It needed to be there, on the Parkstadion. Schalke’s previous floor had at all times been a spot of drama and scandal. Its ultimate act was no completely different.
For 38 years it was residence. It had seen many essential video games, it had seen relegation to the second tier. There have been occasions when “there wasn’t sufficient cash for laundry powder”, as Charly Neumann, long-standing crew official and soul of the membership, as soon as stated. There have been occasions when paper beer cups stuffed with rainwater on the crumbling, endless steps under the high-rise floodlight masts.
On one block, the ‘Nordkurve’, a wild a part of the stadium, stood ‘the Wren’, a person with a gray beard and lengthy hair. “I at all times stood there,” he stated. “Beside me youngsters grew up. Then they stood with their very own youngsters.”
The ultimate match performed on the previous Parkstadion was one of the crucial dramatic in German soccer historical past.
For Schalke followers, that afternoon might be mentioned perpetually; their life tales intersect at this level. Everybody remembers the 4 minutes and 38 seconds once they had been champions.
19 Could, 2001, 15:25
It was the stadium’s final recreation earlier than closing. A model new trendy enviornment awaited for Schalke, who had been battling with Bayern Munich to be topped German champions.
Schalke had by no means received the Bundesliga – not as soon as because the league’s formation in 1963. However the great thing about that title might now ultimately be theirs on the season’s ultimate day. They had been three factors behind their rivals, however with a greater objective distinction.
The tabloids had labelled the week earlier than the “seven-second loss of life”. Schalke had topped the desk by profitable in Stuttgart within the final minute. Seven seconds later Munich scored towards Kaiserslautern to seal their very own victory.
Magnificence had given them the brush-off. On the ultimate day, although, the Schalke followers nonetheless hoped. The solar was beating down, and also you could not inform whether or not faces had been crimson with the pressure or the warmth. Formally there have been 65,000 spectators, however anybody who believes that determine cannot have been there. The dusty coliseum was greater than full and one thing was within the air.
Normal supervisor Rudi Assauer – not for nothing often known as the ‘German league’s final macho man’ – had turn into melancholic. He stood within the dugout, a cigar in a single hand, wiping tears from his cheeks with the opposite. Radio reporter Manni Breuckmann sat down for the final time within the place the place he had commentated for therefore a few years. “I felt a relaxed ambiance,” he remembers. “There was no indication of the drama nonetheless to occur.”
A loopy first half ended. Opponents Unterhaching went 2-0 up after 27 minutes, however Schalke dragged it again to 2-2.
“What was mistaken?” followers requested themselves on the beer stands throughout the break. Some began to sing: “Sergej Barbarez! Schalalala!” The Hamburg ahead had 21 targets for the season and Schalke hopes now rested on one other from him towards Munich. However in Hamburg it was 0-0 at half-time. All the pieces pointed to a different title for the Bavarians.
On TV, an interviewer requested Assauer: “Do you need to congratulate Bayern on the title already?”
He answered: “No. Something can nonetheless occur in soccer.”
By the 73rd minute the Parkstadion was quiet. Unterhaching had been now in entrance once more, 3-2, and the title appeared to be gone.
From 20 yards out, Jorg Bohme positioned the ball down for a Schalke free-kick, confronted by a seven-man wall. His strike slid beneath the leaping defenders: 3-3.
Eighty seconds later, the participant often known as ‘the madman’ was in on objective once more. Clear by means of, he feinted to shoot, the keeper went to his knees and Bohme lifted the ball deftly into the nook. The followers rejoiced, climbing on the fences, their chants ringing out once more. They had been 4-3 up.
Then, within the ninetieth minute, it was 5-3. Striker Ebbe Sand beat on a fan’s drum. Fellow ahead Emile Mpenza kissed the membership crest. Now “HSV, HSV, HSV!” resounded across the floor. Former participant Andreas Muller ran by means of the principle stand sporting a Hamburg shirt.
“I had a sense it might occur,” he stated. His premonition appeared to be proper. Out of the blue a stadium announcement boomed out.
One thing was happening in Hamburg.
Individuals writhed like landed fish. Heads turned in each route. Remoted cheers had been heard. These with radios held them shut and did not let go. A mass of a minimum of 80,000 spectators surged forwards and backwards, a mixture of those that knew one thing and those that did not consider what was spreading across the floor.
Within the north stand someone stood with a cell phone to his ear. Followers beseeched him: “What is going on on there?” He pressed his lips collectively, eyes glassy, and nearly whispered: “1-0 to Hamburg. It is true.”
Sergej Barbarez had put the house facet forward within the ninetieth minute. The whispers turned louder by the second, a spreading wildfire. After some time the remoted cheers turned one enormous collective scream. The Parkstadion knew it: Schalke 04 could be the German champions.
As hope turned to certainty, the scene imploded. Cheering followers rolled down the steps within the south stand and pressed towards the fences. Individuals held their heads with shaking arms. It was a combination of trance and hysteria. They felt so near the solar; it was the second the Historical Greeks referred to as kairos.
Thomas Spiegel, an workplace worker, stated: “Individuals felt just like the the stadium wobbled. It was like a gateway to nirvana.”
Spiegel’s buddy Michael Knicker jumped on him, legs and arms within the air, and Knicker remembered a dialog that they had had earlier than the sport.
“I had stated this morning to God: If we turn into champions, he can take me.” However what had sounded flippant felt a lot too critical now for a person who had suffered a coronary heart assault the earlier 12 months.
“I hope God doesn’t keep on with the association,” the buddies now thought as they stared on the tv within the press space exhibiting the sport in Hamburg.
“I used to be paralysed,” stated Spiegel. “I stammered three phrases again and again like an insane man: Cease the sport! Cease the sport! Cease the sport!”
Schalke coach Huub Stevens waved an admonishing hand in entrance of the dugout the place full-back Nico van Kerckhoven was performing chin-ups. He despatched the gamers to the altering rooms, however some stayed on the pitch along with Assauer, Muller and board member Jurgen W Mollemann.
Now hundreds within the stadium held on the phrases of two males, one seated proper amongst them. “The sport in Schalke is over. We look forward to launch,” stated commentator Breuckmann.
A false hearsay started that the Hamburg match had already ended. Time and again Breuckmann obtained as much as inform folks to relax. “It did no good,” he stated. “No person obtained it. In Hamburg they had been nonetheless taking part in and I used to be the one one round me who knew. It was an absurd scenario.”
Phrase of the match ending in Hamburg got here a number of occasions. Shortly after the ultimate whistle in Schalke some had been already saying the sport in Hamburg had completed. However Assauer shouted to Van Kerckhoven: “It isn’t over but!”
The overall supervisor had turn into the barometer for many onlookers. Shortly every thing calmed down. Then got here his subsequent gesture. Assauer was knowledgeable once more that play in Hamburg had now the truth is ended, and he thrashed out an arm, like a boxer throwing an uppercut.
Beside him midfielder Jiri Nemec smiled. For the Czech, this amounted to an unbelievable emotional outburst. Fireworks started, deliberate in celebration of the stadium’s ultimate match, however even their blast was overwhelmed by the noise of the followers. They stormed the place. The hearsay couldn’t be contained any extra.
At precisely this second, a flicker appeared on the enormous video display above the south stand. It ought to have began instantly after the ultimate whistle in Gelsenkirchen, however there had been a technical fault. Now the final minutes from Hamburg had been being broadcast stay within the stadium.
It couldn’t cease the madness. Many assumed it was a replay. Pitchside reporter Rolf Fuhrmann congratulated Muller on the championship, as behind them the play in Hamburg continued on display.
“I do not know the way it stands,” stated Muller. “It is led to Hamburg, you’re champions!” replied Fuhrmann. Muller was handed an outsized beer glass.
“Each time I’ve met Fuhrmann afterwards, he has apologised to me, he was very sorry,” Muller would later comment. Elements of the stadium celebrated the title, others regarded to the display – and realised it was not a replay.
One fan stated it was “like watching your personal burial”. Goalkeeper Oliver Reck lay beneath the desk within the dressing room the place the gamers had been following the top of the sport.
“One thing will nonetheless occur,” he stated to Muller. “I do know it. Oh God.”
When captain Tomasz Waldoch made to go and communicate to the media, Reck held his arm. “Tommy, it isn’t over but.”
It was from an oblique free-kick, contained in the field. The ball was laid off and Patrick Andersson thrashed it residence to make it 1-1, within the 94th minute. Bayern had been champions.
Within the south stand in Gelsenkirchen an previous man slumped: “I simply wished to be champions – as soon as.”
Assauer reeled within the route of the tunnel. On the pitch, many followers broke down, howling, others lacked the energy to cry. The plug had been pulled. Silence descended on the stadium. The one sound was the continued blasts of the fireworks, just like the orchestra taking part in because the Titanic sank.
The creator Steffen Kopetzky, himself a Bayern Munich supporter, later wrote for Die Zeit: “As a Bayern fan, I by no means felt extra lonely and determined than at this second.”
On the pitch, followers had been in mourning. Within the altering rooms, Sand had collapsed into himself. He slumped on the ground as bottles and chairs flew previous him. “Benches, doorways, televisions – nothing remained. Fortunately no person despatched us the invoice,” stated defender Marco van Hoogdalem.
Ahead Youri Mulder laughed with out that means to. “Generally cyclists snigger when rushing downhill as a result of they’re so nervous and don’t have any management of their feelings. That is simply how I felt at this second.”
Bohme lit a cigarette. Assauer and Stevens tried unsuccessfully to consolation the gamers. Minutes later within the press convention, Assauer stated: “Don’t inform me any extra that footballers are ice-cold.” Then got here his oft-quoted line: “I’ve misplaced religion within the god of soccer.”
Stevens’ face went laborious as he referred to as the crew collectively, congratulating them on what that they had achieved that season and reminding them that the next Saturday they nonetheless had a trophy to play for, within the German Cup ultimate.
Then he despatched them out, to the followers who remained on the pitch. One supporter shouted within the silence, a easy cry: “Schaaaaaalke!” As he repeated it repeatedly, an increasing number of joined in. The crew stood as “You will By no means Stroll Alone” was performed, and Stevens lastly misplaced the struggle to carry again his tears.
Later, round 200 followers had been nonetheless there milling round; they merely could not go residence. Assauer stepped out from his workplace on to the balcony and delivered a blazing speech. On the Monday morning 15,000 supporters confirmed as much as the final coaching session earlier than the cup ultimate.
The subsequent Saturday, Schalke beat Union Berlin 2-0 to assert the German Cup. And within the Schalke part of Berlin’s Olympic stadium, a banner learn: “All the pieces might be high-quality.”
Schalke stay with out a Bundesliga title – and this season completed backside. They had been final topped nationwide champions in 1958.
Following the occasions of 2001, membership stalwart Neumann stated: “I hope God lets me take the championship trophy to our stadium yet another time.”
In 2007, as Schalke missed out on the title once more, this time by shedding a decisive match with arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund, Neumann, who was then aged 85 and critically unwell, insisted he be taken to the Schalke followers’ part.
First quietly, then louder, the mantra grew across the stand. The followers sang for a number of minutes: “Charly, Charly.” Neumann died on 11 November 2008, his ultimate prayer unfulfilled.
This text was initially printed in German soccer journal 11 Freunde. An English model was printed by Póg Mo Aim.