Since Magdeburg have won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1974 40 years have passed; years during which the club has not seen the best of times. Since 1989 the club appears to be in a loop of promotion, insolvency and scandals. ‘Quo Vadis?’ thus seems to be the appropriate question in 2014.
The events of 1989 and 1990 that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and in succession the unification of Germany could not have been foreseen by any one on either side of the wall. It led to the dismantling of East German football. The clubs from Rostock to Suhl had to face to a reality for which they were not equipped. Players left for the West where the pay was better and secured. The problems hit all clubs; some did better, others not. Magdeburg tried hard but mismanagement on many levels stopped a promising progress during the 1990s.
Forever League 4?
Ever since in 1991 the East German Oberliga was terminated, Magdeburg have tried to get into professional football. So far, their attempts have been in vain as they either stumbled on their way there or experienced a financial melt-down while playing in higher divisions. Despite having reached division 3 on various occasions, Magdeburg appear to be destined to remain in division 4 for the foreseeable future.
Having missed out on promotion against the surprise team Neustrelitz, the ‘Greatest of the World’ have finished the season on a high by winning the Saxony-Anhalt-Pokal which permits them to play in the DFB-Pokal in the following year. Yet, it is not a given that Magdeburg will go up in 2014/15 despite being favourites once more. This tag however, is attached on the basis of their reputation as one of the biggest names in GDR football. The Regionalliga Nordost will provide a few trips down memory lane as Carl Zeiss Jena and newly promoted BFC Dynamo will visit Magdeburg. With the latter, almost all teams held an open mutual disliking, mostly due to the BFC’s prominent support by Erich Mielke, the Stasi head. Others, such as Berliner AK, Viktoria Berlin and Neustrelitz who lost their play-offs will offer some handsome tasks for Magdeburg on their way up. Jena are backed by Belgian investor Roland Dûchatelet. With a money injection the club should be brought back on track to more successful times.
It seems that Magdeburg are primed to stay put in League 4 for the time being. This is not a bad thing as there is thus no hyperbole and excessive expectations from fans, media and the club itself. The only big egos last season were the coach Andreas Petersen and sporting director Mario Kallnik. Both seemed at loggerheads for the largest part of the season before in March club and coach announced that they would part at the end of the season. It was widely interpreted as a defeat for Petersen. The official reasoning was that the strain on Petersen would be too high as he had to take lessons in order to complete his licence as a football coach, while the team would also had to settle into a new league. This was deemed too big a gamble and thus the contract was not renewed.
It might turn out a blessing in disguise. Andreas Petersen deserves credit for making Magdeburg watchable again. The gate figures have increased and the brand of football is a better one than under any of his predecessors. And yet, the squad lacks an active playing style, rather remaining reactive and passive throughout large parts of the game. Yet, as was said above, Magdeburg are automatically considered favourites in most of this divisions matches as teams such as ZFC Meuselwitz, Viktoria Berlin have by far not as rich a history as the team of Petersen. Therefore, those smaller clubs would automatically sit deep and wait. Unless of course they are confident to take the game to Magdeburg that the latter will not know what to do for large part of the games throughout the season. Fans have seen this before: An early goal gives the opposition time and space while Magdeburg are getting desperate the longer the match lasts. It is here where Petersen failed to impress.
It is hoped that the new coach, Jens Härtel, who was youth coach at RB Leipzig will bring with him ideas to make Magdeburg play more active and fulfil their potential of being contenders for promotion and managing to survive the play-offs. If not, the club will be back to square one and have to re-build a-new. Which in return would prolong the waiting for promotion.
The season 2014 – 15 will be an interesting one.