Das ist Offenbach

The book ‘Kickers Offenbach – die ersten hundert jahre‘ explores in great detail the history of this German club from the State of Hesse. And, although it is not mentioned in the book, Kickers Offenbach are to Eintracht Frankfurt what SpVgg Fürth are to 1.FC Nürnberg.

The two rivals clubs from Hesse go back some way. And while today SV Darmstadt, as a current Bundesliga club, may been seen as more relevant rivals, Kickers are and always have been Eintracht’s traditional rivals.

This is a rivalry that goes back to the early days of German football long before the Bundesliga became a thing.

The town of Offenbach these days is not exactly contiguous with the larger city of Frankfurt but is part of the much larger Frankfurt urban area. It sits on the left bank of the River Main and borders Frankfurt am Main home of the all powerful and famous Eintracht.

Kickers Offenbach were founded on May 27th, 1901 in what was the Rheinischer Hof restaurant. The founders were a range of footballers of various abilities. Most had left other locally established football clubs to form Kickers.

Kickers Offenbach, currently residing in the lowly fourth tier Regionaliga Südwest, have a history that has a few notable highs but many lows at least when compared to the more successful and ‘United’ Eintracht.

Today even SV Wehen Wiesbaden are a more successful team than the traditional Kickers. This may not have much significance to the historical relationship of Kickers with Eintracht but with Wiesbaden being the capital of Hesse the fall of Kickers could not be starker in geographical terms.

Prior to the formation of the Bundesliga the power balance between Offenbach Kickers and Eintracht Frankfurt was slightly different to that we know today.

Offenbach had ended the 1950’s as the more successful club in terms of season on season cumulative success. However, it was Eintracht Frankfurt who made it to the 7-3 Hampden Park European Cup Final against Real Madrid in 1960 – possibly the most famous European Cup final of all time.

Winners of the DFB Pokal in 1970 – thanks to a 2-1 win over 1.FC Köln – Kickers went on a downward slide when they found themselves at the heart of the big Bundesliga scandal of the early 1970’s.

They have not played in the top tier Bundesliga since season 1983-1984.

Amidst this obscurity there has not been any consistent upturn in fortunes. As can often happen there has been no highs and lows or any yo-yo between the top two tiers. Instead Offenbach have been perpetually and firmly in the shadow of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Long seen as one of German football’s ‘forgotten clubs’ – much like Eintracht Braunschweig or FK Pirmasens – an improvement in the esteem of the club has however come thanks to the movement into a new modernised stadium.

Stadion am Bieberer Berg

The home ground of Kickers was opened for the first time on May 29th 1921 some 20 years after the club was founded.  At first it was a cinder pitch eventually becoming grass after the war as Germany restructured its society and infrastructure.

Like many German football grounds of the era the Bieberer Berg is a former army parade ground. But a trajectory of development from the 1940’s meant that in the post war period the stadium slowly but surely developed into a usable football stadium.

However, the grand old stadium – whilst offering something that had by 2006 been lost to many German football club fans – did by 2010 become a venue that was not fit for purpose. Earlier periods of development and the charm of the 1970’s could be felt in most of the stands but the negatives had long since outweighed any positive ambience.

With the home of Eintracht Frankfurt renovated for the 2006 Weltmeisterschaft, Offenbach Kickers were aware an upgrade was essential. If not to keep pace with Eintracht but to at least ensure the club was ready for any future success on the field.

Situated between the main city of Offenbach and the suburban Village of Bieber it could never be said that the state of Hesse is a complex one. There is no regional identity that differentiates the cities of Frankfurt and Offenbach but each club’s fans take great pride in their identity of the respective cities as much as they do in the German nation.

Today, the most passionate moments of die hard Kickers Offenbach fans are witnessed at a stadium that is neat but also compact. But it is far from the elite super stadium that is home to Eintracht Frankfurt; one that has hosted World Cup tournaments and Champions League football.

While games between other local rivals have occurred and needle has developed between Eintracht and Darmstadt it might be some time before Eintracht Frankfurt play Kickers Offenbach again.

The last meeting between the two happened in February 2007 in the DFB Pokal.

Kickers v Eintracht is far from being German football’s fiercest city derby. Other major cities have rivalries that have historically been less quite one-sided as this one has been.

Moreover, Eintracht fans will be quick to claim the bigger fanbase and attendances far exceeding those that Kickers Offenbach attain.

To most of the current generation of Kickers fans Eintracht are near neighbours and great rivals. But the truth is in the detail. With 4 divisions separating them they are more distant than ever.