Eintracht Frankfurt makes a pilgrimage to London – with or without a ticket – sport
Few business trips from Eintracht Frankfurt have hit such a wide arc. “I would love to take my football boots with me,” says Karl-Heinz Körbel, Bundesliga record player, brand ambassador and head of the Hessian Bundesliga club’s football school. In the meantime, the 67-year-old has so often recounted in detail the circumstances of the lost semi-finals in the European Cup Winners’ Cup on April 14, 1976 at West Ham United (1: 3) that “loyal Charlie”, who otherwise only plays in the traditional team, prefers even get involved in the Europa League semifinals between West Ham and Eintracht (Thursday 9 p.m., RTL). To make up for the failure 46 years ago.
First, the bus from The Dorchester Hotel to the stadium on Park Lane got stuck in a traffic jam for hours, so coach Dietrich Weise instructed his players to put on the yellow jerseys on the bus, which Körbel still believes were “the ugliest jerseys in which we played temporarily”. After that, the German cup winner could not withstand the English power play on a “muddy field” (Körbel) in Upton Park, which has since been demolished.
The “Hammers” have been playing in the Olympic Stadium in London since 2016, where two representatives of the upper middle class of the Premier League and the Bundesliga are now dueling, two who have accepted the fact that financially stronger clubs are taking part. Their only triumphs on the international stage are a long time ago: West Ham won the long mothballed European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 against 1860 Munich (2-0), Eintracht won the now renamed UEFA Cup against Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1980 (2-3, 1-0). Cup.
“Now there is no tiredness, now there is joy,” says coach Glasner
Its successor, the Europa League, is now held in high esteem by two traditional brands with a large fan base. West Ham, seventh in the Premier League, are the team with the fewest goals conceded, having knocked out Europa League specialists Sevilla FC and Olympique Lyon; Eintracht, ninth in the Bundesliga, is still unbeaten and has duped Betis Sevilla and top favorites FC Barcelona. After the sensation in the “game of the century” at the Camp Nou, which was accompanied by huge fan support, coach Oliver Glasner raved about “the emotional reward that you can’t buy with any money in the world”. These days he added: “Now there is no tiredness! Now there is joy, now there is enthusiasm, now it’s time for the finals.”
Board spokesman Axel Hellmann even sees an entire region in a frenzy. Since the heart and mind have to be balanced, some functions are not so easy. President Peter Fischer, for example, badmouthed the English hosts in the ZDF sports studio, who wanted to prevent the corresponding conditions at all costs after 30,000 Eintracht fans in their white shirts had cut the Camp Nou.
This time the guest is entitled to exactly 3,000 tickets – and there shouldn’t be more German fans in the stadium. “That’s the worst crap,” Fischer complained about the English “Zero Tolerance Policy”. He is ashamed “that we are already being threatened today: anyone we catch in the stadium who says they are Eintracht, we throw them out.” The always emotional fisherman announced that there will definitely be more than 3000 Frankfurters in London. “There were always 10,000, 15,000 people in the cities – that’s normal for us.”
And then there would be the financial aspect, the head of the supervisory board Philip Holzer calculates: “From our perspective, a semi-final participation in the Europa League is as valuable as entering the Champions League group phase.” Incidentally, the premier class would jump out if Frankfurt also won the final on May 18th in Seville – there is no other way to participate internationally after the meager performances in everyday league life.
Without Uefa reforms, CEO Axel Hellmann fears a “European football monster”
At the International Media Day, CEO Hellmann denounced the enormous gap between the European Cup competitions. If Uefa doesn’t finally produce a better financial balance here, “a European football monster” will inevitably emerge, he said; namely a Champions League, which at some point will lead to a Super League, because the big clubs’ thirst for capital can only be quenched in this way. For the European idea, however, medium-sized companies like those from the Main metropolis are needed, argues Hellmann, “we also like to play in Tallinn”.
But Eintracht also prefers the dazzling stages. Just like in 2019, when after victories against Benfica Lisbon and Inter Milan, the dream of the Europa League final only burst in a penalty shootout in the semifinals at Chelsea. “We still have a score to settle with London,” Axel Hellmann recalls. There is also a need for correction at Eintracht beyond the vita of Karl-Heinz Körbel.