team spirit at the club,” he says.
Paarmann credits the club’s coach with driving the Holstein Kiel to its current position near the top of 2.Bundesliga. Cologne-born Markus Anfang arrived in 2016 after his predecessor started the 2016-17 season badly. Anfang had previously been a youth coach at Bayer Leverkusen. “He was relatively unknown at the time,” recalls Paarmann. “But his system worked for our team. He likes an offensive style with lots of running and pressing.”
Holstein Kiel won promotion in 2016-17, finishing runners-up to MSV Duisberg. “Suddenly, we realised that the city was behind us, with 10,000 people attending a party at the town hall to celebrate promotion and since then our crowds have almost doubled at our games,” says Paarmann.
The attraction of second tier football has meant that Holstein Kiel’s homely stadium is packed for every home game. The ground, the Holstein-Stadion, has a capacity of around 10,500 but will be expanded in the near future. “Our stadium is not big enough for 2.Bundesliga, but in time we hope to have a 25,000 ground with the facilities that enable us to generate income. The stadium belongs to the city, but our training facilities, which are excellent, are ours.”
The Holstein Kiel squad
32 year-old German-American. Ex-Elversberg.
|Patrick Herrmann (29)
Formerly with Osnabrück.
|Kingsley Schindler (24), Hamburg-born, signed from Hoffenheim.||Marvin Ducksch (23), German youth international, on loan from St.Pauli.|
|Niklas Hoheneder (31) Austrian u-21 international signed from Paderborn.||Tom Weilandt (25), on loan from Bochum.||Aaron Seydel (21), joined from Mainz in the summer.|
|Rafael Czichos (27), captain. Saudi-born who was previouslty with Rott-Weiss Erfurt.||Dominick Drexler (27), former Aalen midfielder from Bonn.|
|David Kinsombi (22) signed on a free from Karlsruher.||Steven Lewerenz (26). Hamburg-born, signed from Würzburger Kickers.|
|Johannes van den Bergh
(31) – ex-Borussia Mönchengladbach, but signed from Getafe.
|Alexander Mühling (25), right-sided midfielder, ex-Sandhausen.|
|Dominik Schmidt (30) Berliner signed from Münster.||Dominic Peitz (33), Versatile midfielder, ex-Karlsruher.|
Holstein Kiel, nicknamed Die Störche (the storks), have surprised many teams this season, but the prospect of winning a second successive promotion and gaining entry to the Bundesliga, is not something people are thinking too much about. “It is a very big step,” insists Paarmann. “It is not our immediate target as our stadium isn’t good enough and clubs like Bayern Munich, Schalke and Dortmund are so far away from where we are. If it happens, we will deal with it, but it is not our priority.”
Perhaps the immediate concern is keeping together a group of players who have outperformed this season. “Many of our players were too good for 3.Liga and have adapted well in the second league. Some had found themselves playing in a lower level than their ability and had not had the chance to show what they could do. Now we are in the second league, they have that chance and our system is working well for them,” says Paarmann.
Their star player so far this season is arguably Dominick Drexler, a 27 year-old from Bonn who was previously with VFR Aalen. Up front, a young striker on loan from St. Pauli, Marvin Duksch, and a former German youth international, is their leading scorer with 10 goals. And at the back, Holstein Kiel rely on their skipper, Saudi-born Rafael Czichos. Despite regular interest being shown from English scouts, the club aims to retain its best assets. “We don’t want to sell as we want to keep this team together for as long as possible. We’ve been on an interesting journey and we want that to continue,” says Paarmann.
Holstein Kiel’s 2017-18 season
|19||Union Berlin||D2-2||20||Greuther Fürth||D0-0|
Many thanks to Wolf Paarmann for his time.