Wir sind Eintracht Braunschweig, “Die Lowen”, winners of the Bundesliga

A few seasons ago Eintracht Braunschweig were back in the best party, with a short return to Bundesliga football. They had been absent from the top flight since the mid 80’s and it was nice to see the yellow and blue colors back among the best.

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Eintracht Braunschweig are a club with a proud past, winning the Bundesliga in 1967, and staying among the top clubs for almost twenty seasons, with a few drops down, but with straight promotions back up.

We all remember West Germany’s World Cup final defeat to England in 1966, but it was all without players from the coming Bundesliga champions to be. There were all players from those clubs we also know today, The Dortmunds, The Bayern Munich’s, a few comnig in from Italy and so on, but no players from Eintracht Braunschweig.

They were seldom picked despite being among the best and the best that season after that lost World Cup final at Wembley. When West Germany was back for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, you would find two players from Eintracht Braunschweig in the squad, midfielder Max Lorenz and goalkeeper Horst Wolter.

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Wolter played just 13 times for his nation and was given the chance to play in the winning Bronze final v. Uruguay replacing the certainty first choice Sepp Mayer. Lorenz was also in the squad for 1966, but then representing Werder Bremen, joining Braunschweig in 1969.

The team during those first Bundesliga years, and with that title winning experience in 67 was coached by the legend Helmuth Johannsen. Johannsen later worked in Switzerland winning the title there with Grasshopper and also taking the same team to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup.

A number of the Eintracht Braunschweig players became icons and played for the first team for decades. They were good and talented but just not as good as those getting into national team, but again keeping the club a steady top flight performer.

Midfielder Dietmar Erler played in midfield during the 70’s with 263 Bundesliga outings in which he scored 54 goals. Serbian midfielder Danilo Popivoda also had great years with Eintracht. The Swede Hasse Borg was another steady performer, playing for “Die Lowen” from 1977 to 1983. He added up 172 Bundesliga games and scored 9 goals.

We should of course not forget Paul Breitner, who surprisingly joined Eintracht Braunschweig in 1977 after leaving Real Madrid. He was lured back to Bayern Munich a year after, spending the rest of his playing days with “Die Roten”.

Defender Rainer Hollmann joined the club in 1973 and had 11 good years at the club adding up 305 appearances in which he scored 27 goals. He was never fully capped, but played two times for West Germany B.

Forward Harald Nickel might not have the longest of careers with the club, but was noticed during his short spell, scoring 16 goals in his 27 league games. He was during this time also part of the West German national team, being a steady goalscorer around in football playing for the likes of Standard Liege, Borussia Monchengladbach and Eintracht Braunschweig.

Sweeper and long servant Friedheim Haebermann joined Eintracht Braunschweig in 1969 and maintained class all through his years with “Die Lowen” being seen 272 times in the Bundesliga and scoring 10 goals.

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Midfielder Lothar Ulsass, the forward Ronald Worm and defender Peter Kaack are other players with long lives in the yellow and blue kit, and of course Wolfgang Dremmler and Franz Merkhoffer should neither be forgotten. Nor should the long serving goalkeeper Bernd Franke and the one capped wonder Bernd Gersdorff.

Merkhoffer spent his total career in professional football with Eintracht Braunschweig playing 496 Bundesliga games and being at the club from 1968 to 1984. A real club legend. Wolfgang Dremmler is known for being in that 1982 West Germany World Cup final midfield together with Paul Breitner, both of them at the time representing Bayern Munich, but still with a past at Eintracht Braunschweig.

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Bernd Franke as Merkhoffer spend most of his years with this club adding up 387 Bundesliga games from 1971, previously with Fortuna Dusseldorf, until his retirement in 1985. Franke was seen as maybe the best German goalkeeper during his years, but was overlooked at international level by Harald Schumacher and Sepp Maier who were the preferred first choices for “Die Mannschaft” with Franke not adding up more than seven caps.

Bernd Gersdorff was one that had two spells with Eintracht Braunschweig, firstly from 1969 to 1973, moving to Bayern Munich, and than returning for a second spell playing from 1973 to 1976. The midfielder added up 231 games in which he scored the impressive tally of 92 goals. He is also a so called one cap wonder, playing his single game for West Germany in a friendly against Austria in 1975. Gersdorff later moved to the NASL playing for the likes of San Jose Earthquakes and San Diego Sockers.

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In recent years German international Karim Bellarabi, who on the 17 of February 2017 scored the 50.000th goal of the Bundesliga, is a known figure. Bellarabi has been twice with Eintracht and now with Bayer Leverkusen.  Bosnian international defender Ermin Bicakcic are another well known. Chinese international Zhang Chengdong had a spell on loan with the club in 2012/13. Olympiakos and previously on loan with Hull City in the Premier League, Norwegian international Omar Elabdellaoui also had a short spell during that single Bundesliga season back in 2013/14.

A few might remember their shirts from around 40 years ago being sponsored by the “spirits” of Jegermeister. The 1973 season was a revolutionary one, with Eintracht Braunschweig being the first club to advertise for a product on their jersey. The World known branch made it possible to sign a number of prolific players and one was Paul Breitner. The club even tried to change their names to Jegermeister Braunschweig, something that the German FA sanctioned and stopped.

After being out of the limelight since the mid 80’s we were all very excited to see Eintracht Braunschweig back among the best, but it became a very difficult task and a straight relegation back to the 2nd tier. After that it’s been more relegations and almost falling into the 4th tier of German football, but hopefully their status as a 3. liga club will be maintained and a new climb up in the leagues can be accomplished in the future.

 

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