By Walter Broeckx
After a lovely afternoon watching our first opponent Olympic Lyon we now turn our attention to the team we will play on this, the second day: VFL Wolfsburg.
A team that was only founded in 1945 after the end of the second world war. Wolfsburg itself is a town that has a history that goes back to 1302 when Wolfsburg castle was mentioned for the first time. But the city of Wolfsburg itself was only founded in 1938. Wolfsburg is mostly known as the town connected to Volkswagen, the German car builder. And to house the workers to build what became the Volkswagen Beetle the city was built.
And the histories of VFL Wolfsburg and Volkswagen are very much connected. At the start of their existence they had 11 green shirts but no shorts so they took bed sheets and local woman sewed them in to white shorts. Up to today they still play in those colours. And to make things worse, after only 3 months 10 of their 11 players left for another club to join the 1ste FC Wolfsburg. A club of whom I cannot find any trace anymore so we can assume they didn’t survive it.
VFL Wolfsburg had almost no history at first. They played around in their regional leagues for most of the time and only made it to the 2nd Bundesliga in the season 1992-1993. In 1995 when playing the 2nd Bundesliga they reached the German cup final but lost to Borussia Mönchengladbach home of the most unpopular man on the terraces – the one who shouts “give us a B”. But in 1997 the impossible happened and after having finished in second place in the 2nd Bundesliga they went up to the Bundesliga itself.
Predictions were that they would go down immediately. But they stayed up and after two years even went in to the Europa league after having finished in 6th place. They then played in the now abandoned Intertoto cup for a few seasons. But the club gradually got stronger and stronger and Volkswagen did their part of the job. I think they are one of the few clubs who have a permission to not being owned by the fans in Germany because of the fact that they came from a company club at the start.
And then suddenly in the season 2008-2009 the unexpected happened. VFL Wolfsburg became champions. An amazing event and that was much down to their two top scorers Grafite and Dzeko. Dzeko later went to Man City and Grafite went to earn some money in the Arab region and at the age of 36 now has returned to Brazil. Dzeko mostly sits on the bench at Manchester City.
But Wolfsburg won the title and got into the Champions League. But after that the club fell back a bit and in the season 2010-2011 they almost got relegated. Felix Magath who had taken them to their only title was called back and he managed to rescue them, just, at the end of the season.
From then on Wolfsburg were a mid-table team in the Bundesliga that finished in the middle but never came close to a title. But last season they finished in second place behind Bayern Munich. And to top of their good season they won the German cup final. They beat Borussia Dortmund in the final 3-1. That was only their second major trophy in their entire history.
VFL Wolfsburg play their home matches in the Volkswagen Arena. That name is not really surprising by now of course. The Volkswagen Arena is a rather small stadium. In the Bundesliga it has a capacity of 30.000 places. 22000 seats and 8000 standing places, as of course in the Bundesliga standing places are still allowed. But for European matches the stadium is changed in to an all seater stadium but as a result the capacity goes down to only 26.000 seats. So compared to most teams in Europe and in the Bundesliga they do have a small ground with a low capacity. But I think Volkswagen company make up the difference between their small ground and smaller income and the rest of the teams in Germany.
Who are the players to look out for? Well there is of course that Danish player we all loved or hated …NIcklas Bendtner. A striker that scores for Denmark with his eyes closed but can’t do it for the clubs he plays for it seems. A strange case – but he got a very rousing round of applause yesterday.
But their top player is one that I would have loved to see at Arsenal a few years ago. I don’t know if it was him or his entourage that made the stupid decision some youngster make and joined Chelsea. The graveyard club for young talents as a contributor called them a few days ago. The fact that Racing Genk has (had?) a kind of partnership with Chelsea might have contributed of course. But it sure was a bad move for him personally I think.
In my eyes De Bruyne is a bit like Fabregas. He can score goals but he is mostly known for his eye for the teammate. His assist numbers have always been amazingly high even in the days when he played for Racing Genk. Last season De Bruyne scored 10 goals but he had 20 assists behind his name in the Bundesliga. And that is why some clubs are wanting to pay lots of money for him. Will Wolfsburg be able to hold on to him is the question that will be answered at the highest level of the Volkswagen company.
And not all shareholders are that much in favour of paying so much money for the football club and their players, and the Volkswagen board faced a few difficult questions about it at the AGM a few months ago. Is Volkswagen willing to pay De Bruyne an unseen amount of money to keep him or are they willing to cash in and may drop a bit on the sporting side? And as some news reports in Belgium say the chance that De Bruyne will leave Wolfsburg and could be out the door before the weekend so we might not even see him.
Other players to keep an eye on are Schurrle who also almost buried his career at Chelsea and Bas Dost a tall Dutch striker that keeps Bendtner on the bench. The Dutch striker sometimes jokes that he credits his goals on having such big feet so those attending can see if his feet are really that big.
26 July 2010: The Arsenal History Society expanded its campaign for statues around the Emirates Stadium by suggesting that there should be three statues to launch the programme – which is exactly what happened.
26 July 2014: Arsenal played the club’s first game in the USA for 25 years at the Red Bull Arena, where Thierry Henry had played. New York won 1-0 through a goal by the son of Ian Wright.